Monday’s Breaking Bread
Welcome to Monday’s Breaking Bread. Before we get to today’s words, I (Anna) wanted to let you know that our Team member Aliyah has felt her heart called to focus on other ministries this year. Although Aliyah had not yet shared any words with us here, she has been praying for Beloved Prodigal and for that we are so very thankful. Aliyah – may God draw you ever nearer as you seek to do His will in this coming year. And thank you for lifting us all up in prayer these past few months.
Today, Lisa is breaking bread with us for the first time. Welcome, Lisa! May God open our hearts to receive what He wants to gift us through Lisa’s words today.
Sowing Seeds of Home
This is my first post for Beloved Prodigal. In this post, I introduce my amazing mother who through her life and her prayers set an example for us, her five children, to trust God through all kinds of difficulties.
Below follows a portion of my mother’s life story from my book MISSIONARY MOTHER:
SEVEN MONTHS IN MANCHURIA
4 March 1947
Mukden Assemblies of God
The train from Peking arrived in good time on the 5th February. It was to leave Tientsin (now Tianjin) at 11.45 a.m. It stood still for three hours while the children had fun looking out of the window, watching the people and animals on the road. The train started moving, but to our disappointment, it was only moved over to another track. The loudspeaker announced: “The train will leave at 6.00 a.m. tomorrow.”
We couldn’t leave the train. It would be impossible to get the children and baggage back on the train so early. The train started at 8.00 a.m. the next day. We arrived at Shanhaiguan, on the border between China and Manchuria at 4.00 p.m. We spent another night on the train, this time without any heating. Toimi and I were freezing as we had put all the warm clothes and blankets to cover the children. They slept quite well on the benches with suitcases between the seats. The next morning we continued our journey, and we arrived in Mukden (now Shenyang) at 5.00 p.m.
The day before we traveled from Tientsin a bomb exploded on a train from Peking. Another train was robbed just outside Tientsin. No trains travel at night anymore. It was sad to see all the ruins in the villages and towns which we passed.
When we arrived in Mukden, we were advised that we should not continue to Dongfeng. The railroad has been broken for six days. We are staying at the Ahlberg’s small home at the moment. They have been in Shanghai over a year taking care of the Assemblies of God Mission Home. We lived there the few days we had to be in Shanghai. They are planning to come here, but no ships can come from Shanghai as the sea is frozen. Airplanes are not allowed to take passengers after several terrible plane-crashes recently. I wonder if the news has reached Finland about a family returning to China. The husband had come earlier, and the wife and three children a by airplane. The plane crashed, and they all died. Poor man.
WHY DID GOD LEAD US TO CHINA?
We did wonder why God led us to come here in the middle of a cold winter. The timing was perfect, so Toimi could come and meet us, and we did not need to be homeless in Shanghai. Now it would be impossible for him to go there and difficult for us to find a place to live there. While we were in Shanghai, we were given a storeroom to live in. A few camp cots were put in for us. Since we left the city, more ships have come from America with more people. No one can travel from Shanghai now.
We are expecting Toimi here this week. He is in Dongfeng. The children are waiting for him to come and get us so we can move there. Whether that is possible, I don’t know. He will go back again. The Bible School has been postponed and should begin on the 12th March. Pray for us.
Humanly speaking, it might be safer for us to be here than in a smaller town. God can protect us wherever He wants us to be. I am so thankful that I have not needed to live in uncertainty regarding God’s will. First He spoke so distinctly that I knew I had to leave Finland.
When Toimi traveled to this restless war-torn China before us, and we lived safely in Naselle, I was tempted to stay there. It would have been much better for the children. Toivo could have gone to school there. But again, I heard God speak to me, and I am thankful that He gave me the grace to obey Him. What the future holds, nobody knows, only Jesus knows that.
If this should be my last letter from this country, you may tell everyone that Anna heard God speak, and she was not disobedient to the heavenly calling. God in heaven knows that I have wanted to obey the call he gave me. I have made so many mistakes and sinned many times, but God has been gracious and merciful, forgiving my sins and healing all my weaknesses.
I am studying Chinese a little while both morning and afternoon. It is not so easy with five small children around me. We have a “meeting” sometimes several times a day. The children ask me to read the Bible NOW. I just read short passages at a time, but often. They love to hear the stories. I believe the seed sown in their hearts will bear good fruit someday.
