Gladys Aylward — Missionary to China
Luke 11:13: “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”
I love to read; I especially love reading Christian biographies. I recently read a book about Gladys Aylward, who was a missionary to China. I looked her up on the Internet and found out there were many books written about her, and even a Hollywood movie made about her life, to her sorrow.
Gladys was a simple parlor maid with little education. She was rejected by the mission boards of her day. This did not discourage her however, as she was sure God called her to China. She worked and saved her money and bought a train ticket to China. (It was cheaper than the boat!). Her journey on that train through Russia is a story in itself.
Soon after she started an orphanage, Japan invaded China. Gladys led over one hundred children over Japanese occupied mountains to safety. A reporter wrote a story about her, which was published in Time Magazine. She never could understand what the big fuss was all about.
After World War II, communism was taking over the country. Gladys had led several students to Christ at a university, until the communists took control of it. Students were required to fill out a questionnaire. One of the questions asked was what political party they supported. If they said they were for the new government (communists), they would get good jobs and be treated well. Two hundred of the five hundred students marked that they were against the new government. Furious officials discovered the reason: students who were against the new government had become Christians. The officials told the three hundred who were for the new government to harass the Christians. When the survey was given again, even more students marked that they were against the communists. Their plan had backfired!
Prayer meetings were stopped and some Christians were even beaten. Still the Christians stood strong. Harassment for the Christians increased. Finally after three months, there was a meeting in the town square, and Gladys went.
The first name was called. A 17-year-old girl, who was a new convert, stepped forward. Gladys stood there praying for her as she watched events unfold.
The official asked the girl which party she supported. She said that three months ago, she thought Jesus and the Bible were true. She said that since experiencing the hatred of the communists for the past three months, she was sure Jesus and the Bible were true.
The officials were furious. They pushed her to her knees. A soldier pulled out his sword and cut off the girl’s head. Gladys was horrified and began crying and praying for the rest of the students, that they wouldn’t be killed; but if they were, she asked the Lord to help the young Christians not to be afraid of death, and that their death would have meaning.
One by one, students were beheaded. The horrified Gladys wanted to run but she stood there weeping and praying for each one that was asked whether they would support the communists. Although they knew they were facing death, over two hundred students were beheaded as they refused to give their support.
I am amazed at the courage of these students—all new converts! How can this be? I wondered if any people I’ve had the privilege to lead to Christ would react in such a way. To take it a step further, how would I react?
How could this seemingly insignificant (they called her the “small woman” because she was so short) lady, with little education, rejected by the mission boards, do such a great work for God? The answer is found in Zechariah 4:6b “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.” The Holy Spirit of God is available to us to do His work. Gladys Aylward wanted this more than anything, and was willing to do whatever it took to have God use her and work through her. Am I? Are you?