From the first day of our work together, I had shared everything concerning the children with Ponnamal; she was fellow‐worker, not under‐worker, a difference which causes things to be which otherwise could never be. Memories of experiences thus mutual crowd upon me, and that practical thing, money, is mixed up in some of the first and in some of the last.
When Ponnamal joined us, she had property the produce of which was sufficient to make her independent. This was quietly appropriated by her guardian, and to get it she would have had to go to law. But to go to law before the unbelievers, with as defendant a relative in mission employ, seemed to her impossible; so she suffered herself to be defrauded. This, which was distinctly for Christ’s sake, wrought in her that quality which results in a pure spirit towards money: it had no power over her; and when the Temple children’s work began, this in her was most precious to me.
Before this special work began we had no financial responsibilities. If the money for itinerating work had stopped, it would only have meant that some of the villages we had hoped to visit would have been dropped. But children cannot be dropped in that calm fashion; and quite early we learned the wholesome lesson not to look to man or woman, but to God, the living God, for the continuation as well as for the beginning of everything; and we never thought of any gift as something which might be repeated. Still, though we never had, and never have had, any ‘supported children,’ whatever is sent being used for the next need, some refused to understand this, and kindly insisted in considering themselves responsible for individual children. One day, from such a one came a letter saying that she was sorry she ‘found it impossible to send anything for her child this year; there were so many claims.’ Ponnamal’s smile over that letter was untroubled: ‘But does she think the baby will stop living for a year?’ she asked rather mischievously. Or, again, spasmodic charities enlivened our accounts: broke our rule, and counted on it; I can feel even now the cheerful feeling of that minute. The paroxysm of sympathy passed. Something was sent, a large and welcome gift; and then pet dogs proved more absorbing an interest than babies in peril. But from the first we had seen our way clear before us with regard to this matter. No one on earth had authorized the work; no one, then, could in fairness be counted responsible. But if, as we believed, our Father in Heaven had laid His commands upon us, to Him we had a right to look for all that was needed for the carrying out of those commands; so that our only care was to be attentive to His wishes.
This looks an easy condition, and in one way it was easy, but in another difficult. Who that has known the discipline of perplexity will speak of such discipline as easy?
But next to the quickening experiences of great joy and great grief I know of nothing which leads more directly to the heart of our Father than just this sense of perplexity. ‘I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.’ And the speech pleased the Lord, and He made it His pleasure to help His servant. We at least found it so.
And constantly as we went on we had proof of that which I can only call an intimate loving‐kindness, a care to which nothing is minute. The very passing of the thought of one’s heart was noted. ‘Before the birth of the word in my tongue,’ as our Tamil idiom has it, ‘Thou hast known it all.’ Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. It is like nothing so much as the knowledge which comes from the study under the microscope of what in Dohnavur we call a ‘rich’ drop of water. It is high in its lowliness, we cannot attain unto it. And truly when one considers that there is provision whereby a water creature from whom the water is receding “and all he wants is the fraction of a drop to make him happy” can roll himself into a ball, and preserve his vitality, though in a state of utter dustiness for years, it becomes nothing short of blasphemous to be faithless about the affairs of little immortals, with histories too, like those of these children for whom the Lord their Redeemer has already fought such battles. It is easier, looked at fairly, to have faith than to fear. So at least it seemed to us one day towards the end of Ponnamal’s illness, when a letter of good cheer came which comforted us both; and as she lay with that letter in her hands, its very paper a pleasant thing to touch and caress, she told me then that the night before, when she was awake with pain, and everything looked as black as night, she had thought about the difficulties ahead when the children would grow up. In other parts of India there could not be the same difficulties “with, concealed inside them, pitfalls”: she had travelled and she knew. We seemed to have been set in, humanly speaking, the most impossible place for an endeavour of this sort. And she felt that the need for faith about temporal things was as nothing to the need of it where these spiritual things are concerned; ‘For it was as if I saw you called to bear heavier anxieties than we have ever borne together’ “unknown to her a bitterer cup than we had ever before tasted was even then being prepared for us”. ‘But as I thought of this, distressed, I saw you as the tamarind tree out there, blown about by many storms and with nothing on earth to lean upon, but only rooting the deeper; and I was comforted for you, for I saw the Lord with you in the future, and I knew each little child would be precious in His sight.’
Some months after that talk, and after Ponnamal had been long enough in Paradise to have learned by a thousand blessed proofs that nothing she could expect of her Lord could be too kind for Him to do, a letter came to the house, upon another matter, but concluding with words so brave, so comforting in their calm assurance, that I found myself unawares reading them aloud to Ponnamal. The letter was from a C.M.S. secretary, till then a friend unknown: ‘Your ministry has in it such possibilities of blessing for the souls and bodies of those little ones for whom Christ died, that we dare not have a moment’s anxiety or doubt as to its fruitfulness and far‐reaching influence.’ ‘That we dare not’: Praise God for faith like this.
I do not know if it was given to our dear Ponnamal to hear the words I read; if they could make her happier, I am sure they were made known to her; but I have written them in this her story because they seem to me to belong to it.