Gladys Aylward - Missionary to China

“I sat on my luggage – miserable, cold and hungry – somewhere near the Manchurian border with not a soul in sight. I thought I would freeze to death, and for the first time real doubts came to my mind. ‘O God, is it worth it?’ I cried. Like a flash came the answer: ‘Be not afraid, remember I am the Lord.’ So I prayed that God would show me what to do and deliver me – and He did…” -Gladys Aylward – The Little Woman

Nowhere is the call of Christ more evident than in the life of missionary to China, Gladys Aylward.  Although a nominal Christian from childhood, Gladys entered into a relationship with Jesus in her early twenties.  She was working as a parlor maid when she joined the Young Life Campaign and read in one of their magazines, an article about China that greatly affected her.

“To realize that millions of Chinese had never heard of Jesus Christ was to me a staggering thought, and I felt that surely we ought to do something about it,” she said.  None of her friends seemed in the least concerned about the matter and when she tried to convince her brother to become a missionary to Chine he responded, “Not me!  That’s an old maid’s job.  Why don’t you go yourself?”  Gladys realized that she shouldn’t be looking for other people to do something that she felt called to do, so she set out looking for support.

To her disappointment, none of the mission churches would sponsor her – “it’s to dangerous for a woman without any qualifications and no education.” they all said.  But Gladys was determined.  In 1930 she spent all the money she had on a railway ticket from England through war torn Manchuria to China.  She had no friends or money and could not speak the language.  God brought her through the difficulties to great responsibility in the new land.

Gladys took over for Mrs. Lawson, a Scottish woman working as a missionary in the Yangcheng Province who was running a mule lodge for mountain workers.  While struggling to keep her feet in her new home, Gladys learned the Chinese language and became a Chinese citizen.  She became close friends with the Mandarin (governor of the province) and he enjoyed their stimulating conversations about Christianity.  He made Gladys his official against the practice of foot-binding, which allowed her to spread the gospel in every town and village she visited.  

God used this diminutive parlor-maid from England to singlehandedly stop a bloody prison riot and bring many of the criminals to Christ.  Not long after the Japanese invasion of China, Yangcheng was repeatedly bombed and Gladys faced the early sorrow of the horrible violence that followed.  The war produced many orphans and Gladys took them in to her mule lodge, starting a large family of children. 

Gladys led her Mandarin to the Lord before he died and the people had to leave Yangcheng to flee the Japanese army.  She endured the bloody Japanese invasion of China, led 100 orphaned children 200 miles through the mountains to safety and withstood the Communist persecution of Christians that followed the war.  She continued to be a missionary for Christ in Taiwan until her death.

Her entire life as a missionary exemplifies the scripture that she often quoted “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10.

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