God is the God of Romance. You know, that heart thumping in your chest, sweaty palms kind of romance that we can only dream about. He is the God of dreams too, and since He created romance, love and even dreams in the first place, it makes sense that He enjoys them more than even the most passionate of romantics.
I would like to share a story of faith and romance today that will absolutely leave you in wonder. And it is all true.
Our family has had the honor of serving in missions now for nearly 29 years but we are not the first. As a matter of fact, the Nielsen/Malley clan has been serving God in ministry for at least the last 5 generations that we know of. When our daughter Lauren went to Papua New Guinea a year ago it marked over a hundred years of service in missions for our family.
Many of you will remember the final chapter I ended with in Tiastasia’s Food Memoirs of my dear Mother-in-law sharing stories of her momma Ruby McIntyre, a little Australian fireball of faith serving as a missionary. It was in the early 1900’s and John’s dear great grandmum, Ruby, was serving as a nurse amongst the head hunters of the wild and untamed jungles of Papua New Guinea.
Ruby was born in Australia to sheep farmers and had been orphaned when she was just a young girl. She was a determined young girl full of love for the Lord and worked her way through school to be a nurse. When she felt the call of the Lord to serve, alone as a beautiful young missionary, in the jungles of PNG, she didn’t doubt it but immediately went full of faith in God for great things. You can read a bit more of her story by clicking here.
In another part of the world, England to be exact, a handsome young doctor heard God calling him into missions as well. Henry Ashworth Malley, joined a group of doctors who felt the call to go and serve on a medical mission trip to Papua New Guinea. The group of Drs along with their chaplain boarded a ship and made the slow voyage to their mission.
There were no computers or technology so to speak when we began serving the Lord in missions in the mid 1980’s. Back then we would have to wait up to three months before we received our mail packages from home. I can hardly fathom what went through grandpa Henry’s mind when he boarded that ship. He had never even seen a photo of PNG, he had no idea what to expect when he arrived. He was a godly man, full of faith and he knew that God would be with him in whatever lay ahead.
The group of doctors finally arrived after a long voyage at sea. Back then the cargo ships weighed anchor past the breakers as there were no ports on the islands. Young men would row their long boats out to sea to anchor alongside the ships to gather passengers and supplies in their boats and row them back to shore. The Drs ambled slowly over the sides of the ship and into the awaiting long boats. Most of the young Drs had never seen an island or even been away from home before. A missionary pastor awaited motley crew of sea sick Drs on the beach and settled them into camp.
Soon after their arrival they were introduced to the beautiful young nurse who knew more about the New Guineans than anyone else. She had won the respect of the villagers through her care and love and perseverance in the most difficult of circumstances. Henry was smitten by the beautiful, tiny, fiery yet full of faith, red head that stood before him. She did not seem to notice him at all.
After working together for some time they became friends. She was even surprised herself to catch the heat of a flushed face now and again when he spoke to her. They continued to work together and be friends until Henry finally had to return to England. He asked permission of the pastor who was now in charge of the mission if he could write to Ruby. Then, sadly, he had to climb aboard the long boat and row out to the waiting ship once again. As soon as he had boarded the cargo ship, he began his letters while passing the time on the long voyage home.
Back in New Guinea, Ruby continued to serve the Lord amongst the head hunters. She began receiving letters from Henry and she wrote him back. She loved receiving his letters and it was evident that he truly loved her. Henry felt that the Lord had told him that they would indeed be married one day and as he was a determined man he asked for her hand several times in his letters to her. She remained unsure. Ruby had a strong faith in the Lord and began to ask the Lord for some kind of heavenly confirmation that she should accept his proposal of marriage, and yet it never came.
Time passed and it was slowly driving the handsome young Dr crazy with love and concern for his beloved little Aussie girl serving God under the most difficult of circumstances. He was known to be an eloquent writer and yet his letters did not seem to move her heart in his direction. He prayed and felt he had come up with a solution. He would buy an engagement ring and send it along with his next letter to her.
As he took his precious package to the post, Henry prayed that God would bless it, protect it and put it into the willing and receptive hands of his sweetheart so far away. The little package went the way all mail did in those days, by long cargo ship rides through many ports and stops until it arrived at its destination. The mail and medical supplies were sent by ship to the islands and then awaited the long boats to come and retrieve it as well as the other supplies out past the breakers. Then the long boats would be sent with whatever they could hold and rowed to their various destinations.
This is how medical supplies were sent to the little outpost of missionaries and how Ruby had been receiving mail from her dear Henry.
He waited and waited for her reply. Weeks and weeks passed. Months passed and nothing. Not a word. He soon began to feel in his heart that just maybe, he had been wrong. But that stirring, as he called it, kept stirring within him when the doubts rushed in.
Ruby had been waiting for weeks for that confirmation she had been praying for. She did indeed like, even love Henry, however she would not make such a huge decision without the Holy Spirit confirming to her that this was indeed God’s will for them both.
The little package of love wrapped in the prayers of a great man of faith made finally made it into the hands of a young long boat man who placed it carefully among the medical supplies that were destined for the missionary outpost among the head hunters.
There were dozens of islands, large and small, dotted throughout the dangerous waters of the South Pacific. The long boat would slowly find its way through the islands and deliver packages to their appropriate destinations. Although the system was primitive, most of the mail and supplies arrived somehow or another. However, the particular long boat that held the little package meant for Ruby was attacked by crocodiles before arriving at its destination. The poor young boat man was eaten by the crocodiles and the contents of the long boat over turned and lost at sea. The engagement ring wrapped in Henry’s final passionate plea for his beloved’s hand in marriage was forever lost in the depths.
Henry never knew what had happened and assumed that his love was rejected.
Ruby waited and waited for some kind of communication since it was in fact her turn to receive a letter. As none came, she began to wonder if the Lord was using this silence as a means to let her know that the love and marriage was not to be.
Eventually life fell back into routine. Ruby tended to the clinic and the village children. Henry worked at his small practice in London. Both thought of the other and wondered if they had found love in the arms of another.
Time passed. Weeks marched slowly on.
Ruby loved the rugged outdoors and would often search for quiet places of beauty to pray and the read her lovingly, worn Bible. She would often walk along the beach and watch the waves roll in. This was a melancholic period of her life. Although she was constantly surrounded by the beautiful little bare skinned people she loved so dearly, she was deeply lonely. She missed her Henry, and was grieved she missed her chance. She second guessed herself time and time again.
As she walked along the lonely beach one day, she began plucking up pretty shells to bring back to the young children she loved so dearly. She sat down and ran her hands through the warm sands. It was a lovely day and she looked up and down the quiet beach. Not to far away she noticed and odd looking shape sticking up out of the sand and she curiously went over to investigate. It was an old package. She picked it up.
There seemed to be a sort of writing scribbled on it. Much of the ink had run but as she turned it right side up she clearly recognized her name.
Her heart pounded in her chest, her tiny hands trembled. What could this odd package hold for her?
She sat down hard on the sand and began to open the package. The soggy package held a tiny box in nearly perfect condition. This was indeed a shock. She opened the box to reveal a handwritten letter. Some of the lines were a bit muddled where the ink had run, but it was indeed the proposal of marriage that her dear Henry had written. The box also contained the beautiful engagement ring, perfectly sized for her tiny little fingers. Tears fell down her face. She ran back to the village to write to him. She wrote of her love, the miracle of the box on the shore, and of course her acceptance of his proposal to marry him. How could she not after such a miracle?
They eventually married and moved to the United States and raised a large and beautiful God fearing family. Many more miracles followed. Not only for Ruby and Henry, but for their descendants as well.