THE THREE £100
We are not an orphanage, nor are our children able to go here and there in safety. We have only kept out of manifold trouble by a careful and purposeful avoidance of publicity. But as faithful delicate Indian workers began to flag, and our children to need change, and we ourselves, being unable to leave them, could not go to the distant hills, it seemed apparent that some place of our own near by, and yet in at least comparative coolness, would be a great boon, and we began to search the forest behind Dohnavur for some place suitable. After frequent search and many vicissitudes at last we found it. Hidden in a deep recess, which at about 2,500 feet up opens horseshoe–fashion into a glorious mountain–guarded curve, was an old coffee estate of nearly 40 acres belonging to a Muhammadan, who lived near us and was willing to sell.
One of the rich temples of our neighbourhood owns the ravines, on either side, and was ready to buy up this one. Its price was £100.
But we had not thought of buying anything so extensive or expensive, and we had thought of a much smaller undertaking; and yet it was a very desirable place, and there was no other to be had anywhere near Dohnavur to be compared for convenience, or health, or beauty. So we asked for a sign, a hundred pounds in one clear gift, if this was our Father’s plan for us. It did at first sight seem a great deal to ask; but the God who had found one hundred rupees when that was the need, and had sent it as a sign that we were on the right path, could as easily find a hundred pounds if it were required, could as easily find a thousand if He wished us to have it. But we did not need a thousand at that moment, so we did not ask for it. We asked for just one hundred.
The date of the prayer was June 11. We returned late in the evening to find a mail had unexpectedly arrived and in it was £100. For a moment we thought it was the Sign. Then we found it was distinctly ear–marked ‘For a Forest House.’ But how could we build a Forest House if we had no forest to build it in? Or was it that we were to be content with the smaller thought of the previous months, and build in the few acres the Forest Department might let us use? Thus being uncertain, we waited. There were temptations to hurry; for the Temple authorities were moving, and with them money is nothing. That particular temple owns lakhs of rupees and much land. But the hazard of losing the place was as nothing compared with the hazard of running before the Lord. ‘It may cost what thou knowest not to bring thee home from there.’
So till August 25 we waited, and on that day in the early morning we set forth with a friend, experienced traveller in many lands, who was staying with us at the time, to look at the place again.
It charmed him. ‘If only I had the means I would buy it at once,’ he said, and tried hard to get the owner who was there at the time, dwelling in a cave on the face of a cliff, to let us buy a small part of it, the site that struck him as perfect for a house. But the old man was firm. He would sell all or none. He knew he could sell all to the Temple if we did not rise to it, and no one can explain why he waited so long for us. The only explanation is, we think, that in the purposes of our God the place was marked for us.
We knelt down among the grey boulders in whose crevices wild pine–apples were growing, their pinky crimson tufts of fruit and spikes of blue–green leaves showing brightly on the grey, and we prayed for some clear sign, something we could not possibly mistake, to assure us that the whole enchanting ravine with its uncontaminated water (for the heights above were unexploited, being too steep for commercial uses) was to be ours.
It was late when we reached home. Again a premature mail was in; but we were tired and went to bed without opening it. In the morning we found again a hundred pounds.
And yet (for there was no word with it, the giver, a dear Irish friend, being in Paradise) we still hesitated. Looking back, now that we have possessed the ravine for three years and cannot imagine ourselves without it, it is quite difficult to understand how we could. ‘Many were gathered together praying…She told how Peter stood before the gate. And they said unto her, Thou art mad. And when they had opened the door, they were astonished.’ Was it that? I hardly know. It can never fail to be an astonishing thing when the Lord of all the earth, whose glory is above the heavens, humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the earth, such little things, too, as these of ours are. But are there any limits to His kindness, and is anything little to the God who teaches the bird no bigger than a butterfly where to find and how to use the silk cotton in the forest, so that its infinitesimal nest, cup like the cup in a child’s dolls’ house, is soft as love can make it for the birds that are to be?
And yet, I hope we were not astonished in that way. There is certainly nothing little to Him. I think we know it here. But we greatly feared to run before and embark on costly follies, for land is the least of forest expenses, as we were soon to find. And yet it did look like the Sign repeated in order that we might go on without a doubt that this was to be, and four days later it was shown that we might take it so. On September 14 the place was ours, and the Sign was confirmed indeed when a third gift of exactly that sum (£100) came ear–marked for its purchase, so that down to the smallest detail the way was cleared before us.
Told thus it must seem as if hundreds of pounds had a pleasant habit of dropping on us; so, in order that it may be known that this was indeed of the Lord at that time, and for a purpose definite and distinct, it should be told that this was not so. Six months passed before anything approaching such a gift reached us. And even then it was a broken sum and not, as we had asked, a complete round hundred. Tales such as these, gathered together in one small space, will mislead and do more harm than good, if it is not remembered that they were the striking hours among the thousands of minutes, or, put into sky language, the bright groups of stars set here and there among a multitude of lesser lights. Each is indeed a light, a sun; what should we do without our great spaces of many little stars? And the dark between, those times in life when neither sun nor stars in many days appear, do we not need them too? But He that is as the morning star in the midst of a cloud, as the moon at the full, as the sun shining upon the temple of the Most High, and as the rainbow giving light in the bright clouds, as the flower of roses in the spring of the year, as lilies by the rivers of waters, He in whom alone all glories and all sweetnesses meet, does at times in the lives of His lovers set His comforts in constellations, to the glory of His name.