We are all waiting. Perhaps we wait for our name to rise to the top of a list for a critical medical procedure. Or we wait for that certain school to open up a seat for us. Or for that long-dreamed-of-career to finally open up. Or for love to enter our lives in the form of a spouse, a child, a friend?
Can we really trust that God has a plan for us. This fourth instalment of Rosella Pettigrew’s story means so much to me on a personal level. As I read it today, I wonder, is God using her story to encourage me on my quest—the thing I believe God called me to do? One thing I do know for sure, God has directed me to share Rosella’s story with you today. Perhaps our good and loving God wants you to trust that He has a plan for you.
GOD’S DELAYS ARE NOT DENIALS—by Rosella Pettigrew
Almost 2 years had passed since my acceptance by Sudan Interior Mission (SIM). And still I waited for that crucial financial support. During this time I trained as a practical nurse and worked in a senior care facility, which I enjoyed. Also, I loved being involved in the ministries of my church, as a youth leader, teaching Sunday school, and singing in the choir. However, Africa was my goal.
Yet nothing was happening.
Did God want me to continue to wait when time seemed to be slipping by? Did He want me to continue to trust Him for this particular goal? Maybe I’d heard Him wrongly. But when I searched Him out with all my heart, I still came away with the same passion resonating in my heart that I was to go to Africa as a missionary.
Waiting is so hard. I wanted God’s will in my life. One of the basic lessons in the ‘school of faith’ is God’s way and in God’s time which will then bring the glory to Him.
But what was I to do? I had no financial support, nor did I know where to get any for my life in Africa. How was I to inspire people to give financially from their own pockets to send me out as a missionary? Believe me, patience was not my strong point.
Someone has said, “The secret of patience is doing something else in the meantime.”
I chose to return to Bible College in Regina for a year. I had siblings going there by this time, so it seemed a good reason for me to go back too. We sometimes take detours in our lives. During that first semester a representative from S.I.M. came during the ‘Missions Emphasis Week.
When she saw me she stopped, and said, “Rosella, what are you doing here?”
I shared with her that I felt nothing was happening in terms of support, etc. It was as though I’d hit a brick wall in what I thought was God's plan for my life.
“We’ll see about that,” she said.
So I returned home after the first semester to await the next move. Several S.I.M. representatives contacted me after that, and arrangements were made for me to visit various churches. Now I’m getting somewhere, I thought. The doors will swing open for me to get going.
But as time went by, not one of those contacts materialized into anything that would support me. Every one of them fell through. Finally the S.I.M head office asked me to come to Toronto—perhaps it was easier to get support there. It wasn’t. But while there I worked in the mission home. Maybe my calling was to support others in going, while remaining home myself. I could be a great cheerleader and prayer support for others. But somehow that didn’t fit with the strong feeling in my heart that just wouldn’t let go. I must keep trusting in His call no matter how long the delay.
One day in the latter part of November 1949, I was called to the office and given stupendous news. A church in Washington, D.C. had just had their first missionary conference, and as a congregation they wanted to support someone who needed financial support. Would I be ready to leave in 2 days time? Would I? Would I? Oh, dear Father in Heaven, yes. A great big yes!
The pastor and his wife of this Washington D.C church happened to be visiting relatives in Ontario, and would pick me up in Hamilton, only 30 miles from Toronto. Wow!!! The years of delay had gone by so slowly, but now His answer was speeding so fast, I could barely catch my breath. But I kept up to the pace the Lord was setting. I hung on to His whirlwind of action.
God blessed me with a wonderful group of people who faithfully prayed for me, showered me with love and kindness and generosity. It was the U.S. Thanksgiving weekend when I met them for the first time. God couldn’t have made our first meeting more perfect. The church decided I would be their very first missionary, fully supported. And they also paid for my passage!!!!
Monday morning of that weekend, the pastor called the S.I.M office in New York to give them the news. They asked me to be in New York that Thursday as I was booked to sail on a Norwegian Freighter on Saturday, December 3rd, 1949.
My first phone call after that was a breathless one to my parents, who shared the good news with many friends. What an answer to prayer, and especially those of my mother all those years.
Six weeks later—after the ship stopped in every port along the west coast of Africa—I arrived in Lagos, Nigeria. Upon my arrival I learned that I wouldn’t remain in Nigeria as my original assignment, but that I had been reassigned to Dahomey (now Benin) a pioneer area as far as Christian missions.
When God promises to direct our paths, we can be confident He will carefully lead us. “I will go before you and make the crooked places straight.” Isaiah 45:2.
I marvel at His plan for our lives. His plans for me included medical work, teaching Bible School, developing a literacy program, and being involved in full-time Bible translation work, to mention a few ministries during my 24 years in Africa.
What a privilege was mine to serve my Lord in Africa. Looking back I know the “why” of all those delays.
His way is best. Trust Him.