Thursday, July 26, 2012


2 Corinthians 4:7-9, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of this power may be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”

I recently finished reading a great missionary biography entitled “Gladys Aylward: The Adventure of a Lifetime.” It tells the story of her missionary endeavors in China. Gladys was born to a working class family in Edmonton, London in 1902. She heard of the need in China and felt compelled to go and serve. But she was turned down by missionary training school because she lacked the academic ability to keep up in her classes. Undeterred, she saved up money and spent her life savings on a passage to Yuncheng, Shanxi Province, China. Single and 29 years old she undertook a perilous journey across Europe and through Siberia by train. She was once abandoned along the tracks and nearly froze to death when a war stopped the train in Siberia. She later narrowly escaped being kidnapped. She ultimately made her way to China only to find that her mentor, Jeannie Lawson, had previously departed for the interior.

She finally made her way to the village and to Jeannie. Her first venture into the remote village was met with a rude response—the residents threw dirt clods at her, calling her a “foreign devil.” Gladys and Jeannie had a home—they were able to rent it at discounted rate because the townspeople thought it to be haunted—but they were unable to make any progress in sharing the gospel. One day it occurred to them both that they could turn their home into an inn—a place to stay for the muleteers who transported people and goods from village to village. By showing loving hospitality in a place “without fleas” they would gain a hearing and an opportunity to share. They remodeled their home and named it “The Inn of the Eighth Happiness”--thus began their gospel outreach in that remote part of China.

That ministry was established, only to be abruptly disrupted by Jeannie’s death. Jeannie had been subsidizing the rent and costs of the inn—how would they be able to afford to keep it open? The problem was resolved in a remarkable way. The government of China issued an edict that prohibited “foot-binding.” Foot-binding was a practice in which, supposedly for beauty’s sake, a young girls toes were tied back under her feet. The practice caused both pain and disability, so in the 1930s it was banned by the government. The Mandarin (local government official) was given the responsibility of enforcing the edict. He called upon Gladys to do it. She was thus hired to go from village to village to inspect the feet of all the young girls. The job not only provided the needed funds for the inn, it gave her ample opportunities to share the gospel in homes and villages throughout the region.

One day in the village she came across something especially disturbing. A woman was attempting to sell a young girl. She expressed her concern to the Mandarin. He told her it was none of her business and that she should not interfere. Undeterred, she went back to the woman and bought the girl. Thus began her ministry to orphan children which grew and grew until she was caring for over 200 children. In 1938 the region was invaded by Japanese forces. 100 of the children were led to safety by an assistant. She herself led the rest over mountain passes and through many hazards away from the fighting. At the end of that journey she so weak and diseased she nearly died. She eventually recovered and was there in China when the communists took over. She witnessed the tragic and brutal execution of fellow believers who refused to bow down to the new regime. She returned to England in 1948 and then to Taiwan in 1958 where she founded the Gladys Aylward Orphanage. She worked in that orphanage until her death in 1970.

Gladys Aylward faced many obstacles in her ministry efforts. Her desire to serve was met with rejection, her efforts to serve were met with troubles and trials. Her ministry involved great sacrifice, but she was undeterred. It would have been easy to give up countless times along the way, but she persevered. While she was serving God was working—He opened doors in amazing ways and many heard the truth of the gospel. Eric Liddell, another missionary to China, once said, “Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God’s plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins. Our broken lives are not lost or useless. God’s love is still working. He comes in and takes the calamity and uses it victoriously, working out his wonderful plan of love.” Don’t be discouraged or deterred by obstacles, they may appear insurmountable to you, but they are miniscule to Him. Indeed, “(He) is Able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20)!”

Pastor Jerry

Benge, Janet and Geoff (1998), Gladys Aylward: The Adventure of a Lifetime, ISBN 978-1-57658-019-6.

No comments: