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Posts Tagged ‘Gladys Aylward’

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

Gladys Aylward was born in 1902 in London, England.

While working as a parlor maid in the home of Sir Francis Younghusband she would often take down and read the books he had in his library on China. God was placing a love for the Chinese people in her heart.
After attending a religious meeting where the speaker encouraged people to dedicate their lives to God, Gladys realized with certainty that God was calling her to be a missionary to China. She went to the China Inland Mission Center in London to train. She did not do well there and they advised her against going to a foreign country.

Gladys was certain about her call so she worked hard and saved her money. She wrote to Jeannie Lawson, a missionary who had been serving in China for many years about coming to work with her as her assistant. Miss Lawson accepted Gladys. God worked many miracles for Gladys to get to China.

During her stay in China Gladys had to learn the difficult Chinese language. She was a good assistant to Jeannie Lawson until Miss Lawson died after an accident. Gladys continued on her own. She was often lonely and wondered if she should stay as a single woman.

God brought a ministry to her. The Mandarin of Yangchen asked Gladys to be the official ‘foot inspector’. The cruel practice of binding Chinese girls’ feet had just been outlawed and the Mandarin wanted Gladys to visit the women and help them. Gladys agreed and served the women and girls for many years, until war came to China.

While visiting the women and girls Gladys had opportunity to help the Chinese nationals who were defending their country from the invading Japanese. On her way to outlying villages Gladys would see where enemy troops were and report their movements to the Chinese.

When her village was threatened with bombing and ruin, Gladys helped nearly 100 orphans escape to a safer town. Eventually due to illness Gladys had to leave China. By the time she was well and wanted to go back to China she could not get back in because the communists had taken over. In 1957 Gladys sailed for Taiwan where she helped in orphanages, taught Bible classes, and preached the Gospel until her death in 1970.

 

Gladys’ story is told in pictures in the video “Gladys Aylward: The Small Woman with a Great God”. It is a documentary narrated by Carol Purves, author of “Chinese Whispers: The Gladys Aylward Story”. There are some photographs but mostly it is drawings that depict the action in the story. This is more than made up for by the recordings of the actual voice of Gladys Aylward! What a blessing to hear about the events from Gladys herself.

This is a great video production; I enjoyed it more than the Hollywood movie. Only one little problem – sometimes the audio recording wasn’t super clear. So, turn up the volume and listen to the voice of one of God’s most unselfish, courageous daughters.

My DVD was produced by the Christian History Institute and distributed by Vision Video. It is 62 minutes long. It is narrated by Carol Purves and by Gladys via audio recordings.

 

There are many books including the one by Carol Purves, articles, and even a Hollywood movie about Gladys Aylward. The movie stars Ingrid Bergman and is titled, “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness”. The movie is a good dramatization of when Gladys had to take nearly 100 children over a high mountain for their safety. Gladys herself was not too crazy about the movie because the producers added a ‘love interest’ which did not exist. Leave it to Hollywood! Also the movie shows the children singing “This Old Man” when they are crossing the mountains. In fact, they were singing, “Count Your Blessings”.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Gladys’ life truly reflected the words in the song.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

GladysAylwardGladys Aylward was born in 1902 in London, England.

While working as a parlor maid in the home of Sir Francis Younghusband she would often take down and read the books he had in his library on China. God was placing a love for the Chinese people in her heart.

After attending a religious meeting where the speaker encouraged people to dedicate their lives to God, Gladys realized with certainty that God was calling her to be a missionary to China. She went to the China Inland Mission Center in London to train. She did not do well there and they advised her against going.

Gladys was certain about her call so she worked hard and saved her money. She wrote to Jeannie Lawson, a missionary who had been serving in China for many years about coming to work with her as her assistant. Mrs. Lawson accepted Gladys, but Gladys would later learn that Jeannie Lawson did not think Gladys would actually show up!

Gladys could not afford the fare on a ship so she traveled to China via the Trans-Siberian Railway. At this time, 1932, Russia was a communist country and there were severe problems there. When Gladys arrived at Vladivostok an officer tried to detain her. They would not let her back on the train. They forced her to stay in a rundown hotel room.

With the help of an unknown woman, Gladys escaped and sailed to Japan. God was in control and even though her trip turned out much differently than she had expected, she knew that she was right about her call to be a missionary in China.

