A Lasting Legacy

How beautiful on the mountains

are the feet of those who bring good news,

who proclaim peace,

who bring good tidings,

who proclaim salvation,

who say to Zion,

‘Your God reigns!’

Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices;

together they shout for joy.

When the LORD returns to Zion,

they will see it with their own eyes.

Burst into songs of joy together,

you ruins of Jerusalem,

for the LORD has comforted his people,

he has redeemed Jerusalem.

The LORD will lay bare his holy arm

in the sight of all the nations,

and all the ends of the earth will see

the salvation of our God.

Isa 52:7-10

A single lady, Mattie Ledbetter was ordained a missionary to South China in 1911.  She served for many years in Fat Shan (modern day Foshan in Guangdong Province), establishing two outstations and serving in an orphanage.  A church she planted in Fat Shan still exists today.  Mattie often traveled by horseback from village to village distributing Bibles and preaching.  In a letter dated Nov. 30, 1920 she offers a vivid picture of her prayer life.  She writes, “Once recently at morning prayer…I sunk on the floor under the power of God and lay there three hours.  Every little while the power would shake me from head to foot and the Lord would give me a prayer or a song or reveal something to me…and Oh how sweetly Jesus spoke to my soul.  I was melted in love” (Nov. 30, 1920 letter from AG Archives).  In 1928 Mattie, suffering from exhaustion, traveled to Hong Kong for a time of rest and recuperation.  Little did she know that God would use her to preach evangelistic crusades in a tent and in this way pioneer a vibrant church in Hong Kong.  Hong Kong First Assembly of God now numbers close to one thousand believers.  Mattie died of dysentery in Hong Kong on March 2, 1938 at the age of 67 (from the March 26, 1938 edition of The Pentecostal Evangel, p. 7).

I was very touched by Mattie’s story, especially as I ministered to and shared fellowship with the vibrant group of Chinese Christians that make up Hong Kong First Assembly.  What an amazing story of the power of God’s word, energized by the Holy Spirit!  Her legacy of Pentecostal ministry is very evident and is being lived out and passed on.

Mattie Ledbetter’s legacy is mirrored by that of another wonderful lady, Jo Chapline.  Over the past decade Jo ministered with us in China on five different occasions.  Jo, who passed away on Oct. 27, 2014, was a member of the Northwest Christian Fellowship in Houston.  This wonderful group has supported and blessed our ministry in China in every conceivable way.  They have visited us and ministered to our Chinese friends every other year for the past decade.  Jo was a part of every trip.  Her irrepressible joy, child-like sense of wonder, and godly love were always a great blessing to us all.  

Jo was indeed a very loving person.  God poured his love into her and it overflowed.  Jo expressed this love in very tangible ways.  She was quick to serve and often she did so in very creative ways.  I will never forget the time in a remote Miao village that Jo set up shop as a barber and hair stylist, cutting villager after villager’s hair free of charge.  I can still see her taking charge, encouraging the villagers to sit in her makeshift barber’s chair, and cutting their hair.  Who would think to serve in this way?  Who could make the villagers feel confident that they were safe in her hands?  Who could do it all while exuding such joy and love?  That was Jo.  She will be greatly missed by many, many brothers and sisters in Southwest China, including Joanne and myself.  We thank the Lord for her life and for Mattie’s as well.  Two lives that have left a lasting legacy — a legacy of Christian faith and service that is being appropriated and passed on in the lives of countless Chinese Christians. 

Lord, I bless your name for you are revealing your strength and love to the nations. The ends of the earth shall see your salvation. People from every tribe and nation shall together worship you. And Lord, I give you thanks for the way you have moved godly men and women in the past to sacrifice much so that they might serve others in your name. I think of people like Mattie Ledbetter and Jo Chapline and I am moved. I am so thankful for the countless men and women who, at great cost, have prepared the way. I now reap the blessings that come from the seeds that they have sowed. Thank you Lord for this incredible heritage and example. Help me leave a legacy of blessing in your name.