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Pruning

Arlita Winston: Then the Lord seemed to whisper into my heart, "Arlita, remember that day when the steamship pulled out and you let go of the streamers that held you to your family? Well now you are seeing a little bit of the treasures that you invested in. You had a part in all that your parents gave."

Lisa Barry: When we go through difficult times it's hard to imagine what good is going to come out of them. But as Elisabeth Elliot always says, "Any situation, no matter how painful, if offered up to God can become a gateway to joy." She can testify to that and so can her good friend Arlita Winston, whose voice you heard a minute ago. Maybe you could use a gentle reminder of what a good investment it is to trust in God no matter what. Let's join Elisabeth and Arlita Winston now as they uncover more of this fascinating story.

Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." This is God's word to us. He loves us and "underneath are His everlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot talking again today with my friend Arlita Winston.

Arlita has been telling us some very helpful lessons and stories from the missionary life of her parents. And she's used John 15 that wonderful passage about the vine and the branches. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. In verse 2 in John 15 it says, "While every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."

Arlita, you've told me some of the ways in which your mother had to be pruned. She learned lessons of relinquishment. Would you go on now with your missionary story.

Arlita Winston: Yes, I watched Mother submit to this pruning process of the Lord--not only in relinquishment, but accepting it. One of those poignant memories for me was when I was 15 and Mother and Daddy and my four little brothers were sailing back to Hong Kong, while my sister Andrea and I were staying home in America for our schooling. I couldn't stop weeping. I knew it would be years before I saw them again and by then I would be grown, maybe married, and I would never, ever live with Mother and Daddy again.

My little brothers and parents were leaning over the railing on the promenade deck throwing their kisses along with brightly colored streamers. Andrea and I would catch these streamers and hold them down on the wharf and the wind would tug at them--and we just clung to those strips of paper as the steamship slowly pulled out of the harbor.

We clung until the last one broke, trailed into the water, and we could barely see their faces anymore for the tears. And I had relinquished them in my heart to the Lord; I had let them go. But I don't think I had really accepted the separation as a greater gift.

That evening back at Grandma and Grandpa's house I fled to the downstairs apartment in the back garden where the McDowells lived. They were renting and going to Bible school, I had spent many happy hours with them, and I fell into their arms sobbing. We sat on their double bed and Byron opened up his Bible and they held me close in their arms and Byron began reading out loud from Matthew:

"And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life." [Matt. 19:29]

Those words were like a drink of cool spring water to me. I drank them in and I understood in those moments what I needed to do. And that was to accept with thanksgiving the plans that my Lord had (which were hundreds of times better than my own plans), to offer my rights as a child for a home and a family up to the Lord as a gift. And at the same time my mother was offering up her right as a mother and offering her children to the Lord as a gift. And I was investing in eternal fruit, which I just couldn't see, just yet.

Now, 40 years later I flew out to California with a hundred pounds of old pictures and letters and a tape recorder. For a whole month I sat at a table with my father prodding his memory, getting the stories down of all that had taken place on the mission field in those 40 years. A book was taking shape in my heart, and a fire was burning in his heart to tell this and the next generation about the wonderful things he had seen God do in his lifetime.

And as I listened to one story after another I was filled with wonder and awe and love for the Lord, as I listened to the stories of these men and women, of the Kubus, of royalty, all different societies, men and women, children--coming to know my Savior. And then the Lord seemed to whisper into my heart, "Arlita, remember that day when the steamship pulled out and you let go of the streamers that held you to your family? Remember how you offered up your sacrifice as a gift to Me? Well now you are seeing a little bit of the treasures that you invested in. You had a part in all that your parents gave, far greater than anything you gave up."

Elisabeth Elliot: How old were you, Arlita, when you were left in the states to go to school?

Arlita Winston: Well I came back when I was barely 14, but then my folks came back for a summer where I had those few months with them before they returned. So I was 15 when I knew I wouldn't be with them again.

Elisabeth Elliot: It's amazing to me that a teenage girl has, shall we say, the spiritual discernment, to realize that she's offering up her right to her home life to God and investing in eternal fruit. Now, of course, you didn't begin to understand all the implications of that at the age of 14 or 15.

Arlita Winston: I certainly didn't.

Elisabeth Elliot: But as you look back, you know that's really what took place. And I often want to encourage parents not to underestimate the spiritual discernment of their children, because usually children are way ahead of us, way ahead of where we think they are. And God was certainly beginning His deep work of teaching the lessons of the cross, which you were going to need so desperately in the rest of life.

Since you mentioned your father, I can't help putting in this little vienette that I think of. Just how long ago was it that I came to your house when your dad was there and he and I sat out on the picnic table by the little lake? Was it two years ago, has it been that long?

