Gladys Aylward (1902 -1970)
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards;not many were influential;not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 1 Corinthians 1:26-27
Being on holidays, I have indulged in my best hobby, catching up with some reading! So one evening, I had been reading 'Song of a stranger' (Keswick Ministries) and picked it up where I left it, chapter 6, The eternal presence, p 97, I quote: I don't know if you know much the growth of the church in China, but if you look at a graph of the growth of the church it is very level through the 20th c. and up until around 1970 and then graph takes off and goes through the roof. Over diner, I asked my hubby if he could guess why did this happen? In the conversation that followed, he mentioned the names of two Christian missionaries, Hudson Taylor and Gladys Aylward adding that they dressed like the people around her and this was a major factor in making their preaching effective. As I never heard of them, I read their biographies. Here is a short summary of Gladys' biography.
Born into a working class family in Edmonton, London on February 24, 1902, Gladys became a parlor maid at the age of only 14. Her call to missions came about when she attended a revival when she was 18 in which the preacher expounded on giving one's life over to the service of the Lord In her mid-twenties, she was given a probationary position with the China Inland Mission Center in London but this endeavor didn't bear fruit. At the age of 26 her probation ended in failure. However, no one can frustrate the will of God."For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Rom 11:29) At the age of 30, Gladys begins her missionary career in Yangcheng working with veteran missionary Jeannie Lawson. She helped operate an inn for mule drivers and she learned Chinese. After Jeannie's death, Gladys was unable to financially sustain the Inn. The local officials approached her and asked if she would be willing to be a "foot inspector." The tradition of binding Chinese women's feet had been outlawed, but it was still being practiced in many places. Gladys began traveling around inspecting the bones in women's feet. As she traveled she would tell stories from the Bible and many looked forward to the days they could hear these strange new stories. During the war between Japan and China, Gladys also adopted war orphans and eventually had over 100 children in her care. In 1940, the war had escalated and she was forced to leave Northern China and head south to Sian through the thickening battle, over mountains and across the Yellow River. When Gladys climbed over the mountains to Sian, she had 100 children with her, that she was taking to a refugee area. On the twelfth day, they arrived at the Yellow River, with no way to cross it. All boat traffic had stopped, and all civilian boats had been seized to keep them out of the hands of the Japanese. The children wanted to know, "Why don't we cross?" She said, "There are no boats." They said, "God can do anything. Ask Him to get us across." They all knelt and prayed. Then they sang. A Chinese officer with a patrol heard the singing and rode up. He heard their story and said, "I think I can get you a boat." They crossed, and after a few more difficulties Ai-weh-deh delivered her charges into competent hands at Sian, and then promptly collapsed with typhus fever and sank into delirium for several days. After 20 years in China, Gladys returned to England. She was embarrassed to find that she quickly became a celebrity. A book, movie and TV documentary were all made about her life. To many Gladys became known by many as "The Small Women," the title of her biography. She continued to travel and speak about her beloved China, returning to Taiwan in 1957.
What an admirable woman and an incredible story! In one of the websites, some comments are made by people who either heard her speak or knew her so I do recommend you to visit them! Blessings. N.
Credits for these resources in those links: