A quest abroad
Why Rafaravavy changed her
The people on the Island of Madagascar worshipped idols of wood and stone for centuries, but in 1818 two
missionaries sailed from England to preach the gospel to these people. For a time, the people and the King, were
eager to hear the message of Christ.
A man and his wife, who did not believe the gospel, wished to have an idol in their home, so they asked a man to
make one for them. When they went to collect the idol, the man was in
the forest looking for a suitable tree from which to carve the idol, so they had to wait until evening for it to be
completed. By now they were cold and hungry, so the idol maker
collected the chips from the tree and made a fire to boil some rice for them. They paid for the idol and returned home.
Soon after they were visited by a young Christian who read Isaiah 44:14-17 to them, which describes how the idol
maker cuts down a tree, makes a fire with some of the wood to warm himself and to cook some food. Then makes a
wooden god and falls down and worships it.
The woman was astonished at the exact description of what they had done. She was convinced of the truth of God's word and forsook her idols and became a
true disciple of Christ. At her baptism she changed her name from
'Rafaravavy' to 'Mary'. She bought a large house which was used for prayer and the preaching of God's
However, when the king died and a Queen became ruler, she declared
that all missionaries must leave the Island and that the old way of worshipping idols was to be restored and those
who did not would be put to death. Before the missionaries left, they hid seventy full copies of the Bible in caves
where Christians could secretly worship God and read His word. Persecution raged throughout the island and many
were put in prison, others were sold into slavery and others were cruelly put to death.
Soon Mary was accused to the authorities by three of her servants of worshipping God. When Mary's father, who was in a high position, heard what they had done, he
ordered that they be put in prison, but Mary had them released and forgave them and told them of God's
mercy. Two of these servants later became Christians. The Queen
ordered that Mary be put to death; however her father was able to pay the fine for her and have her
Mary was now watched by the authorities and soon she was arrested for praying and meeting with
Christians. When she was asked who met with her, she replied, “Yes, we
have met and prayed in many places, but I will not tell who they
Mary was looked upon as a leader, so her death was determined. She was
placed in irons to be slain the next day. However, during the night a
great fire broke out in the city, and with a strong wind it spread through many of the thatched roofs. Mary was
delivered from death, but was held as a prisoner in chains for a time, then sold as a slave to a military officer.
Eventually she was able to escape from the city and flee to the country, where she was able to hide for a time from
those who searched for her.
Eventually she was able to escape from Madagascar and sail to England where she lived for two years, then she
returned to a nearby island where she lived for the rest of her life. In due course, the cruel Queen died and the next King was a Christian and
persecution of the Christians ceased. Mary was a faithful Christian
and served the Lord till the end of her life.
Saved through sickness
Peter's life was ruined by drink and evil company. He sunk so low that
he would move from hotel to hotel seeking to get money to buy drink and food. He would do some acting, crack some jokes, and sing a few songs then take his hat
around to collect some coins. Sometimes people took pity on him, but
others mocked him.
He would do this until the hotel closed then he would make his way home, usually in a drunken state. Often his
family were fearful of his coming home because he was someimes very moody and the least thing could cause him to
curse and rage.
On this occasion he entered his house and sat down without saying a word to anyone. At last his poor wife quietly said, “There's a sad message about Nellie, Peter;
She must have caught a fever when she came here last week. I went to see her today, and someone brought a message
this evening to say she is very ill and wants you to go and see her.” Peter did not say anything, but immediately
put on a coat and set out to see his favourite daughter Nellie.
As he walked, Peter thought about Nellie. She had always been so
loving, kind and thoughtful to her father even though he had been so unworthy of it. He said to himself, “I wish I knew there was a God! I would pray to Him and ask
Him to spare Nellie for me, but I haven't believed in God for many years.”
When he entered the room where Nellie was staying, he found her asleep and very sick; she had no colour in her face
and was breathing very heavily. Peter was overcome with grief and covered his face with his hands and fell on his
knees by the bedside.
His actions roused the dying girl. Soon she recognized her father and said gently, “Father, darling father, I am
dying.” Peter flung his arms around Nellie with a groan that came from
the depths of his heart. She quietly spoke of the love they had for each other, then she said, “I ask you to pray
for me and yourself.”
