It was in the days of missionary preparation in Africa that Barnabas Shaw and his wife, Wesleyan missionaries, set out from Cape Town to find a way for the gospel among the Hottentots of unknown Little Namaqualand, five hundred miles to the northward.

Methodism was not in good repute in official British circles in that early time; and Shaw’s efforts to do missionary work near Cape Town had met with opposition. So, praying God to guide them to the right place, the journey was begun into the wilds. How wonderfully the Lord did guide, appears in the record of the opening of Namaqualand:

“They left the Cape on the sixth of September, 1815,being accompanied to their first encampment by a few Christian friends who commended them to God in prayer and returned to their homes, trusting that the missionary’s way would be directed by the Lord.

“Mr. and Mrs. Shaw had pursued their toilsome journey for nearly a month, and had crossed the Elephant River without knowing where their lot would be cast in the wilderness. On the fourth of October, by a remarkable providence, they found an opening for a suitable sphere of labor. The devoted missionary actually met with the chief of Little Namaqualand, accompanied by four of his men, on their way to Cape Town to seek for a Christian teacher, being aware of the advantages, which other tribes had realized by the reception of the gospel among them.

“Both parties halted for the night. The greater part of the night was spent in religious conversation, prayer, and praise, around the evening campfire. Having heard the affecting story of these simple Africans, and being deeply impressed with the fact that the finger of God was pointing in the direction in which he ought to go, Mr. Shaw agreed to accompany the chief and his people to their mountain home in the interior, and to settle among them as their missionary.

“The party of natives who had thus gone in search of a teacher, and who had thus so unexpectedly found one, immediately turned round and retraced their steps, that they might conduct the missionary to the settlement of their tribe on Khamiesberg, rejoicing as those who have found great spoil. They reached their destination about three weeks afterward; and great was the joy of the whole community when they saw their chief and his companions returning so quickly with a missionary and his wife, who were willing to spend and be spent for their benefit.

“Mr. Shaw forthwith commenced his labors, and founded the first Wesleyan mission station in Southern Africa . . ‘In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.’ ”—

The Missionary World

Encyclopedia, pp. 319-320.

It was after traveling three hundred miles in the uncharted wilderness that the missionary met the party that had been led to start out to find a missionary; and these seekers after light had traveled two hundred miles before this providential meeting. Surely the Lord directed. He knew of the preparation of hearts in the dark interior, and how divinely natural that the missionary and the searching party had not been allowed to miss each other in those illimitable wilds!

The story of missions reveals an overruling Providence all the way. The same Lord who sent His angel to tell Philip, “Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza,” just at the right moment to meet the Ethiopian searcher for truth in olden time, has sent His angels again and again in these latter days to bring together the bearers of the light and the seekers after it, in ways that cause us to realize that there is a living God directing in His work on earth.