God's Work Done God's Way
by Edith Schaeffer
Hudson Taylor saw that the faith-principles of the Mission must be carried to the point of making no appeals for money. If the Mission could be sustained by the faithful care of God in answer to prayer alone, it might grow up affording a practical illustration of its underlying principle that “God Himself, God alone, is sufficient for God’s own work.”
~Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor
(Hudson Taylor’s son and daughter-in-law)
From Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission
A legacy of Faith
I was born in Wenshow, China, to missionary parents who met and married in Shanghai in 1906. The story of Hudson Taylor made a grand impact on them. A book about this ministry, Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission, written by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, has remained a source of inspiration for me throughout my life. It especially intrigued me because I was born in the first compound of the China Inland Mission.
A man worth emulating
The story of Hudson Taylor played a significant role in my life when Francis, my husband, and I left Pennsylvania and ventured to Switzerland. Francis had a chance to meet him in college, and I still have the old maps of China that he gave Francis. Written in the margin in Taylor’s handwriting is the exhortation, Serve the Lord with gladness. His encouragement meant so much to both of us, and it is a theme that Francis and I always tried to carry out in our ministry.
Our trusting God alone journey
Fran was asked to survey thirteen European countries in 1947 and report on how the war had affected theology. When asked a few months later to work in Europe, he chose Switzerland as his headquarters. After a year in the city of Lausanne, we moved to the mountain village of Champéry, where we had services for young people. This new work also had its roots in Hudson Taylor’s life, in that both he and we had no idea what was to come as a result of trusting God alone. In our case, God opened the way for us to begin the work of L’Abri.
Persevering through obstacles
When we were going through dramatic times in Champéry, I reread Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission often. Francis made a habit of speaking with villagers about who Jesus is and what the Bible says. After some time, one leading man from the village became a Christian. He bought a Bible and was reading it so much that his family stirred up trouble. The village priest worked behind the scenes to get us evicted, and we soon received an official notice stating that we had thirty days to leave. As American citizens, we had to report the eviction order to the American embassy.
I could not help thinking of Hudson Taylor’s impossible situation when he had been told that an English missionary would never be allowed into inland China, and of how he took passage on the Yangtze River from Shanghai to Wenchow. The same God who led Hudson was leading us at that point, and it was a comfort to know that.
The eviction order stood, and we were to be out by midnight of March 31. The reason: “You have had a religious influence in Champéry.” As I quoted from Hudson Taylor to Fran, we spoke about the impossible situation this young English missionary found himself in standing at a bank in Cambridge. Starting a bank account with all the money he had, which amounted to ten pounds, he considered the teller’s question: “In what name shall I start this account?” Hudson Taylor took a deep breath and stammered, “The China Inland Mission.” His faith, which essentially launched a mission on next to nothing, only grew - and so did God’s provision. When he would speak about China’s needs all over England, he refused to take a collection, stating, “God’s work done in God’s way will receive God’s supply.” How Fran and I prayed that we would have this same faith.
A new destination
Prior to our departure from Champéry, Fran instructed me, “Go look for another place to stay.” In the morning, I set forth on my way to find a house. I met Monsier Gabus, real estate dealer, got in his car and drove to a dismal-looking chalet. I had prayed that if the Lord wanted Fran and me in Switzerland, he would take me to a chalet that would be within our means. When we had finished looking around, Monsier Gabus jumped into his car and shouted, “Bring your husband to look at it tomorrow.” I shouted back, “How much is the rent?” He answered, “It’s not for rent; it is for sale.” And with that he was gone.
Arriving back in Champéry, I was thinking of Hudson Taylor and his various experiences. Thankfully, the lives of others who have traveled down the road of life are written down for us to be encouraged by.
