Trang này hiện chưa có bằng tiếng Anh.
If you would like to help translate this site please click here.
Joy never knew what she had been thinking about on the day she found herself standing half clothed in her room, uncertain whether she was getting up or going to bed. It is possible she hadn't been thinking at all, that being absent-minded merely meant her mind was nowhere, doing nothing. At all events, it was back with her now, and she was faced with the necessity of making a decision. Was it the beginning of the day or the end of it? She could not remember, but feeling sleepy decided it was time to go to bed and acted accordingly. She was comfortably settled and her eyes closed when her eldest sister burst into the room demanding to know why Joy hadn't come to breakfast, and whether she realised she'd be late for school.
'I couldn't remember whether I was getting dressed or getting undressed,' she explained lamely, scrambling into her clothes. When the incident was related downstairs it provided the Ridderhof family with something else to laugh about, and eventually Joy laughed with them. With three sisters and two brothers all older than she to tease her, she had few illusions about herself. She was an absent-minded scatter-brain, like they said.
Gullible, too. It never seemed to occur to her to suspect anyone of mischief. The ejaculation, 'Look Joy! What's that behind you?' would inevitably result in her turning her head to give her brother the opportunity to snatch the banana from her plate with a grin and start eating it. The ruse always worked.
'It's a shame!' protested her cousin, the tender-hearted Marie, who came frequently from her home in the country to stay with the exuberant household living on the outskirts of Los Angeles' business district. But no-one else seemed to object, not even Mrs. Ridderhof, usually too busy serving to take her place at the end of the table. She might have been expected to reprimand the impudent deceiver, but she didn't. Perhaps she realised that if her youngest daughter were taken in so easily it would be a good thing if she learned early in life not to accept everybody at face value, or to believe everything she was told.
Anyhow, Mrs. Ridderhof had other things to think about, for on her devolved the responsibility of making the somewhat erratic income provided by her husband's musical instruction meet the increasing needs of their family. She managed well, and somehow there was always enough food to provide meals for any strangers who turned up at church on Sunday morning, and to send money to missionaries as well. The Professor himself was satisfied to leave these practical matters in her hands, since they were not at all to his liking. He preferred composing music, for music was his life, affording him the most exquisite joy when well played, and the most excruciating pain when wrong notes were struck. There were times when he rushed out of the house to escape the sound of his own children practising on the piano. He could not bear it!
The Ridderhofs had no money to spare for bus fares, so became staunch supporters of a local evangelical church, trooping along there Sunday after Sunday in their best clothes, a typical American family. From her earliest childhood Joy was accustomed to the procedure of hearty singing and Bible reading, extempore prayer and earnest preaching. The subjects of sin and salvation were clearly proclaimed, and at the age of thirteen Joy responded to the appeal of a woman evangelist to come forward and kneel at the front as evidence of receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
Her mother was somewhat surprised. 'I thought you'd done that already,' she said.
'I was never sure about it before, but now I am,' was Joy's reply, and with characteristic enthusiasm she entered into all the church activities open to her, especially Christian Endeavour, with its emphasis on personal evangelism and leading others to faith in Christ. This was of primary importance to her, and she set about it with a forthrightness that may have displeased some, but which certainly had its effect on others. One of the teachers in the school she attended became a believer through the convincing evidence she gave of what faith in Christ meant. And it was this zeal in speaking of Him to others that impressed the Sherwood family on the occasion when Ann first brought her home to introduce her to them all.
Ann was the youngest of a family in which girls predominated, and they were all teachers. It did not occur to Ann to be anything else, and that is how she met Joy, for they were both taking teaching training in the University of Los Angeles. The two girls struck up a friendship after Joy had invited Ann to go with her to a weekly Bible Club, and when Joy walked into the Sherwood home, bubbling over with delight because she had just visited a Jewish friend in hospital and led her to faith in Christ, she won the affection of them all. 'We thought it was wonderful that she was already winning souls,' one wrote many years later. 'Her devotion impressed us as far beyond what the rest of us were doing. She was single-hearted for the Lord, as well as being a very attractive-looking young person.'
