Missionary Spotlight on Gladys Aylward

When I wrote an essay in the 9th grade, on who my hero was, I wrote about a woman named Gladys Aylward. I remember being surprised that my sunday school teacher in the 4th grade had never heard of her.  My mom read her biography to me, when I was very young, by Janet and Geoff Benge. Perhaps, she is the reason I have always wanted to go to China.

Gladys Aylward lived from 1902-1970. She was a five foot tall English woman determined to follow God’s calling in her life, which was to be a missionary in China. She had been a Christian all her life, but Christianity came alive to her when she was 25, when she heard a man preach on missionary opportunities, it was then that she knew her calling was in China. Gladys attended the China Inland Mission School in London, when she was 27, but she was failing all of her classes. Director of the school told her that there were younger girls waiting to get into the school and it wasn’t fair to them to let her keep failing. Not good enough for missionary school, she was good enough to God, and her calling still stood. The director of the school knew that the language classes were difficult and complex for an adult woman, so he offered Gladys a job working as a maid for a London couple who had just returned from China. Gladys took the job. She would work to be able to go to China. Having no school to send her, no organization to back her, and no money, she would work as a maid on her own.

Gladys had only one third of the cost of a train ticket to China, so she gave the clerk her money and told him she would return each week with more, until she had enough. In the mean time, Gladys taught herself to preach and she learned all she could about China. It took 7 months. She heard about an elderly woman from the church who had gone back to China alone, Gladys wrote Mrs. Lawson, and set out to meet her in China.

Have you ever doubted God’s calling because things seemed like they would never work out? I’m sure Gladys wondered sometimes. Her train to China stopped in Siberia because of the war between China and Japan, she struggled around language barriers, she struggled with going home, but in China, God was with her. Gladys did many great things in China through God. She rescued many orphan children and took care of them. One of them was named Six Pence, because the child’s care-taker sold her to Gladys for six pence. Gladys ran an inn where she cared for the children, but when the area became dangerous because of the war, she had to take the children to a new area across a mountain.

The most incredible thing occured. Gladys marched herself and 98 orphaned children over a mountain a midst a battle.  Soldiers’ bullets flew all around them, and yet not a single child was harmed and all of the children reached safety.

Her story is inspiring, and I think one of the most inspiring things about it is that she knew God’s calling, and she followed even though she faced many trials. I wonder if these were not so much tests, as God’s timing at work. Had Gladys gone to China through the missionary school, she may never have been in the place to rescue those children. But because of the time in history that she was brought to China, years after she planned to go, the children were able to be rescued. And it occurs to me that often times God’s way is not the easiest way. We know that God has asked us to do this, or we know that God is teaching us that, but I think that sometimes we take things into our own hands, we think that our ways will get the job done, when in reality, maybe that’s not how God wants the story to be carried out. And sometimes it’s not just the task, but the journey that God wants us to see through.

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Bringing the Kingdom: Part 1

In the New Testament, Jesus tells us that the kingdom of Heaven is at hand. We can reach out and touch us. He shows us to pray “let your kingdom come.” We can bring the kingdom. I’m talking about letting your light shine. When I was first saved I was about five years old, and I knew that Jesus was in Heaven, but I also knew I had asked him into my heart… This confused me, and I remember we were driving down the road near our house, and I was wondering if that meant that when I died I would somehow fold into my own heart, because that’s part of where heaven was? Not particularly, I’m not sure that’s a very theologically sound idea, but I do think that maybe I was on the right track. When you accept Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes and lives inside of you, you become part of the Kingdom of Heaven, and your heart is changed. The Kingdom is in you. You’re now almost like an electrical cord, you need to allow God’s power to flow you, into the world, to bring his power, and glory.  And if you think about it,  you’re now his hands and feet, doing the work of his character, and his character is very different from anything on earth. But how do you do that?

Sometimes we get really caught up in making new programs within the church in order to share the love of Christ or the joy of Christ. Now, programs are good things, they accomplish good things, but you don’t always need a program. You can’t live your life in a program. What about at school? What about at work? What does it look like to bring the kingdom there? What does it look like to reach out, grab it, and show it to them? Evangelism, of course, service, most entirely. But what about something even simpler?

Last year, I was working at Chick-fil-A, probably singing (I sing at work A LOT), when a young man came up to me and told me that my smile lit up the whole place, and to never stop smiling because it was beautiful. Now, I’ve heard some guys tell me some very odd things while at work… But this felt really genuine. I knew that I was smiling out of the joy in my heart, and I wonder if he saw that too. I’ve kind of taken what he said to heart, and it’s grown into a theory that if you smile at someone enough they will eventually smile back.

Smiles are infectious!  Sometimes, I play a game in drive-thru when I working, I try to get everyone to smile back at me just by me smiling. It’s surprisingly effective, you should try it sometime. I laugh, whenever I hear someone else laugh, because joy is just infectious. I love that. I definitely believe that you can change someone else’s mood just by sharing your own. The other person might not realize it, but it’s true. At work, this is especially notable, in customers and also in employees, one person with a bad mood can bring down the whole team, but a person with a good mood, can pull everything back together. That joy we feel with Christ, that can be easily shared, just with a smile.

I serve a customer at work every friday night, he orders two chicken sandwiches without pickle, a medium fry and always asks for exactly two BBQ sauces. I always wonder how the order taker can hear him because he’s extremely quiet. The first time he came through, I noticed he didn’t seem to be in a good mood, so I smiled at him, but he didn’t smile back, so I smiled wider. He comes through sometimes more than once a week, and I began to recognize him and his order, and with determination, I wanted him to smile. Every week, I smiled, he NEVER smiled back. It frustrated me SO much. All summer long, I smiled, I grinned, I laughed, trying to encourage him to grab onto the joy I had, even for just a second. I think if I was to ask him why he never smiled, he would say there wasn’t a reason too. He seems like the brooding type.

The other night, I took his order, and I knew it was him, so I put his sauce in the bag, and when he asked for the sauce I told him, “I already got it for you, you always get the same thing, so I made sure it was all in the bag” and I kind of laughed a bit, and he did too, he smirked, and replied “Yeah, I do, don’t I?” It made my night. My high-pitched, piercing laugh bounced off the wall when he drove away, and my coworkers looked at me strangely,  and I said to them “He smiled.”

It’s not a huge deal, a smile. But it carries so much weight at the same time. We share our lives everyday with people we may never really get to know, people we only see, and if we let our joy shine, people are bound to notice, and they’ll be able to see it just for a moment, some one cares, someone else thinks there’s something in this world to smile about. I want to get people to smile back.