The children jumped up and down as the door opened. “Mommy, Mommy, did you find anything?” I replied, “Yes, but Daddy will have to come and see it. We need to take the early train.” The postman handed us three letters on our way out. Two were from people saying they were praying for us. The third one, from a couple in Ohio, contained a check. for one thousand dollars. As we were shown through the house, we realized there was plenty of room for our family and for students, who we prayed would come to ask questions about the existence of God and the purpose of life.
The birth of L’Abri
March 31 found us in a jeep with boxes giving thanks to God for providing us with a home. Within a few days of our arrival, our daughter met an American student who was studying Buddhism and oriental religions, searching for meaning. Priscilla telephoned home and said, “I want to bring a girl home for the weekend. She has questions and wants to ask Daddy.” I thought, Oh no! We’re not ready for visitors. But I told Priscilla it would be all right if she and her friend came.
Priscilla arrived with her friend Grace. At the dinner table Grace’s questions poured out. Although we didn’t know it just then, L’Abri had begun. Upon returning to the university, Grace told her friends, “You can’t imagine where I’ve been this weekend. I’ve had so many questions answered - hard questions about the meaning and purpose of life - at this little chalet in the mountains.”
Others came, including American soldiers serving in Germany. One gentleman went back to Germany, sharing with others that he was now intellectually proud of being a Christian.
A similar faith walk
I began to see the pieces falling together in the beginning of L’Abri’s history, just as it had with the history of the China Inland Mission. Hudson Taylor strongly believed that he was not alone, but that God, who can penetrate all walls, was there beside him. Francis and I had our own walls that needed to be penetrated. Would we have food to feed those who were coming? Would the rest of the money come to buy the chalet? Would we get a permit to live in the village?
As the days passed and more and more university students were coming, we also received more donations. One day the postlady handed me an envelope. Inside was a check for five hundred dollars! I called everybody together in the dining room. As we sat in a circle, I put the check on the floor and said, “We should give thanks to the Lord for answering our prayer.” After several of us had prayed, Franky, age two, said, “I think we should clap,” which we all did, clapping our thanksgiving.
God’s provision through faith
The final payment was due in two months’ time. We felt strongly that we should make no appeals for money. Instead, we called for prayer and fasting. We lacked only three hundred Swiss francs. Alice, the postlady, arrived as we were rushing to catch the bus. She gave a letter to us and said, “Hurry up. Perhaps this is it.” The letter was from Monsieur Exhenry in Champéry. He wrote, “You were put out of your home and our village because of my salvation. Now I want to buy a door that will always be remembered for people like me who need to find the truth.” The amount was exactly three hundred Swiss francs!
Another miracle by faith
Still, there was no possibility of continuing to live in the chalet and receive students unless we could obtain permission to live in that village. Then I was invited for tea with the Mesdemoiselles Chaudet who lived next door. I told them we now needed a permit to live in this village so that students could come and raise their questions. “We’ll ask our brother.” I thought, What can their brother do about it? When Alice arrived with our mail the next day, I asked her who the brother of the Mesdemoiselles Chaudet was. Alice answered, “He’s one of the seven men of the Federal Council.” Monsieur Chaudet happened to be president that year. The ladies next door were going to tell our story to the president of Switzerland! He arranged for us to have a permit and it became official.
The legacy lives on
L’Abri continues to work on the basis of prayer. Month by month we see students coming, gifts arriving, and workers being provided for in the seven L’Abri centers and also in the work of the Francis Schaeffer Foundation in Gryon, Switzerland. Little did I know when we were going through those difficult times that there would be an amazing harvest around the world over a forty-six-year period (so far).
What do I feel Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission teaches us? Our eyes should be fixed upon our Heavenly Father, and we should be filled with wonder as centuries go by. My husband often said in the early days of our work, “I am so glad we have no endowment because I can trust God’s leading through the money coming in or not coming in.”
God communicates His will for our lives step by step, giving direction just as we need it to follow His lead.
Adapted from Indelible Ink by Scott Larsen ©2003, Waterbrook Press, Colorado Springs: Colorado. Used with permission.