Apart from that spiritual enthusiasm of hers, however, there was little to distinguish her from other girls of her own age and Christian background. She had no outstanding gifts or acquired skills, and although with her fresh complexion, gray eyes and ready smile her appearance was pleasing enough, her cheeks were too plump for beauty. She earned her pocket money by baby-sitting, she sang in a quartette at church functions with three other girls, including Ann, and had fun in practising, although there was not much time for it. On occasion they stopped their car under a street light for one last practice before going into the church. Picnics and church outings ending up with singing around a camp fire up on the hills added enjoyment to life, and a boy friend, suitably good-looking and suitably earnest about discipleship completed the picture of what appeared a happy and satisfying life for the high-spirited girl in her late teens.
The fact is, however, that underneath her natural buoyancy Joy was neither happy nor satisfied. If impatience and resentment were rarely displayed outwardly, they made their presence felt inwardly, and worried her. There was something else, too. It was fear. No-one who knew her would have believed it if she had told them that the thought of suicide ever so much as crossed her mind. Yet there was at least one occasion when, in her bedroom almost paralysed with apprehension of what lay before her, she found herself exclaiming, 'Oh, I wish it wasn't wrong to commit suicide!'
The particular ordeal that brought about this frame of mind was always the same. She was booked to give a talk in public, either at church or at college, and a nameless, unreasonable fear gripped her. She must stand alone, the eyes of all expectantly fixed on her, and deliver a speech complete with introduction and conclusion and the main points brought out in an orderly fashion in between, and the prospect appalled her. The fact that she usually came through without breaking down or saying anything outrageous failed to give her confidence, and next time it was just as bad.
Preparing for examinations was almost equally alarming. She worried about them for weeks beforehand. 'I suppose worrying goes with being conscientious,' she said to herself reassuringly. It was really quite a good quality. It was not so easy to find a justification for being irritable, however, especially with one's own mother, and for some reason Joy could not explain, there were times when her mother exasperated her. This was all wrong for a Christian, but try as she would the irritation continually cropped up in impatient actions or explosive remarks. It made her feel guilty and ashamed, and the only comfort she could find in that was that at least it proved she was neither indifferent nor hardened, a careless unrepentant backslider. Altogether, an underlying sense of anxiety was perhaps an indispensable adjunct to the Christian life. It might even be an evidence of sincerity, of an earnest desire to become the sort of person God expected one to be.
It came as a shock therefore when the eminent preacher invited for a Victorious Life Conference at the church Joy attended asserted uncompromisingly,
'Worry is sin!'
Joy had never heard such a definition of her permanent condition of mind before. More than anything else Dr. R. C. McQuilkin said in that opening address the simple pronouncement arrested her. That worry was sin, an offence against God as heinous as any crime man can commit, was an entirely new thought. She had lived with worry so long that she had come to regard it vaguely as a sort of uncomfortable virtue. To throw it out, to be rid of it for ever was a prospect at once alluring and alarming. The question was not only whether it was possible, but whether it was right. Joy went home after that first meeting with her mind absorbed by what she had heard. The speaker's strong, melodious voice, the conviction with which he spoke, his reasoned arguments based on the Scriptures had all combined to grip her attention, but it was the promise of deliverance from worry that stirred her most deeply. Could it be true? If you trust you don't worry, if you worry you don't trust sounded logical, but was it possible to be scrupulous in doing your duty without being anxious about it?
The conflict in her mind was intensified by the fact that the series of meetings had been arranged for the very week in which she was to write her final exams. Her normal procedure would have been to spend every spare moment on revision to prepare for any unexpected question she might be called upon to answer next day. Her future career depended on her success in those finals! But instead, evening after evening, drawn by the moving eloquence of the man whose subject was the majesty, the omnipotence, the wisdom of the eternal God, she went to the meetings, although doing so meant studying into the early morning hours to make up for lost time. At one stage, thinking suddenly of the uncertainty of the future, where she would teach if she graduated, and what would happen if she didn't and whether, in the light of everything, it was right to spend time going to the meetings, she found herself exclaiming,
'Oh, I'm in such a dilemma!' and then, to her own amazement, 'And I don't even worry about it!'
That week was the most significant of her life, and had a profound and lasting effect on her theology. The responsibility of man had always loomed large with her, and her Christian life had been lived mainly in dependence on her own efforts, but now the sovereignty of God loomed even larger. The power and the reliability of the Heavenly Father who loved her were what she was called upon to trust in. To doubt Him was unbelief, and unbelief was sin.
