Jonathan always had the dream of becoming an accomplished lawyer and politician. He would often practice speeches behind his house and have heated discussions with himself. Until the day when his father-in-law gave him a book to read: The Memoirs of Robert Murray M’Cheyne. This drastically changed his life. Since that day he became incredibly involved in his church. He taught a Sunday school class and handed out tracks at the door, but he was still unsatisfied and started a Sunday night church service in the rickety, old schoolhouse. He even started family worship every night in his home, which eventually led to his father’s salvation. It was not until later when he heard G. L. MacKay preach and give an invitation to become a missionary, did he decide to serve the Lord in China.
Goforth went to Knox College to ready himself for the mission field; college life was not what he expected. Jonathan was cruelly ridiculed and rejected because he was a poor farm boy, and his clothes were considered shabby in comparison with the big city styles. Soon, however his classmates learned and grew to respect this young man who was on fire for the Lord. They admired Jonathan’s passion and determination for missions, and when he did not receive a reply form the China Inland Mission, his classmates were the ones who raised the money for him to go to China.
For the next nearly forty years, Jonathan traveled throughout China (and at time Korea), starting churches, strengthening the Christians, and seeing many saved. It has been estimated that nearly 13,000 Chinese were converted through the ministry of Jonathan Goforth, whether through his preaching, churches, or young men he worked with. The later years of Jonathan’s life bought sickness and difficulty. He began to lose his eyesight and decided to return to the Unites States and Canada, where he began to travel around to churches, promoting the work in China and missions in general. Just a few weeks before his death,at a missionary conference in North Carolina, the sightless veteran missionary told the assembled group that he was filled with great joy that the next face he would see would be that of his Savior.
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