Clara Leffingwell’s Poetry

Clara Leffingwell: Founder of Free Methodist Missions in China

Clara Leffingwell established the Free Methodist mission in China. She devoted her life to first serving as an itinerant evangelist in the Free Methodist Church in the late 19th century and later serving in China with Hudson Taylor’s China Inland Mission. The first poem “My Healing” is her response to a divine healing that occurred in 1885. For most of her teen years to young adulthood she suffered from intense headaches (probably migraines). Any noise would bother her and she was bedridden most of the time because the pain was too intense. After her healing in 1885 she devoted her life to ministry and said that by moving to China the climate actually helped to alleviate many of her physical ailments and allowed her to live a very active life devoted to ministry. The second poem “If They Were We and We Where They” illustrates her love for people of all nations and cultural backgrounds. She was not colonialist in her mission endeavors, just incredibly passionate about her faith and desire to share that with people who had never heard the gospel message. In many of the missions reports she sent back to the denomination and were published in The Free Methodist Magazine you can see her respect and admiration for the Chinese people and her desire to help them, respect their culture, but also help them see a new faith and way of life.

My Healing

Clara Leffingwell

My little bark on life’s tempestuous sea

So hopelessly was tossed; each mountain wave

Seemed ready to engulf and bury me;

Was I indeed to find an early grave?

At last the waves seem calmer, but an awe

Steal o’er my soul. What’s this? What can it be?

Not long I watched and waited ere I saw

A form approaching walking on the sea.

I heard my Savior’s voice in accents kind;

His saying, “It is I,” dispelled my fear,

And peace supreme and gladness filled my mind,

Knowing the Lord Himself was drawing near.

Power through soul and body now doth flow.

Restored! Oh Light of ecstasy divine!

Made whole? But greater far the bless to know

Immanuel, God with us, forever mine.

The height of my ambition once had been

To study, read and know choice books of lore:

Dethroned and helpless lay this idol then,

Striving to beckon through an open door.

For with His gift of health, new prospect came

Of realizing cherished dreams of youth:

I thank Him while partaking of the same,

Still gazing on the Way, the Life, the Truth.

His favor now I greatly magnify.

His rapturous joy; by Holy Ghost baptized,

Nothing but God my soul can satisfy

However much these studies once were prized.

He silent wait: content I cannot be:

Those intervening steps I would cross o’er;

“I will leave all; Lord bid me come to Thee;

Then all these things,” I cry, “I love Thee more.”

A thousand loves, all pure and holy, beam

From those dear eyes and ring within His voice;

Thrilled with His power divine, I go; nor deem

It sacrifice nor cross; my heart’s own choice.

To step out on those angry, boisterous waves,

To meet my Lord now that He bids me come,

To tell the world the blood of Jesus saves,

And guide poor wanderers to the heavenly house.

To walk close by his side, e’en though that way

In Africa’s darkest wilds should lead my feet.

And though my life should be as one short day;

His hallowed presence maketh life complete.

Master, all else is gone; speak and I hear.

My undivided time and love are thine;

My worldly work and aims do disappear.

But Thou and all Thy promises are mine.

If They Were We and We Were They

Clara Leffingwell

If those who now sit in darkness

And pray to their idols of stone,

Offering oblations and waiting

For answers that never will come,

Changed lives with us, what would you say

If they were we and we were they?

If they were supplied with Bibles

And churches throughout the land,

With schools and teachers also,

And preachers at every hand,

What would you think their duty, pray,

If they were we and we were they?

If in their towns were so many

Who were preaching the blessed Word

That if one had many listeners,

The next by but a few would be heard,

What would have them do to-day

If they were we and we were they?

They are dying without knowing

That for them a Savior died.

Is there no rule for our action?

Must each for himself decide?

The Golden Rule would we not see,

If we were they and they were we?

If they lived in ease and splendor,

Spending dollars for selfish pride,

But for us a few pennies, or nothing;

When God’s books are opened wide

What think you will the judgement be

If we were they and they were we?

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