She would sin no more. Faith in God should be her attitude, and praise to Him for His willingness and ability to bring good out of everything --, including her own silly mistakes. The sense of freedom this brought was inexpressible, and with it came an overmastering desire to learn more about God who had suddenly become so relevant to everyday life. When she heard that Dr. McQuilkin was hoping to open a Bible School in his home state of South Carolina she went to tell him of her desire, and how much she wanted to enrol and study under him, though there were obstacles in the way. She did not enlarge on them, but made it evident they existed.
His quiet response was simply, 'The Lord will guide you.'
Just that one sentence. That was all.
She had never before heard of God guiding people in practical matters, although she was not unaccustomed to asking His help along the path she had chosen. The thought opened up a new vista of spiritual possibility. If it were true that God actually guided people, that He had a plan for each life, then she wanted to ensure that she fitted into that plan. 'Lord, guide me into the way You want me to go,' she prayed, and wondered if it would include attending the Columbia Bible School in South Carolina for its very first session, or whether it would mean continuing along the way she had already taken, and proceeding with a teaching career.
The greatest obstacle to going to South Carolina was the simple fact that it was some three thousand miles away and she had no money to pay the fare. She might scrape together sufficient to buy the extra items of clothing she would need, she was prepared to risk being without a job when the two years were over, and she could even face up to saying goodbye to Francis for two years, perhaps for ever. If she went to the Bible School she knew she must be free to do whatever it was God might want of her afterwards, and that it would be wiser not to continue a relationship which might normally be expected to lead to marriage. She was ready for all this, but she saw no way at all of raising the considerable sum of money required to get her to her desired destination, and it was evident that if God wanted her there the first step to confirm it would be to have her fare paid for her.
Then one day she received a letter from her eldest sister, married now and living in Minneapolis. Susan, whose second child was only a few months old wrote, 'Would you be willing to come and help me for a few weeks if we pay your fare here and back?' It did not take Joy long to decide that this was the guidance she was looking for, Minneapolis was more than half way to South Carolina, so Susan could pay her fare on to Columbia instead of back to Los Angeles, which would amount to much the same thing. The timing of events was evidently ideal, for she could get to Columbia in good time to be present at the opening of the Bible School. She wrote to Dr. McQuilkin asking him to enrol her, packed her bags, said her goodbyes, and set off. It was the first step towards Africa, towards Ethiopia, where she was sure she was eventually to go as a missionary.
Before she left she heard the result of the final exams on which she had thought so much depended. She had passed with top grades. But somehow it didn't seem to matter now.
* * * * *
It was quite typical of Joy that the thought of paying fees had not seriously occurred to her. She had attended state schools in Los Angeles, and it had always been easy to earn pocket money by baby-sitting. Some of the pleasantest hours of her young life had been spent in the home of Dr. White, looking after his children and confiding her inmost hopes and aspirations to his kindly, sympathetic wife. If necessary one could get a job as a waitress in a cafe, or a cashier in a store, working at times to suit one's own convenience, and she assumed it was the same everywhere. Plenty of students had to work their way through college, and she was quite prepared to do the same. She had not reckoned on the social barriers of the south, which in those days of the 1920s were very clearly defined. The elegant southerners with their soft slow drawl and their courteous manners, their impeccable family trees and their negro servants were aristocrats in the eyes of the girl from cosmopolitan Los Angeles with its booming film industry, where money not manners determined one's status. She was very soon aware that her clothes weren't right, that her shoes were too thick and clumsy, that her speech had a Yankee twang, and that her ancestry was better not talked about. She wondered what people would think if they knew she had a Dutch father and that her Swedish mother could not even write English, took in boarders, and did her own housework. It was evident that they would be horrified at any suggestion that a college girl should go out to work. To work! No woman ever went out to work in South Carolina, except of course the 'poor whites' who came from their hovels in the hills to work in the cotton mills, a people apart.
There was nothing she could do to earn money. She would have to depend on God to supply her material needs, for she had no way of supporting herself. The monthly college fee of $25 for food her parents undertook to pay, but where the money would come from for clothes and books, stamps and stationery, tooth-brushes, soap, and collections in church on Sunday, she did not know.
