Providence—a Gift of Grace

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.” —Martin Luther

Antwerp Belgium

Excerpt from Shiny Shoes on Dusty Paths, Vol. 1 chapter 15: Wooden Shoes on Rough Cobblestones

“Mary especially enjoyed Groen Plaatz, or the marketplace. This weekly market was a lively tapestry of Belgian life.

Above Picture in the free domain.

“The faithful dogs, which had pulled their master’s wagon waited patiently under the stands.

“The clerks put newspapers in their wooden shoes to keep warm. Little pails of live coals by their feet provided meager warmth to combat the cold February winds that swept through the open area.

“All kinds of merchandise were displayed… One of the first things we purchased was bread and butter. As Mary paid for the butter, the fat salesclerk dropped the change, which fell on her ample stomach. Speaking in Flemish she exclaimed, “If I weren’t so fat I would have lost the change.” To our surprise we understood everything she said.

“Later, as we strolled around taking in all the interesting sights, Mary bumped into a woman who shouted, “Watch out, sleepyhead!” Again we understood exactly what was being said. Instead of being put out by the rather rude remark, we beamed with excitement. Realizatin had jsut struck us that Flemish, one of the languages spoken in Belgium, was a dialect of our Platz Deutsch or low German. As there are many local dialects, we’d soon be speaking the Antwerp version.”

“In due time, and in spite of limited means, our little apartment on Heteroginestraat welcomed guests as well. One of these was a sharp young woman of about 16, Elizabeth Lemière, who had a keen interest in missions. She had applied to go to Bible school but was turned down because, at that time, they didn’t accept women applicants… She listened with excitement as we told of our plans for Africa. Finally she asked, “Could I go along?…”

“At first we were not a little surprised, but watching her expression we could tell that her interest was genuine. If God was leading her in this way, who were we to stop her. We agreed that if our Mission Board accepted the proposition, we would be pleased to have her accompany us. After making application, with a letter of recommendation from Pastor Meyers, she was immediately accepted as a full-fledged missionary. She didn’t need a visa as Congo was then a Belgian colony.”

Joanne’s Comments

On languages: The above episode, of course, happened long before my birth, but in later years, when my parents and I were in Europe, it would always thrill me to notice how they could converse freely in several languages they’d never even studied. They’d inherited all three from their immigrant parents. Obviously God had mapped out their lives in advance ,making sure they’d be born into homes where those languages would be used interchangeably, because He knew that they’d be useful in their future service for Him.

Regarding a new and very young recruit: Who could have known that connecting with Elizabeth Lemière, at that particular time in her young life, would open a door for a long and blessed missionary career not only for her, but also for her future husband—Clyde Shannon—whom she would meet in Congo, and then  extend to the next generation through their son, Dr. Ralph Shannon and his wife Elsbeth, who would also effectively served the cause of Christ in Congo.

For Abe and Mary, the language, the delay in Belgium, finding the church, and the encounter with Elizabeth Lemière were all fitting into a beautiful tapestry of grace that would touch many lives.

To me the wonder of wonders is that God should have a like plan for every life. There’s nothing random or haphazard about God. As a skilled architect He lays out an intricate design in the courts of heaven that has the potential for a playing out in a fulfilling and happy life. He knows our backgrounds, abilities, talents, and interests, and as we surrender to Him, He brings it all together in living color. The end result is an exquisite masterpiece that brings glory and honor to God.

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