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March 16, 2009

The Ship that went to Conakry

“Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give to them” (Deuteronomy 31:7).

During the Forrest’s trip around the world in 1930, Mrs. Forrest became gravely ill. She wrote in her diary that the sickness was due to something she ate, and no doubt she was right. Storing and preparing food was so much different then than it is now. But this is not the point we need to linger on. In Achieving the Impossible with God, we read, “[The Forrests] took the same ship and went on down to Conakry, Sierra Leone. Mrs. Forrest had been besieged with illness all the way down the coast. She was so weak that she could scarcely stand. At first the authorities decided that, because of her illness, the Forrests could not land at all. What will they do with us? Surely, we haven’t come so far only to be doomed to disappointment, they thought anxiously. Meanwhile, all the other passengers had gone ashore.

“During this period of anxiety one of the missionaries, Harry Watkins from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, had come down to meet the Forrests. When they did not come ashore with the other passengers, he sensed that something was wrong, hired a launch, and started out to the ship. In the confusion, he passed the Forrests going to shore, and neither party recognized the other. Finally, he came back and met the Forrests at the dock, where they were waiting.”

There are at least three principles we can learn in these two paragraphs. First, the Lord allowed the Forrests to be sorely tried and tested one more time before they achieved what they called “a dream of a lifetime.” After graduating from The Missionary Training Institute in Nyack, New York (Nyack College), both had wanted to go to the mission field. Evelyn, especially, was drawn to Africa, but her asthma prevented her from going. Richard had fallen in love with her, and God used this one single fact to refocus his eyes on home service instead of the foreign field. When both submitted their dreams and goals to the Lord, He changed their hearts and within a few short years, they were signing the paper work to purchase property in northeast Georgia that would one day become the very heart and breath of Toccoa Falls College. Obedience to God always produces a rich harvest.

The second principle we can learn is one of friendship. Paul wrote of Onesiphorus, he said, “He often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains” (2 Timothy 1:16). When African missionary Harry Watkins received word that Mrs. Forrest was seriously ill, he did not hesitate to find a way to get to her and Richard. “He hired a launch and started out to the ship.” Money and a meager missionary’s salary did not prevent him from trying to reach his friends. No doubt, his efforts were a tremendous source of refreshment and encouragement to Richard and Evelyn Forrest because love never fails.

Finally, we need to take stock of the Forrest’s determination. Their lives were literally lived out on a spiritual battlefield. Most of us would have cried out to God asking, “Lord, why have You allowed this sickness? I have come so far.” But they realized, the joy of the journey is often revealed and made even greater through difficulty and sorrow.

Perhaps, you have been waiting for God to answer your prayers for a very long time. You have persevered and still the trials come. Take courage; hold steady and know that He is in the process of answering. Remember divine delays are always geared to heaven’s timetable. If we wait, with our eyes set on Him, we will never be disappointed.

Written for the online devotional A Present Peace © 2009