Thou art the Helper of the Fatherless

Sundar looked at his father incredulously. “He’s not dead, ” he said deliberately. “I won’t believe he’s dead. He’s only sleeping! But she, Priscilla, his wife for thirty years, had known instinctively that the cord of life was broken. Her beloved had passed the unknown frontier to the world beyond

Later there was a knock at the door. Priscilla rose to her feet and, walking slowly across the wooden floor, opened it. She was confronted by a Chinese gentleman. “I was wondering,” he said, “whether perhaps, in view of your husband’s death you were considering selling your plot of land.  I would pay cash of course. Perhaps in the circumstances this might prove of help to you.  The figure I have in mind is round about fifteen hundred dollars, although seeing you are a widow I would be prepared to go to two thousand if necessary.” “Two thousand dollars.” The words began to sink into Priscilla’s mind.  What a help this would be, especially now that her husband’s pension was not to be paid to her.  Two thousand dollars in her hand now!

Without doubt it could solve a lot-but Priscilla hesitated. Some intuitive sense restrained her. It was as if someone was telling her, “Don’t agree to it! You are not to agree to it.” Looking at the stranger she said, “I’ll think about it.”  There was no one to guard or guide her; no one to take the decisions now; no one in whom to confide; no one with whom to take counsel. How precarious the lot of a widow cast out into a heathen world. She I looked at their little home. It was hard to believe that even this must be dismantled now, and what of the little ones?  The older children could fend for themselves but the smaller children needed her and once her meager capital was spent what could she give them to eat? She was no longer a young woman. What work could she find that would solve her problems?  Gradually, but relentlessly, the burden mounted. If she could have cried she would have done so but her heart was too tense even for tears.

It was during one of these moments of grief and fear that the beloved Karen Christian called again. She was like a ray of sunshine coming into the gloom and Priscilla wondered at her love for her. Today she brought a text, beautifully drawn and tastefully framed. Together they hung it up on the wall.  Priscilla looked at the words. She had never read them before.  “Thou art the Helper of the fatherless,” it ran. “You must pray,” said the Karen lady. “You must pray. There is nothing you can do about it all now. It is no good sitting sad brooding over everything; and if you just sit and mope you will get nowhere.” It sounded so matter of fact, almost brusque, but there was kindliness behind the firmness of those words. Of course it was true. She must face it. Life must go on but what her dear friend was saying was simply this, “You need not face it alone. There is a Helper.”

In her deep distress, at her wits end and without resources, she had decided to give the Christians’ God His chance. If He cared then let Him be pleased to show His care. That is how she felt. Her attitude had hardly been faith and yet it was not exactly unbelief. If He would prove Himself to her, then she would trust herself to Him, so she had begun to pray.  In a way it was all on a rather low level of spiritual experience.  She was perhaps rather like Jacob or even Hannah, both of whom said “If Thou wilt. … I will,” but when God sees that we are going to take Him at His Word, He is always ready to take us at our word.

The first real inkling that God was with her had been the receiving of a grant from the Government of some nine thousand dollars in view of her husband’s service.  This was substantial and gave her time to give proper consideration to her plot of land. Eventually she made proper application under the Land Regulations to sell the land.   Then the house in the Jesselton area became available and she decided to go a step farther in this question of trusting God. If her large family were to be re-housed then this was undoubtedly the house for them but the sizeable figure of fifteen thousand dollars was the lowest price the owner would consider. She determined therefore to gather her family around her and to make a covenant with God.

Thus they prayed together, saying in utter simplicity something like this. “Dear God, if you will give us five thousand dollars for the land in Sandakan then we will truly believe you and we will all become Christians.”  In view of the original offer of only two thousand dollars this was a large petition. Five thousand dollars was the minimum amount needed for the Jessclton house. If God was for them, then He could do the impossible thing.

Having settled the matter in her heart she now went resolutely about her business. The full sum of fifteen thousand must be paid by April 30th or the offer would be withdrawn. Could God meet such requirements? It was hard to believe-but the text said. He was a Helper to the fatherless, and does not the Christian’s God mean what He says?

The next indication that God was moving on their behalf came when a letter from the authorities arrived, saying that the sale of the land had been authorized and the necessary documents could be obtained from the local court. Joyfully, Priscilla made her way to the appropriate office in Jesselton to obtain the papers. Tomorrow would be almost the last day that the documents would avail her. The dateline for settlement of the house purchase was dangerously near. That afternoon the papers were completed, and duly signed, and now she was legally entitled to negotiate the sale of the plot and complete the transaction whenever she wished.

Almost immediately she wired her son Sundar, in Sandakan.  Within a matter of hours a telegram came back. “Offered 2000 dollars.”  Her heart fell a little.  Still only two thousand.  Was she really asking the impossible?  Almost before she had time to repudiate this first offer, another telegram arrived.   “Offered $ 2800” She held her ground and wired back a refusal.  This was no longer a matter of dollars nor even of a home for her children. This was a question as to whether God existed or not. Whether Christ was real or not. Whether prayer to the Living God was mockery or not.  She would take not a dollar under five thousand. As she stiffened in her determination and faith, another telegram arrived.

There had been a big leap forward. “Offered $4000.” She was amazed. The original offer had now been doubled, but she felt absolutely under bond not to accept it. It would have seemed extraordinary to anyone else. Was she right to gamble her family and faith like this? But she had made a covenant with God. After a pause, a more or less final figure of four thousand eight hundred was put forward. An excellent price. Surely no one could expect more for the Particular piece of land in question. Was it not the right, and indeed the very best thing, to accept this offer immediately? It was only two hundred dollars short, anyway, of her ideal price, her covenant price. Was it not enough? Priscilla did not think.  She was determined now to go all the way with God.

Quietly she awaited the final development. Would one more telegram come? It did. She was not to be disappointed. She held the envelope in her hand a moment. Strange that a figure, a mere price should be the last factor in her total surrender to Jesus Christ. She opened it and saw just what she had expected to see.  Offered $5000″, the message ran.  It was enough. From that moment she believed, from that moment she belonged to Him, to God, to Christ who long ago had paid the other price, the price of sin. O Matchless God, Helper of the Fatherless, and Saviour of all who dare to trust Him!

On the morning of the baptism Priscilla arrived at the believers meeting hall dressed in a flowing white sari. For her this was a stupendous moment. As a child she had been brought up in an idolatrous Hindu home.  But today she was to go down into the waters of baptism publicly confessing her faith in Christ.

When the moment came there was something moving about this Christian Indian lady.  She had been through much but she knew with all her heart that she believed in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Stately and serene she descended into the water.  The Missionary questioned her “Do you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your own personal Saviour?”  “I do”, she said.    And following her one by one into the water came her three older daughters, Junia, Lois and Lydia.  They were not afraid of their family covenant.  God had kept His Word and should they not keep theirs?