When the money came, mainly in little gifts slipped into the pigeon hole for letters bearing her name, as far as she was concerned they came straight from the hand of God. Even when she knew the donor there was the realisation that God had prompted the kind thought, and those that came anonymously, sometimes with a little card and a text written on them, were even more precious. She never got over the wonder of it -- that the great, almighty God, Creator of the universe, should notice that she was running out of cash, and send some to her unobtrusively and secretly, just what she needed. The exquisite intimacy of it made her hold her breath and instinctively tread lightly, as though she were in the Holy of Holies. On her knees beside her bed, tears of joy in her eyes, she breathed out her wonder and her gratitude. There were times when the gift seemed too sacred to keep for herself. Like David with the water from the well of Bethlehem, she poured it out before the Lord, doing so in the best way she could think of, which was to pass it on to the Bible College.
For the first year she was there she lived in the McQuilkin home, and seeing his family life at such close range intensified her desire to know God as this man knew Him. She saw him pacing slowly backwards and forwards on the night when his little son was dying, saying firmly, 'God makes no mistakes,' and she knew he meant it. She knew, too, how dear that little boy was to the father who had already lost his first son, and the triumph of trust she saw in those hours was something she never forgot. The Bible college was in its infancy, having started with only four other students beside herself, and the McQuilkins were receiving practically no income from it. It was a period that tested their confidence in God's power and love, and also in His calling, but through it all she never saw anything but quiet assurance, even joy. She knew he was in great demand as a speaker and could obtain high fees for his services, yet here he was, patiently and painstakingly teaching a handful of students. This was the theology that worked, this spirit of thankfulness to an all-wise, all-loving God who works all things for good to those who trust Him, even the things that man and devil mean for evil. The impression made on her lasted a lifetime. The spirit of rejoicing that was to become her distinguishing characteristic was born there.
Her second year at the Columbia Bible College was spent in a different setting. As part of her practical training she lived in a cotton mill village, in charge of the mid-week congregation of workers there. 'Poor white trash' was how some referred to them. It was her first close association with poverty and coarseness, for there was much spitting and snuff-taking among them, and what seemed an inherent lethargy which prevented them from improving their living conditions. Yet they came to church on Sunday looking clean and tidy, and the eagerness on their faces as she told them Bible stories drew the best from her. 'God enabled me to make them interesting,' she explained simply when referring to her success along this line, and as the relevance of what she was relating became evident the nods and grins or shamefaced sober expressions told her that she was making her point. The congregation increased, and the Board Members of the Bible College took note that Miss Ridderhof seemed to have a special love for illiterate people, and preaching techniques which reached their hearts.
When her two years training were completed she was invited by a church in Miami, Florida, to join their staff and work among poor people in outlying areas. For the first time in her life she was in receipt of a regular salary. In addition, she was provided with a car, comfortable living quarters which she shared with another girl, and a work which brought her in touch with people who responded warmly to her friendship and her ministry. There were members of the church who became her close friends, and since she saw that God was blessing the little congregation that was her special charge her life would have been extremely happy and satisfying but for one person who, like a wrong ingredient in cooking, spoiled the flavour. This was the minister's wife, a forceful young woman with a strong personality who took upon herself the organising of her husband's newly appointed staff member. Joy, who knew she was responsible to the minister, found it was his wife to whom she must give account, and a very thorough account she was expected to render. Where had she been on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and every other day of the week? How many homes had she visited? Where had she gone for lunch, why had she stopped off at the home of this or that church member? Had she been invited out to dinner, and if so, with whom . . .? Not an hour of the day, it seemed, must be unaccounted for, and reasons must be given for anything out of the ordinary.
For Joy, never renowned for keeping accurate records, this type of surveillance unnerved her. There were times when she sat in her car by the side of the road, trying to prepare her report with tears welling up in her eyes, The principle of trust in God at all times, and confidence in His almighty power to bring good out of evil was deeply engrained in her mind after the years at Bible College, and she tried to rejoice and convince herself that there must be a purpose in this oppression. It did not occur to her to express her dissatisfaction outwardly. Hers was not a reflective nature. A different type of person, equally dedicated, might have reasoned that this was a situation in which moral courage rather than meek submission was called for, that she ought to stand her ground and point out that she had been appointed as assistant to the minister, not to his wife. Joy did not even consider taking such a course. She must endure -- and give thanks!
