In the early days of mission work in China, there was an elderly man named Li who accepted the gospel. Having learned the truth, he immediately began to share his faith with others. One day, soon after his conversion, he read, “covetousness which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5. Determined not to fall into any kind of idolatry, he gave away all of his property and lived day to day from the hospitality of the people with whom he was laboring to share the gospel. Not far from Li’s home was a large temple in which lived a cousin who was a priest. From time to time the young priest would visit his old relative, bringing him a small present of bread or millet from his very adequate supply. Each time the old man received the gift, he would say, “My heavenly Father’s grace!” After awhile, this began to annoy the younger man; and he at last said, “Where does your heavenly Father’s grace come in, I should like to know? The millet is mine. I bring it to you. And if I did not, you would very soon starve for all that He would care. He has nothing at all to do with it.”
“But,” replied the old man, “it is my heavenly Father who puts it into your heart to care for me.”
“Oh, that is very well!” interrupted the priest. “We shall see what will happen if I bring the millet no more.”
For a week or two he kept away, although his better nature kept prompting him to care for the old man whom he could not help but respect for the many works of mercy in which he was engaged in helping others.
In the passage of time, old Li’s food supply finally ran out. The day came when he no longer had enough food for one more meal. Kneeling alone in his room, he poured out his heart in prayer to God. He knew very well that his Father in heaven would not, could not, forget him; and after pleading for a blessing on his work and upon the people all around him, he reminded the Lord of what the priest had said, asking that, for the honor of His own great name, He would send that very day his daily bread.
Suddenly the answer came. While Li was still kneeling in prayer, he heard an unusual clamor and cawing and flapping of wings in the courtyard outside, and a noise as of something falling to the ground. He rose up and went to the door to see what was happening. A number of ravens, which are common in that part of China, were flying all about in great commotion above him. As he looked up, a large piece of meat fell at his very feet. One of the birds, chased by the others, had dropped it just at that moment.
Thankfully the old man picked up the unexpected food, saying, “My heavenly Father’s kindness!” Then glancing about him to see what had fallen before he came out, he discovered a large piece of Indian meal bread, cooked and ready for eating. Another bird had dropped that also. There was his dinner, bountifully provided. Evidently the ravens had been on a foraging expedition at the market place; and, overtaken by stronger birds, had let go their prize right over the poor brother’s courtyard. But whose had had guided them to give up their prize right over his small courtyard?
With a thankful heart that was overflowing with joy, the old man started a fire to prepare the welcome meal. While the pot was still boiling, the door opened; and to his delight, who should walk in but his cousin, the priest.
“Look and see,” said the old man, smiling, as he pointed to the pot on the fire.
For some tie the priest would not look, feeling certain that there was nothing inside but boiling water. At length, however, there was the unmistakable smell of cooking meat. Overcome by curiosity, he lifted the lid and looked inside. Great was his astonishment when he saw the excellent dinner being prepared.
“Why,” he cried, “where ever did you get this?”
My heavenly Father sent it,” responded old Li, gladly. “He put it into your heart, you know, to bring me a little millet from time to time; but when you would no longer do so, it was quite easy for Him to find another messenger.” And then Li told his cousin the whole story about the coming of the ravens.
The priest was very much impressed by what he saw and heard, and it eventually led him to also accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. He gave up his comfortable living in the temple and became a teacher. He eventually became a deacon in the church. During the Boxer War that took place in China in 1900, he finally lay down his life for Jesus.