“I cannot ... I dare not, Nellie” he said, “I would if I could because you ask me, but I cannot, and it would be
useless. I have sinned beyond forgiveness; He would not hear
me.” “No, no father” Nellie replied, “Jesus is able to save to the
uttermost, and he can and will save you. If you have been a great sinner, it is greater honour to Him for saving
you. Pray, father pray for yourself and for me. I shall soon be in
heaven but I want you to come too.” Nellie embraced her father as much as she could.
Eventually, with an outburst of sobs and tears for the first time in his life, Peter uttered words of an earnest
prayer to God, he gasped, “God in heaven, have mercy on my darling daughter and me!” His prayer was filled with tears, he
did acknowledge his sin and pleaded for mercy.
“Amen!” responded Nellie to his prayer, then continued. “I am going to be with Jesus, and I want you to promise to
love and serve Him.” “I will, Nellie, indeed I will! If He will have a
poor broken-down wretch like me.” “Let me now pray, father,” and with her last strength she asked God to bless her
father and mother and the other children.
While still clinging to her father, she said, “Father, one more promise; don't ever drink any
more.” “I won't, Nellie!” he gasped, “I never will, God helping
me. I will never touch strong drink again.” Nellie lay
back and quietly whispered , “I am going father” and died.
Peter fought hard to resist the power of drink and prayed for God's help. His life became a witness to others of
the power of Christ and the gospel, and a testimony of the great love and willingness of Christ to save the worst
On one occasion, Rev John Cooke visited a very wealthy farmer. In their conversation, Mr Cooke mentioned the Bible and the things of
God. The farmer was very offended; with a sneer he said, “I don't
like religion and I have told you so.” “You are not the only
farmer that felt that way,” replied Mr Cooke, “I have read of one who greatly resembles you. The farmer I am speaking of had very wonderful crops and his barns were too
small, so he decided to build larger barns and filled them with his harvest. Then he said to himself, “Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years;
take your ease, eat drink and be merry.” But God said to him,
“Thou fool! This night thy soul shall be required of thee, then whose shall those things be which you have
provided?” Luke 12:19-20
“Now Sir, you must see yourself in this picture. This farmer was very
rich, living to himself in good health, ease and pleasure, but 'without God in the world.' No doubt his neighbours praised him and envied him and wished to be like him, but
God said he was a 'fool'. “Why, sir, do you think that the all wise
God called this man a fool?” The farmer was silent. “But, do you think
he was a fool?” “I don't think so” replied the farmer.
“Well, sir, let me explain why he was a fool. Because he cared more
for his body than his soul. Because he was more thoughtful about the
world than about God. Because he thought about time and not
eternity. Because he lived as though he would never die, and while so
doing his life was about to end and he would die without repentance, forgiveness and mercy and worst of all he
would be lost in hell forever.”
We are not told how the farmer reacted to these words, but the preacher had faithfully warned him of his sad
spiritual state without God's mercy.
Thomas Manton (1620-1677) was a very learned and famous preacher in London for many years. People flocked to hear his sermons. Often he was asked to preach before the members of Parliament and other
important people. He wrote the “Letter to the Reader” in the
Westminster Confession of Faith.
On one occasion he was asked to preach before the Lord Mayor and other people in high positions. Mr. Manton chose a
subject in which he could display his wisdom and learning. People listened with admiration and praise – especially
those who were well educated among them.
Later, when he was returning home, he was stopped by a poor man who asked if he were the gentleman who preached
before the Lord Mayor? Mr. Manton said that he was. The man replied,
“Sir, I came with hopes of getting some good for my soul, but I was greatly disappointed, because I could not
understand much of what you said, you were far above me.”
Mr. Manton humbly replied with tears in his eyes, “Friend, if I did not give you a sermon, you have given me one;
and, by the grace of God, I will never again be so foolish to preach before the Lord Mayor in such a manner
Thomas Manton was taught an important lesson which every preacher needs to learn – to preach God's word in a simple
manner so that everyone can understand it. Also he showed true grace
and humility by accepting reproof from a poor man who was a stranger
The White Rose
As a preacher was walking to where he was to
preach, he saw a young woman who seemed to be deeply troubled,
she was looking into the river Thames. He stopped and invited her
to the service, saying that she would be free to leave at any time and that refreshments would be available
after the meeting. The lady seemed to resent being spoken to and
said she did not want to attend.