It was an intricate position, and further complicated by the fact that the minister's wife was the self-possessed, efficient type of woman of whom Joy instinctively stood in awe. In the presence of such a one she became conscious of her own haphazard way of doing things, her absent-mindedness, her inability to organise. And when self-possessed efficiency inhabited a tall and well-built person, immaculately groomed, Joy, being slightly below average height, and clothed with only average taste felt at such a disadvantage that her spirit failed, and she acquiesced in anything that did not go against her conscience.
Her flat-mate was in a similar position, for the minister's wife, with probably the best of intentions, started taking a hand in her personal affairs. Her difficulties along that line, however, ended when she married and moved away, leaving Joy in the flat alone, with no outlet for her feelings and finding it increasingly difficult to praise God from the heart. She was being pressed into a mould entirely unsuitable to her disposition, and the stifling of her feelings brought about the inevitable result. What did not come out went in. The sense of being oppressed turned to rancour against the oppressor, rancour turned to resentment, resentment to secret animosity. So far from loving the minister's wife, she heartily disliked her, although she did not show it. In fact, not being given to introspection, she did not even realise it herself until one day, listening to a preacher who skillfully revealed the subtle iniquities of the human heart, the word 'hate' fastened itself on her conscience.
Hate! Could it be that this was the honest way to describe her feelings towards the woman who was imprisoning her life? She was horrified. She was guilty of the sin which the Word of God asserted as was bad as murder! Once she saw it in that light she did not hesitate to confess it to God with shame and contrition, asking Him to forgive her, and change her attitude.
Then she felt she must go further. She had confessed her secret sins to God, but was not sure that in this case it was sufficient. She decided she ought to confess them to the person involved, the one against whom that poisonous viper of hatred had been inwardly directed. So she went to the minister's wife and apologised for the inner resentment she had harboured, even admitting that she had hated her, for which she asked forgiveness.
Whatever the minister's wife may have felt at this surprising disclosure, she kept it to herself. It probably came as a shock to her to learn that the sunny-tempered girl whose face broadened readily into a smile, and who had apparently yielded so obligingly to her demands had in fact disliked her so intensely that she now felt it necessary to come and apologise. It is not pleasant to realise that one has been hated. Her immediate reaction, however, was quite negative, for she displayed no surprise and passed it off apparently casually. She gave no indication that she was aware of what it had cost Joy to come with her confession, nor did she reveal that it cost her anything to hear it. If Joy had hoped that her apology would be accepted and might even call forth an admission that there were faults on both sides, she was disappointed. Things went on much as before except that Joy, chastened and repentant at the consciousness of her own failure, could accept the restrictions placed upon her without bitterness, and praise the Lord with sincerity. Now she could really believe that He would bring good out of evil. He had restored peace to her heart, just as she had seen Him change the lives and dispositions of some of the people in the little congregation committed to her charge, so she knew He could change the circumstances that still oppressed though no longer rankled.
The change came about in a way that she could not have foreseen, nor would have chosen, for quite suddenly she received news from Los Angeles that her mother had died. When she recovered from the natural sense of shock and loss, she realised that since her three sisters were all married, her father would be alone. The way of duty seemed clear. She must return to do what she could do for him, and even her best friends in Miami agreed. As the only single daughter it was obviously for her to go and keep house for him. It meant the end of her period in Miami and the awkward situation which had developed. It also confirmed her feeling that God's time had come for her to move, since a pastor had been appointed to whom her work could be passed on. Now the family bereavement and need had taken the matter out of her hands, and thankfully she prepared to leave, praising God that He had kept her from taking a step that would be been tantamount to running away.
Before she left the south altogether, however, she went to spend a few days with her former house-mate, now living several hundred miles away, and happily married to the man she had chosen in spite of the minister's wife's expressed disapproval. She and Joy had been companions in the same sort of distressing situation, and this had drawn them together. But now that they were out of it they were uneasy about the sense of estrangement between them and the one who, perhaps quite unconsciously, had made life very difficult for them both. They could not just leave it at that, and longed for a change of attitude which would bring about reconciliation.
They did the only thing they could do, in the circumstances. They prayed, and the answer came in a way that surprised them both.
