Christine's intro: Experiences like Rosella Pettigrew's encourage me to persevere as much as reading my Bible does.
Last year at this time I shared what it was like to set out on a road of God-inspired risk. You can read that story by clicking here on Growing Pains. My husband and I did a repeat journey this September. We drove our youngest son, Rob, to a college in the middle of the country, over a 1000 miles away. Rob is pursuing what he believes is God’s plan for his life. Rob doesn't want a job in the trades or a business degree—an education a mother could breathe a sigh of relief over, knowing her youngest child had chosen a solid, good paying profession. But God didn’t wire my Rob that way. Rob is pursuing music.
I didn’t think I’d cry the second year into this, but I did, my tears filled with the same trepidation. Will God provide a vocation for Rob to use the gifts God gave him?
I wish with all my heart I could be like some people who are full of courage, who expect everything to turn out just fine, who never doubt. But I struggle with fear on a daily basis, mostly that things I hope for will simply never appear. I am a person of little faith. But my flickering faith sparks brightly when I read how Rosella struggled to trust in God's plan for her life. Next week she will share more about that struggle. Today we carry on with how God made Rosella into a missionary. After Rosella obeyed God's call on her life to the mission field, you’d expect everything to open up like an easy road. After all, she was moving along with His plan. But it didn’t happen that way. Life got harder.
So I ask myself as I walk along this rock-strewn road of God-inspired risk, can I trust a God who calls us onto a specific road, and who then allows things to get tougher?
THE ROAD GOT TOUGHER, Part 3—By Rosella Pettigrew
So the hard part—I thought—was done. I’d said yes to the Lord. I was willing to leave my home and all that was familiar, and go wherever in the world He sent me. And Mother’s reaction to my news that God wanted me to be a missionary floored me.
“I knew,” she said, “The Lord told me and also showed me where you would serve Him.”
How He had revealed all this to her, I don’t know to this day—through a dream? A vision? Then she told me that she had dedicated me to the Lord before I was born. She had faithfully prayed about that through the years.
We had always seemed to have every visiting missionary in our home who instilled in us a love for missions and the Lord’s work. My dad had a great interest and part in establishing new churches. Sunday services were often held in our home, and he rented halls and invited pastors and missionaries to come and preach the Word of God. He did this for a couple of years until a church was built and a pastor came. So I had a rich heritage. What an awesome God. We were such a poor, ordinary family who experienced God’s blessings in the good times as well as in difficult circumstances. God has always chosen unlikely people to work out His purposes.
But what did I need to do next? Apply to a mission? Ernie Harrison had told us so much about Sudan Interior Mission, a faith mission known as ‘serving in mission’ (SIM). I applied to it.
Since all of this took time, my concern was, what do I do next? I was at home with my parents and looking for a job. Then a call came from our denomination’s head office—would Jeanne and I be willing to go to Northern Alberta to teach Bible in that school district?
I called Jeanne in Vancouver who also would consider it, and pray for guidance. But it wasn’t long before we accepted and packed our suitcases. We boarded a train for Edmonton where we spent a few days with friends before continuing on to a place called Rich Valley (in my estimation, a misnomer).
Our contact showed where we would live, in the house next door, a two-storey building. The upstairs would be our living quarters and the downstairs was a meeting place for Sunday School. Jeanne and I stared at our new home—an unfinished building—the walls were just boards with knot holes for fresh air, no insulation. The bedroom was partitioned off with cardboard. The bed was a fold-up cot which had seen better days. The one side was supported by an attached poplar pole. There were also some wooden boxes piled one on the other for a cupboard. The main room had a table, 2 chairs, an air-tight heater (wood burner) a 2 burner hot plate, a few dishes, pots, kettle. The basics and nothing more.
We were shown where we would get water, at the pump next door. And the outhouse was nearby too. A horse and buggy took us to the schools, and a sleigh whisked us throught the snow and ice in the winter. I had never hitched up a horse to a buggy, never mind controlling the horse. A new experience and my dear city friend was no help. So the job was mine, as well as pumping the water from the well, and chopping the wood. This wasn’t too difficult when we got there in the fall (1946).
But winter came early in Alberta and it got colder and colder. The pump froze, so I took a kettle of boiling water to thaw it to get water. The air-tight heater didn’t throw much heat; at least not that it was noticeable in our cold dwelling. The heater would get red hot so we bought a sheet of asbestos at the local store and attached it to the wall behind the heater. In the middle of winter the temperature dipped down to 62 degrees F below zero. We stayed in bed most of the day in order to keep warm. When we washed our dishes, the spilled water formed icicles on the table. Our motto soon became—Africa, here we come.
The bright spot was teaching Bible in the schools and the local Sunday School. When the weather was too severe we cancelled everything. In spite of the harshness of the winter and some difficult circumstances we felt blessed in being able to share Christ in that part of His world.
In the spring we received word from S.I.M. that they wanted us to attend the April candidate class in Toronto. So it was goodbye to our friends in the town of Rich Valley and area, and move on to our next assignment orchestrated by God.
Rich Valley was a hard place. Living conditions were poor (only one other person agreed to go there after we left). Bad weather was a factor often in whether we had Sunday School or no, and if we taught Bible lessons in school. With no conveniences it took a lot of time to just live there.
Sometimes we wondered what we accomplished. Someone has said, “Difficulties and obstacles are God’s challenges to faith.” No doubt we would face many, more challenges in the future. But God never failed us.
This is Rosella with her brother and sister when they were children. Her brother, Elmer and his wife, Muriel, spent 37 years in India as missionaries. And Rosella’s youngest sister and husband served in the pastorate for 43 years.
Christine again--Looking back at Rosella's life and that of her siblings, the verse in Hebrews 11:6 keeps coming back to me, urging me to persevere and not lose heart. "...without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him."