A Chinese woman is here to help me, but not much gets done. There are water pipes for hot and cold water, but nothing works. We are often without water. There is a small coal heater in the middle of the small room where we live. At least it is warm, but we have smoke and soot in the room often, making everything dirty. It is still winter. On March 1st it snowed all day.
Greet our friends there. I don’t have time to answer their letters. I am always so tired in the evenings. Our lights go out, sometimes early, sometimes later. During the day I hardly have time to eat. To find time to read or write anything but my Chinese lessons, and the Bible with the children is impossible.
As my mother’s letter illustrates, her stories from the Bible were a natural part of our family’s daily life. Other stories she told were about her family in Finland and my oldest brother who died aged four, four years before I was born. To me all the stories were about Home. As our family moved from town to town, house to house, from one country to another, there was no permanent place to call our own home.
For me my mother’s stories blended into a longing for a permanent home, the home where my brother was waiting for me – in Heaven.
When I was between three and four, we still lived in China, but by then had fled to Kunming in South West China from Manchuria in the North East. I had been severely ill with typhoid. Mother was afraid I would die. I had said before my illness that she and I would soon go to heaven. God healed me in answer to prayer. After that, every evening before going to sleep I wanted to be taken out to look at the stars. I was sure somewhere up there my brother was waving to me saying,
“We will meet here in heaven one day.”
The deep longing for heaven remained as a beckoning light,
“Come home. Come home.”
Though I rebelled many times against the nomadic life of a missionary child, the memory of the starry black skies and the assurance from the Bible story about my Father’s House with many mansions (John 14:1-2) kept me from straying far from my parents’ faith. Still I was far from God. But He kept calling me, “Come home!”
John 14:2-3 (KJ21)
2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.
The God of my parents is a Promise-Keeper. In recent months, I have seen how God is fulfilling his plan in ways we never could have dreamed of. My mother was right. The seed that was sown is indeed bearing fruit, even now, many years later. For isn’t this exactly what the Kingdom of God is like:
Mark 4:26-27 (NIV)
The Parable of the Growing Seed
26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.
May we pray for you today?
Dear Lord Jesus,
We come to You now and pray for reassurance for our friends to lift their hearts up to You. Whatever challenges they are facing, show them that You are aware of their situation and that You care. Even when they are exhausted, their prayers and also their sighs reach Your heart. We ask You to pour your refreshing love into each soul that is drained. Show them your boundless love and grace, giving them hope and confidence. May each one of us learn to trust You more for our beloved prodigals, as Your love reaches deeper and higher than ours ever can. You are prepared continuously to answer their frailest cry.
May God who gives patience, steadiness, and encouragement help each one of us to trust Your promises.
In Your Name, Jesus, Amen.
Perhaps, you’d like to join Lisa today in singing this old hymn that is filled with such beautiful truth:
Far beyond what’s seen or hidden,
farther than suns can shine,
higher than the stars are glowing
Our sighs and pleas reach out.
Our spirit, from earth’s limitations,
rises on the wings of prayer,
knocking on the door of heaven,
searching for our Father’s home.
Our world is limited by our weakness,
helpless is each earthly friend.
Our soul receives peace and an anchor
through faith in our God alone
Even the darkest night brightens,
bitterness turns to joy
just when we learn to travel
on the heavenly bridge of prayer.
The smallest child who prays
lives perfectly secure;
overcoming more than the hero
whose forts are of strongest steel.
May we never forget this,
where ever in the world we are,
our prayers reach our Father’s heart
even when we only can sigh.
The author of this hymn, which you can listen to on YouTube, was Augusta Lönborg, born in Sweden 1862, died 1900. She was a Primary school teacher. She wrote poems for a Sunday school paper. The text of the above song was inspired by Matthew 7:7. The original version which I translated was in Swedish. As far as I know, it has only been translated into Finnish so far. The Finnish version gives the words more dimensions, such as:
Nothing, other than a prayer, a sigh, can reach beyond the galaxies.
From the dust of the earth, our spirit soars on the wings of prayer
to reach our Father’s home
The expanse of the world is too narrow
the restless soul finds peace in God alone
The toughest problems must give way
and the Lord brings comfort
when you use the bridge of prayer
to reach out to your Creator
Prayer brings an assured shelter
even to the weakest child,
surer than the forts built by heroes
wherever and whenever you wander
never forget this truth
your prayer will always reach your Father’s heart.