Heroes of the Faith: Jonathan Goforth

Jonathan Goforth

Jonathan Goforth was a Canadian missionary to China. He and his wife, Rosalind, became the leading missionaries in early 20-Century China and helped to establish and the revival of the Protestant China missions.

Goforth was born on February 10, 1859 in Ontario, Canada. He was the seventh of eleven children. As a young man he sensed the call on his life to go to China.

He graduated from Knox College in 1887. While in school, he met Rosalind Bell-Smith at the Toronto Union Mission. They married the same year he graduated from Knox. The couple would go on to have eleven children, six of whom survived to adulthood.

He was so excited about James Hudson Taylor’s book China’s Spiritual Needs and Claims, that he ordered numerous copies and mailed them to numerous pastors.

In 1888, the couple were sent to establish the North Henan Mission in China. Sadly, five of their children died from sickness while they were there.

Rosalind and Jonathan Goforth

The family had to flee during the Box Rebellion of 1900. He was attacked and injured with a sword, but survived his injuries.

After returning to China, following a sabbatical, the Manchurian revival broke out. This was the first revival to gain publicity in China. Goforth’s life was transformed and he evolved from missionary to evangelist and revivalist. He became one of China’s best known missionaries.

In 1915, he was awarded the Doctor of Divinity.

In 1925, despite their advanced years, the couple were sent to Manchuria, where they remained for a decade, until Goforth’s eyesight began to fail.

Jonathan Goforth

Upon returning to Canada in 1935, the couple lived with their son in Wallaceburg, Ontario. He preached on October 7, 1936 and the next morning entered into glory.

After his death, Rosalind wrote about their time in China in “Goforth of China” and her own autobiography “Climbing: Memories of a Missionary’s Wife.”

Rosalind died on May 31, 1942. She was buried beside her husband in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto, Canada.

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