God often uses single men and women to do more alone than they could do if encumbered with family obligations. Other times, however, a spouse is needed.
Francois Coillard, born in France in 1834, studied theology in Paris and Strasbourg and sailed to South Africa in 1857 under the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society. He was single, clean-shaven, and young. The Africans were perplexed, wondering how this beardless, wifeless youth could teach them anything. “Beards and wives are necessary for respect,” they said. “We can’t listen to one with neither hair nor helper.”
Hearing these whispers, Coillard immediately grew a fine beard. But what could be done about a wife? Yes, he had someone in mind, a young lady in Paris. In fact, he had secretly fallen in love with her while still there but had said nothing about it — not even to the young lady herself. Francois was insecure and afraid and quiet. He had sailed away without a word to Miss Christina Mackintosh.
Now he regretted it, and at length he wrote to a mutual friend, Madame Andre-Walther, asking her to propose marriage to Miss Mackintosh for him. Six months passed, then came the dreaded word: “I don’t know you well enough.” It wasn’t an outright rejection, for Christina remembered the young missionary and had been attracted to him. Nevertheless, Coillard was broken by the news. His diary and letters betray intense emotional suffering, and he longed for someone to talk to. But he was in the bush with no one near him but the Lord.
Two years passed. He tried to forget Christina, but without success. Finally he wrote her again, this time in person, bathing his letter in prayer. On July 5, 1860 the answer came. Coillard wrote in his diary, “I cannot believe my own happiness.”
Christina had accepted.
They were married February 26, 1861. “Today,” the Africans told him, “you are a man.” They listened to him now, and for the next 30 years the Coillards worked hand-in-hand in Barotseland, establishing churches and planting the gospel.
Our God, you are the one who rides on the clouds,
And we praise you.
Your name is the Lord,
And we celebrate as we worship you.
Our God, from your sacred home
You take care of orphans and protect widows.
You find families for those who are lonely. (Psalm 68:4-6a)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Feb. 26.