The preacher had been given a lovely white rose by a friend, so he asked her if she would accept the rose. She looked at it, then at
the preacher and quietly took the rose. The preacher again told her
the address of the meeting and said good-bye.
When the preacher had finished speaking at the service, he saw the
lady sitting where she would not be noticed. After the meeting had
completely ended, the lady arose as though she was unsure what to do but would like to speak, but was afraid. At last she told her story. “ I was
standing,” she said, “on the banks of the river, deciding whether I
should go back to places of evil or throw myself into the river and drown myself. Then this man came up and invited me to this meeting and gave me this beautiful
white rose – the same white flower my mother gave me five years ago when I left home. She cut a white rose and said to me, “Ellen, my dear girl, you are leaving your
poor lonely mother much against her wish, to roam, I very much fear, into sin. When you are far away from me, and
see a white rose, always remember your mother's gift to you. I will
pray for you day and night that God will bring you home a saved child.”
“I have often thought of my mother and of her words even while contemplating that awful step tonight. This pure
rose brought me to my senses. The message I have heard tonight made me
realize my need of salvation.
Those who were present explained to her the way of salvation through
faith in Christ alone and the mercy promised to all who come to Him.
With a broken heart she called on the Lord and knew that her sins were forgiven
She stayed that night with one of the Christians and the next day
contacted her mother who was filled with joy and praise to God for His great mercy.
Her life was now changed. Soon she obtained a job and
showed evidence of true saving faith by a consistent godly
Captain saves a Stowaway
On the 13th of October 1881 the steamship, Cyprian, left Liverpool bound for the
Mediterranean. A fierce wind was beginning to blow, and in a few hours
the wind had increased to a hurricane and the decks were swept with huge waves. Disaster after disaster followed: The steering gear broke, one of the boilers
burst, and the wheelhouse was smashed. The ship managed to continue
until the morning.
Great waves pounded the ship until it could not be managed. It swiftly drifted towards the Welsh
coast. At last the Captain of the ship called everyone on board
and told them that there was no hope of saving the ship and it was now a case of every man for
himself. People seized life-belts, oars, barrels, and pieces of
timber in the hope that these things might keep them afloat until they reached the shore.
Just then a stowaway, a young lad, appeared. He had secretly stowed
away on board before the ship left Liverpool. No one had seen him nor
suspected that he was on board. He now stood with a white face, on the deck, terrified because of the gale and what
might happen to him.
The Captain had just put on his life-belt and was about to jump into the sea as all the rest had
done. Usually, such people as stowaways were not treated with
kindness by members of the crew. The Captain was faced with the
decision what to do!. He was the only one who had a right to the life-belt while the lad deserved to
Without pausing to consider the matter, the Captain unbuckled his belt and strapped it on the
lad. He said, “I can swim; you take this belt, my
boy! Overboard went the lad, and even though the sea
raged, he was kept up until he rolled over on the rocks, sadly bruised, but able to tell the story of the
Captain's bravery and kindness. He was 'saved , only just
But what about the Captain? Did he reach the coast? He struck out boldly, but then the cruel surf was too much for
him. He lost his life through saving another. Every heart on shore was deeply moved when they heard the stowaway's
account: “He gave himself for me.”
This lad was a complete stranger to the Captain, and did not in any way deserve his kindness. This reminds us of the love of Christ for sinners! We are no better than stowaways, guilty, sinners against the God of heaven, and
yet “Christ died for the ungodly.”
The Captain need not have died: he owed nothing to the young stranger for whom he gave his life; the friendless boy
had no claim upon him – none at all. “Why did he give his life for one not a tenth the value!” Similarly Christ gave His life to rescue sinners . They had no claim upon Him and but for His actions they would necessarily have
perished. There was only one to save the stowaway as there is only One to saved us, “He suffered for our sins, the
just for the unjust.” So we must believe on Him alone and God will
have mercy upon us and deliver us from eternal