Arlita Winston: No, it was just one year ago last fall.

Elisabeth Elliot: One year ago. We sat by that little lake and he was trying to tell me some of his story and he just kept crying and weeping because of the joy--all these wonderful things that God had taught him through deep suffering. And he said, "I just don't know how I'm ever going to praise the Lord enough. Even when I get to heaven I'm not going to be able to praise Him enough."

And I gave him the last stanza of Joseph Addison's song, his hymn, the stanza says, "Through all eternity to Thee a joyful song I'll raise; but, oh! eternity's too short to utter all Thy praise." Well, right away he wanted me to write that down because he said, "That says just what I want."

It's so important to remember, to understand as we are talking about these hard lessons of relinquishment and death to the self and crucifixion, the ultimate aim is joy. God's ultimate purpose is joy and your father was just so filled with joy.

Arlita Winston: Well and I have to say, that that moment, though I didn't understand the full implications at all...all I knew was the awesome sense that God knew something I did not know and that all I needed to do was accept this as a gift and trust Him. It wasn't until 40 years later when God brought this back to my memory of saying, "Now see, this is a little bit of what you invested in." But no, I didn't see the full implications. I just accepted without knowing because I trusted Him.

And I don't know that you can learn that kind of thing. I think the Holy Spirit has to reveal that to the heart of children. And these are the things we do need to be praying for our children--that God Himself will speak that word to their hearts that you and I cannot give to them.

Elisabeth Elliot: That is the truth, it is the Holy Spirit that gives that lesson and explains it to us. Everything you have been telling us reminds me of the fact that the lessons, those deepest spiritual lessons, can only be learned through suffering. I don't suppose that the word suffering crossed your mind when you were weeping there in the back garden or the apartment.

Arlita Winston: No, I just thought a death had happened.

Elisabeth Elliot: Yes, but it is major suffering. You look back and you know that it was not for nothing. Suffering is never for nothing. God works His purposes out as part of the pruning process so that we may bear fruit for Christ, fruit which shall remain. But it's a long way down the road before we begin to understand and can look back.

Arlita Winston: And I don't think each new time of suffering gets any easier.

Elisabeth Elliot: It's still suffering.

Arlita Winston: It's still suffering. But what is wonderful is you can go back and remind yourself of how God brought you through that time before, and you remember who your God is.

Elisabeth Elliot: Has He ever broken a promise?

Arlita Winston: Never.

Elisabeth Elliot: Has He ever failed you?

Arlita Winston: Never.

Arlita Winston: You know Betty, last summer Joe and I spent several weeks in the South of France. And I could hardly wait to go to the little town where Fenelon (one of my most favorite writers of the 18th century) lived out his final years when King Louie XIV had banished him. We walked into the cloisters of that Abbey where the arches rose above us and we walked round and round as he must have done thousands of times praying. But it wasn't very quiet.

Tucked up high in the arches were scores of swallows' nests, all of them brimming over with newly hatched babies and they were all demanding their mothers. The air seemed to be in constant motion as the mothers swooped in and out with the food. And we stood for some time listening and watching. And then the scripture came to me from Psalm 84:

"My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even Thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God. Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house: they will be still praising Thee." [Ps. 84:2-4]

And some years before, I had discovered this verse and I wrote in the margin of my Bible, picturing those swallows, "Yes, Lord, here are my children and my grandchildren. I place them on Your altar, the only safe place."

Well that day standing there in the cloisters and seeing those mothers and those babies, I was reminded again of the only safe place to put our children--is on the altar.

Elisabeth Elliot: Thank you so much. Arlita is the mother of five. You know something of what it is to receive a child and then to give that child back to God.

Lisa Barry: I know many of you are as gripped as I am with the story. There's something so invigorating about hearing a story told firsthand. That's why the book The Shadow of the Almighty is so popular. It's a retelling of the account of the martyrdom of Elisabeth Elliot's first husband, Jim, and the other foreign missionaries at the hands of the Auca Indians in Ecuador. Elisabeth has done such a great job in this book that you feel as though you were there.

The commitment of the men and their wives is incredible. Each time I read from this book my spiritual batteries are recharged. Christian commitment as it was designed to be, that's what The Shadow of the Almighty is all about. We'd love to make this book available to those of you who request it today. I'd like to suggest a donation of $11.00 for that resource. Our toll-free number is 1-800-759-4JOY. Today's program is also available on tape. Ask about it when you call 1-800-759-4569. Or, you can write to:

Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, NE 68501. Our Web address is gatewaytojoy.org.

Tomorrow we bring this week of talks to a close with one final look into the early years of Arlita Winston's life. I hope you'll plan to join us next time for Gateway To Joy.

 
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