One day, shortly before Joy was to depart, they had been praying together when a knock came at the door. On answering it, whom should they see standing there but the minister's wife!
Smiling and friendly, she stepped inside at their invitation, sat down and chatted without any frigidity or constraint, showing an appreciative interest in their affairs and plans for the future. She made no effort to impose her views upon them or question the rightness of their decisions. Her manner was so different from what it had been formerly that they could scarcely believe she was the same person. She made no reference to what had gone before, nor did she offer any apology for past mistakes, but the fact that she had come to them at all was evidence of a change of attitude, and probably her way of making amends. For Joy it was an unforgettable experience, an evidence of the power of God to alter people and situations in answer to prayer. It meant, too, that she could go forward without any uncomfortable memory of a permanent barrier between her and another. Harmony had been restored.
Her return to Los Angeles brought her again into the same circle of friends she had known before going away, and although some were married others were still single, like Ann.
And like Francis. She determinedly put him out of her mind on going to Bible School, feeling she should be free for God to direct her to the missionary work she was sure was awaiting her. But no opportunity had presented itself in Ethiopia, and she was back in the same familiar surroundings she had left four years before, with no clear direction from God to take any other pathway than the one she had taken. It was gratifying to find that Francis was still single, and apparently still interested in her. There had been times in the past when his presence had brought an inexpressible awareness of an affinity between them, and when their friends had observed with a smile that their heads were very close as they sat together around a camp fire on a picnic. It had been whispered with knowing nods that a letter from Francis had been discovered under Joy's pillow, and it was taken for granted that they would pair off together. The break of four years seemed to have done nothing to impair the relationship, and once again the courteous, brown-haired young man started ascending the steps that led from the pavement up to the Ridderhofs' modest, sturdy-looking house to take Joy to a church meeting.
In a very short time after her return he broached the subject of marriage. He wanted to marry her, but he didn't make it plain enough for Joy to understand. She was not sure what he meant -- perhaps it would be more accurate to say she wasn't sure that he meant it. He had not been in the habit of proposing, and she had never been proposed to before, and somehow it misfired. Francis went away thinking she had definitely refused him, while Joy was left somewhat bewildered, but with her mind made up that she loved him enough to marry him, and that when he mentioned the matter again she would say 'Yes' quite firmly. If he really meant it he would surely speak again, probably during the weekend up in the mountains.
They were both booked to attend a Christian Endeavour camp in the mountains a short time later, and Joy's prayers for it centred a good deal around Francis and herself. If he really wanted to marry her, if what he had said had been his way of proposing, there would be plenty of opportunities among the trees, along the little paths that wound up the mountain side to broach the subject again. She looked out for him the first evening, expecting him to come alongside as usual, but to her surprise he did not. She saw him at a distance, but he did not look in her direction, and she noticed he was talking to another girl, and strolled off with her after the meeting. Throughout the whole weekend he avoided her, though he was quite evidently showing a great interest in that other girl.
So ended the only real romance in Joy Ridderhof's life. It was a grief and a humiliation at the time but it was short-lived. She had already been without him for four years and the exercise of rejoicing in everything that was already the outstanding feature of her faith soon restored her spirits. God was all-powerful, all wise, and could easily have influenced Francis to want to marry her if that had been His will. Therefore He must have some other plan for her life.
Meanwhile another disturbing experience upset her for a while. She had returned to Los Angeles for the purpose of looking after her father, but Professor Ridderhof soon made it plain that that was not his idea at all. He would marry again, and to the amazement of the whole family he announced that Marie, their cousin, who lived in Minneapolis, was to be his wife.
No one had been more surprised than Marie herself when he proposed to her. The thought of such a thing had never entered her mind. He was her aunt's husband, one whom she had known since she was a child as 'Uncle', one whom she admired and respected. Her first reaction to his suggestion was to exclaim with dismay that she couldn't possibly agree to that. 'No, oh no, Uncle!' was her answer. But the Professor was insistent. There was no moral reason whatever why he should not marry her. They were not blood relations, she was only a niece by marriage, and they knew each other so well, she had stayed in the house so often. He needed her. The Professor proposed again, and this time Marie accepted him.
