God’s Faithfulness to Nine Generations

In this reflection, the late Dr. Jim Taylor (1929-2009), Hudson Taylor’s great-grandson, looked back on 200 years of God’s faithfulness to his family.

God’s grace in our family goes back nine generations. Over these years we have learned many lessons: the influence of decisions, the power of prayer, experiencing God’s faithfulness in preparation for service, getting one’s priorities right, and the privilege of partnership.

The first James Taylor (1749-1795), a contemporary of John Wesley, lived in Barnsley. He was converted on the morning of his wedding, to the dismay of his bride. It was a struggle for her to give in, and his prayers for her seemed to be met only with a greater hardening of her heart. But finally she came to see her own need of Christ. The words which had echoed in his mind since his conversion could now be true for her, too. “As for me and my house… we will serve the Lord.” It was 1776.

Succeeding generations of Taylors grew up in homes where the Lord’s name was honored: James Taylor’s son, John; his grandson, James; and his great-grandson, James Hudson Taylor.

At 17, Hudson Taylor was not a believer. He worked in a bank where he was being influenced by his friends, and his mother was deeply burdened for him. When staying with relatives some miles away, she set aside a day to pray for her son’s conversion. As she was praying, Hudson slipped into his father’s study, and saw a tract entitled “The Finished Work of Christ.” Why was the writer emphasizing the finished work of Christ? As Hudson Taylor stood in his father’s study, the message of that simple tract helped him to receive Jesus Christ as his Savior.

A few days later his mother was thrilled to hear what had happened. She already knew though no one had told her, as God himself had assured her of his answer to her prayers. From this Hudson Taylor learned a lesson he never forgot – moving men through God by prayer alone. One need not be a spiritual giant to see results.

In preparation for medical missionary service in China, Hudson moved to Hull and was apprenticed to a doctor. The doctor had a terrible memory and often forgot to pay him at the end of the month. Through this God taught a young Christian to flex his muscles of faith and learn to trust. The doctor told Hudson to remind him when money was due, but Hudson decided to trust God to do that.

One Sunday, while visiting the poor, a man called after him to come to see his wife. Hudson did not want to. It was a dangerous area. But the priest had refused to go as the man had no money and he was desperate. Hesitantly Hudson followed him to his hovel. He had one coin in his pocket – a half crown. The woman evidently needed medicine. The man could not pay. Hudson knew he had to give him the half crown, but it was all he had left. At first he became super-spiritual. “Let me pray for your wife,” he said. But there is a time to pray and a time to obey.

The Lord then put it to him squarely: If you can’t trust me in England when family and friends are so near, how will you ever be able to trust me in China when they are thousands of miles away?

He drew out the half crown. Here was a young man heading home, without a penny in his pocket. But he knew the God of Joshua who could say, “not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed” (Joshua 23:14).

There was no food for the next day. Yet that night he slept like a baby. In the morning, the landlady knocked at the door. An envelope had arrived. Here was 10 times the sum he had given to save the woman’s life. “God’s bank is not like the banks on earth,” he wrote. “Overnight he not only returned the principal, but multiplied the interest.”

Courage and perseverence
My grandfather, Herbert Hudson Taylor, was Hudson and Maria’s eldest son. At five he sailed aboard the Lammermuir with the first group of missionaries from the China Inland Mission. At seven, he and the entire family nearly lost their lives in the Yangzhou Riot. Then at 10, back in Britain for schooling, the news of his mother’s death in China reached him. How could a young person with such a “deprived” youth ever amount to anything?

Yet, at 20, Herbert Taylor gave up medical studies to help set up the first-ever school for missionary children in Chefoo, China. He and my Scottish grandmother, Jeanie Gray, were to serve for 50 years in inland China. He was 80 when Pearl Harbour was attacked and he was interned with the whole of the Chefoo Schools for three years. In the concentration camp, early each morning, I would hear him sing, “Courage, brother, do not stumble; though the path be dark as night. There’s a star to guide the humble, trust in God and do the right.”

My family returned to China after a home assignment in 1935-36. Japan attacked China in 1937. Kaifeng, where I was born and my parents were now teaching, was in a state of disruption.

Prayer was a way of life. Together as a family we memorized two Bible chapters, Isaiah 55 and Psalm 91, which Mother put to music. Dad booked a passage for the family to the United States, while he continued to pray. One morning he said to me, “Jamie, would you like to come to the shipping office?” “Dad, are we getting ready to leave for the States?” “No,” he said, “I am going to cancel the tickets.”

I was shocked; but the tickets were canceled. In early 1940, we four children stood at the dock as our parents sailed north to Tianjin. From there they went back into the interior, and later on to Xi’an in the far northwest.

Then, on December 7 Japan attacked Pearl Harbour. My parents were 700 miles away from the Chefoo Schools we were attending in Shandong, Yantai. All my mother could think of was her four children far away in Japanese-occupied China. With tears blinding her steps, she stumbled to her bedroom. There, falling on her knees, she did what any mother would do – she cried. She couldn’t form a prayer.

The country was now at war with Japan and she could not reach her children or get them out of danger. But as she knelt, God spoke to her through Matthew 6:33, paraphrased by her old pastor in Virginia: “If you will take care of the things that are dear to God, God will take care of the things that are dear to you.” This was not an invitation to parental irresponsibility, but a promise from God to parents who were asked to play a unique role in the Chinese church during a crisis hour in its history.

God’s voice in that moment of anguish sustained my mother as the family remained separated for five and a half long years. But through all that time the Lord proved his faithfulness. Our teachers were an incredible source of comfort and encouragement, as was Eric Liddell, the hero of “Chariots of Fire.” He touched our lives during our difficult teenage years, becoming a surrogate father to many of us.

The camp was liberated by American airmen in August 1945 and a month later our family was reunited in northwest China.

Partnership in service
Hudson Taylor wanted to see the Chinese church play an active role in world evangelization. My parents, Leone and I, and our son Jamie and his wife Yueh-Min have had the indescribable joy and privilege of seeing this happen.

While our family was separated in World War II, one of my father’s colleagues, Pastor Ma Ke, founded the “Back to Jerusalem Band.” This was an indigenous Chinese mission working in Central Asia.

With Chinese colleagues in Taiwan, Leone and I had the privilege of helping establish the China Evangelical Seminary. Thousands of university graduates and many more laymen have been trained for all kinds of service at home and overseas.

It is particularly encouraging to see the new role Christian professionals are taking.

When Jamie was in seminary he experienced the Lord’s gracious provision for his needs through an anonymous Chinese brother. This continued through two and a half years of study. Later he and Yueh-Min met at the Chinese Bible Church of Greater Boston where he was serving as an associate pastor. Both were born in Taiwan. They now live in Hong Kong, and with Chinese co-workers, have been active in starting the Hong Kong Mandarin Bible Church. Their home rings to the sound of children’s voices – JT, Selina and Joy.

One decision to serve God in the 18th century has influenced my family for nine generations. To God be the glory. Think carefully and prayerfully as you make decisions. Learn the power of prevailing prayer. Let God show you his faithfulness. Set God-honoring priorities. Recognize the importance of partnership in his service. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

James Hudson Taylor III © OMF International (UK)

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