In our vocabulary lesson this morning we studied the word "brevity" - a noun meaning "conciseness. The sample sentence was
"Brevity is essential when you send a telegram - you are charged for every word."
I gave the children the famous example of a brief telegram, "Saved Alone", written by Anna Spafford to her husband Horatio to tell him of the death of all four of their beautiful daughters.
Most Christians know that Horatio Spafford got on the next available ship to go and join his grieving wife. As they were crossing the Atlantic, the captain informed Horatio when the ship was in the spot where the girls had drowned. He went to his cabin and penned the words to the beautiful hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul".
However, many are not aware of the rest of the story.
When the Spaffords got back to Chicago, they naturally expected their Christian brothers and sisters to rally around them and encourage them in their great loss. Not only had they lost their daughters to drowning, but Horatio had lost most of his real estate holdings in the Great Fire of Chicago. They knew what it was to suffer. They knew what it was to lose everything they held dear.
But God wasn't finished teaching them to depend on Him, and Him alone.
Bertha Spafford (a daughter born later) wrote about her parents' struggle:
The important thing was not to lose faith... The Puritan foundation of the protestant churches had carried into the United States many of the harsh Old Testament tenets. It was universally accepted by all Christians then that sickness or sorrow was the result of sin.... What had father done, what had his young wife done, that they should be so afflicted?
A bitter, public quarrel ensued, and Horatio decided to take his wife and young daughter, Bertha, to the Holy Land, where they threw themselves into the service of others.
There is no doubt that God used suffering to refine this family. He had a purpose - and that is evident in the life of Bertha Spafford, later Bertha Vester. Click on the link and read her fascinating story. She spent her life serving the Lord and the Arab people.
Bertha died in 1968. This is the obituary from Time Magazine:
Died. Bertha Spafford Vester, 90, Jerusalem's Florence Nightingale, who cared for thousands of Christians, Moslems and Jews under four flags (Turkish, British, Jordanian and Israeli); in Jerusalem. Called "Ummuna" (mother of us all) by her Arab friends, the ex-Chicagoan (who moved to the Holy City in 1881 with her parents) treated both British and Turkish soldiers wounded in the city during World War I, Jewish and Arab soldiers during the 1948 war. Her Spafford Memorial Children's Hospital, founded in 1925, is now —with its infant-welfare center and 60-bed clinic—one of the best pediatric clinics in the Arab Middle East. Mrs. Vester, herself a Presbyterian, capped a distinguished career in 1963 by obtaining enough polio vaccine from the U.S. to inoculate 300,000 Jordanian children.
So, what are the lessons learned today in Vocabulary Class?
1. God uses great tragedy to accomplish His purposes of refinement in the lives of His children.
2. It is nothing new that Christians sometimes choose to act unkindly and treat their brethren sinfully. It happened to the Spaffords, and it still happens today.
3. God has prepared work for His children in places they often can't imagine going to. He orchestrates the events to move His people where He wants them to serve. Were it not for the faulty doctrine of the Chicago churches, the Spaffords would not have moved to the Middle East, and Bertha would not have served and loved sick children for over 40 years.