Had her father married any other woman Joy would not have remained in the home at all, but with Marie whom she had known since childhood, gentle Marie who had always loved her, it was different. Once she got over the shock and the sense of rejection the worst part of the new arrangement was the embarrassment of seeing her cousin, less than ten years older than herself, in the place her mother had occupied. She could not possibly foresee at that time all that it would mean to her, how easily and naturally the unique organisation she was to bring into being was to have its birth and development in the place that had always been home to her. All she knew now was that she was free of the two ties that might have held her - Francis as husband, and a widowed father needing her. She praised God for it, not because she felt happy about it but because God was in control not only of the world and the universe, but of her little life as well. And before long she felt happy again. Praising God always had that effect.
She was really free now, free to become a missionary in Ethiopia. But as there were no openings yet, she would prepare herself as best she knew how for a lifetime of service there by returning to college and studying for a B. Ed. degree. She moved back easily into the old round of church activities, a welcome visitor to the homes she had known before going away.
'She was always an influence for good,' said one who traced the commencement of her spiritual life to the night when Joy gave her a lift home, and sitting in her old 'tin Lizzy' faced the teen-ager with eternal realities. In college, though timid, her way of referring to Christ, to answers to prayer, and the wonderful way God worked things for good, allied to the fact that having very little money and experience in selecting clothes she was not as well dressed as her contemporaries, earned for her at least one antagonist who managed to exclude her from the particular society she would have joined. Secret societies were a feature of college life at that time, and the only one that appealed to Joy was a sorority known to be Christian. Her name was put forward, but in the secret ballot she was blackballed. She did not divulge to what degree this ostracism cut her, but when she learned who had been mainly responsible she made special efforts to be friendly. She felt it was the right way to react, to turn the other cheek.
Not so the loyal teen-ager converted in the 'tin Lizzy'. She attended the same college some years later and accepted the invitation to join the same sorority. Then she heard what had happened earlier, when Joy's name came up, and promptly resigned. She wasn't going to belong to any old sorority that had turned down Joy!
These were the years of the great trade depression, when many people were out of work, money was scarce, and missionary societies were affected along with the rest. Joy's inquiries about prospects for qualified teachers being sent to do missionary work in Ethiopia elicited negative responses. There were not sufficient funds available to do more than sustain existing work. When a friend came to her and said, 'Joy, I know you want to go to Africa, and I want to support you,' she felt encouraged, and applied again. Even with the promise of support, however, no society was prepared to embark on further work in Ethiopia and send her there. That door of service was still fast closed, and it did not occur to her that there might be any other. So when, as graduation day drew near, she received the offer of a very well-paid teaching post, there seemed no reason to refuse it. She would sign the contract for a year, and then perhaps the way would be clearer. She might even save enough money to pay her own way out.
All this she explained to the leader of the Bible study group she attended each Sunday. It was gratifying to be able to report that she had received the offer of a good job. She was very pleased indeed about that job, although she did not say so. What she pointed out was the advantage of its being well paid, so that she could save up to go to Africa, and meanwhile, as the Lord had not opened the door there yet, she was prepared to wait His time.
'So you see, Miss Scott, I think I'll take this job for a year, and then see . . .'
She expected a smiling acquiescence, but instead she met with a look of dismay and the exclamation:
'Oh, Joy, you're not thinking that way are you?' Then followed the words that came like a dart from a dagger, draining the smile from her face and leaving her speechless.
'Why, there will be some people on the mission field who will be gone if you wait another year!'
She went home subdued, even alarmed, that night. 'Some people on the mission field . . . gone . . . if you wait another year.' To her the mission field had always been Africa, only Africa, but a new significance was beginning to attach itself to the phrase. The mission field was not just one place or one class of people. The field was the world. There were people in the world today who needed to hear a voice telling them of Christ -- her voice -- who would have passed into eternity in a year's time. The sense of urgency was so sudden and so powerful that when she got to her room she fell on her knees by her bed, and scarcely knowing what she was doing prayed, 'Lord, whatever door you open, I'll go there . . .'
She did not really mean exactly what her words said. What she meant was any door in Africa. She had no thought of any other continent, least of all the one in which she lived.
* * * * *
Next Sunday, after the morning service, one of the church members who was on the Friends' Mission Board came to her and said,
'Joy, there's a great need down in Honduras. Would you be willing to go?'