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.