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My Mysterious Relative & the Missing Paycheck: a faith based story from the Story Powerline
Thursday, September 26, 2019 by Becky Cerling Powers

My mysterious relative Laura Richards, age 58, is a pleasant looking woman with short, curled gray hair, high forehead, wide mouth, and calm eyes. She is wearing a tailored suit jacket with a small bunch of lace at the throat and no jewelry. Attribution: Becky Cerling Powers ArchivesI grew up curious about my mom’s older cousin Laura Richards. Throughout childhood I heard bits and pieces of her story: how she started an orphanage on faith in China in 1929 and saved the lives of over 200 children through famines and wars. And how after Mao Tse Tung took over China, his government forced her to leave the country in 1951 and killed her Chinese husband.

Mom explained that Laura couldn’t tell people her what happened because it was too dangerous – people might be killed or sent to prison if the wrong people heard or read her story. This political background intrigued me.

Researching Cousin Laura

By the time Laura died in 1981, I had a journalism degree, a husband, and three children. People began giving me little caches of Laura’s old letters and memoir notes. Her stories fascinated and inspired me. I thought My children should know this story because Laura is their relative.  But the more I learned, the more I realized that many people would find Laura’s story compelling.

Laura was unusual because gave up the things that people normally rely on. She received no salary from a church or missionary agency, and she did not advertise her orphanage needs. She believed that when she tried to seek God’s kingdom first instead of her own, like Jesus said, then she could trust God to provide what she needed.

She lived her life with the same uncertainty and living conditions as poor Chinese peasants because she wanted them to see for themselves that the message of Jesus wasn’t just religious talk, but that God loved them and would really help them just like He was helping her to take care of the orphans.

Taking Courage from Cousin Laura

It was hard for me to get time to research and write Laura’s story because I was homeschooling three kids and because my husband’s mom needed a lot of help with his dad, who had Alzheimer’s Disease. But I kept on with the writing project because the story was changing me.

For example, Laura trusted God for practical things, like: “We’re out of food. We need breakfast but there’s nothing to eat.” So she would call the children together and they would pray for breakfast. And breakfast would arrive on time. This kind of thing happened over and over.

Laura’s example gave me the courage to agree when my husband wanted to start a full-time home business. I learned to pray for practical things like Laura. Our income was irregular. One month we’d get paid and then if nothing else came in, we had to live for two months on what we’d been paid.

Praying Like Cousin Laura

In this situation I lost Dennis’ paycheck. It was all we had to live on for a month or more. I looked and looked but I could not find it. So I stopped and prayed, “Please help me find this paycheck. Open my eyes to see it. What should I do to find the paycheck?”

I had a strong impression that I should clean the house. So I told the children that instead of having home school that morning we would clean house. And I told them to keep their eyes open for Dad’s paycheck while they cleaned.

I went to the closet where I was saving a stack of newspapers for a neighbor who collected them for the Boy Scouts for recycling. I thought, It’s time to take these newspapers up to Mrs. Shockley. So I got a bag and picked up a six- or eight-inch pile of papers from the top of the stack to put in the bag.

And there was the missing check!

The check had become mixed in with the newspapers, and it was laying at the very place where I picked up the paper pile. To me that was a clear answer to prayer. Why else would I pick up those newspapers right at that place?

Worth repeating: “One generation shall praise Your works to another and shall declare Your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4).

Today’s prayer: Lord, help me to recognize and give thanks for Your works in my life and help me use the opportunities that come up today to tell younger or older generations what You have done. Amen.

If you would like to know more about Laura Richards and the Canaan Home children,  go to the Bookstore and order Laura’s Children: the hidden story of a Chinese orphanage by Becky Cerling Powers.

 

© Becky Cerling Powers 2019

 

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