When Gladys arrived in Tientsin she thought Mrs. Lawson would be waiting for her. But Mrs. Lawson had not traveled to Tientsin because she really didn’t think Gladys would make it. Gladys was disappointed but had little money and no other choice but to try and catch up with Jeannie Lawson.

Traveling by bus, train, and mule, Gladys eventually caught up with Mrs. Lawson in Yangchen, in the Shansi province. This area, south of Peking (now Beijing) was very mountainous. The town of Yangchen was on a major trade route. This would play a part in the ministry that the two women would have. Unfortunately, it was also play a part in the coming war when the Japanese would invade China.

Mrs. Lawson was a tough boss, but wise and strong in her love for the Lord and the Gospel and the Chinese people. She thought of a way to witness to them. She and Gladys and their cook, Yang, turned the building that they were living in into an inn. They placed straw and food out for the mules. It was Gladys’s job to go out in the evenings and get the caravans to stop for the night at their inn.

Gladys was nervous the first time she tried her new task. She still did not know Chinese very well, but no language was necessary as she went outside and grabbed the lead mule by the rein and led it into their courtyard. The mule willingly followed hoping for the food and rest. The men in the caravan stopped in the inn for the night.

This night and many more to come, Jeannie and Gladys gave the men noodles and a clean place to sleep. The travelers got even more than they bargained for – free entertainment! Mrs. Lawson would tell them stories about Jesus. Her stories became very popular with the mule drivers. Many of them became Christians.

One day Jeannie Lawson fell and hurt herself badly. She died only a few days later. Now Gladys and faithful Yang were alone to run the inn. Mrs. Lawson had kept it going with an allowance from her home. That was gone too. Taxes were due. Gladys did not know how to pay them.

God had a plan. A few weeks later, Gladys met the Mandarin of Yangchen. The horrible of practice of footbinding had recently been outlawed but many women were still trying to follow the ancient custom. The Mandarin needed Gladys to by his foot inspector because she could go into the women’s quarters where men were not allowed. He was willing to pay.

Gladys was ecstatic. This job would not only give them some money so they could pay their taxes and other expenses, but it would give her many opportunities to share the Gospel. Gladys traveled to many places in the district to reach the women. This was also part of God’s amazing providence. Later her knowledge of the mountains would help her when she needed to get orphans out of Yangchen during the Japanese occupation.

Up until this time many Chinese were suspicious of Gladys as they had been of Mrs. Lawson. The women were referred to as “White devils”. The Chinese people shunned them and even children would occasionally throw mud at Gladys.

Again God provided a way to help with this situation. The Mandarin summoned Gladys one day to help out with a prison riot. Gladys was not sure why she, a woman, was asked to go into the prison yard and try and quiet the men. The soldiers in charge of the prison had given up. The convicts were on a rampage and many men had been hacked to death by some of the others.

Gladys asked the Mandarin, “How can I do that? They will kill me too.” He responded, “Oh, no, they can’t! You say you have the living God inside you. They can’t kill you. You must stop them!” Gladys thought that God would keep her alive if it was meant to be. And so, Gladys walked right into the prison courtyard and told the men to be quiet.

The men quieted down and eventually told Gladys why they were rioting. Gladys helped to bring about prison reform. About this time the people stopped calling her the “White devil” and began to call her Ai-weh-deh, “the righteous one.”

Some time later Gladys came upon a woman beggar and a child who was apparently kidnapped by the woman to help her in her begging. The woman was willing to sell the little girl for ninepence. So Gladys bought the girl and named her “Ninepence”. Later Ninepence brought a little boy into their home. Ninepence promised to eat less if only they could keep the boy. Of course, Gladys said “Less” could stay and be part of the family.

Gladys became a Chinese citizen in 1936. She dressed like her people and this helped to make her witnessing effective.

Yangchen was bombed by the Japanese in 1938 and most of the townspeople fled. Though her heart was aching for her people, Gladys had the joy of hearing from the Mandarin that he had decided to become a Christian!

With her heart aching Gladys moved to Tsechow. She was hoping to be safe here. While she was here some Chinese nationalist soldiers stopped at the mission looking for a place to stay. General Chiang Kai-shek was a Christian and had told the Chinese soldiers that they would be safe at Christian mission sites.

The man in charge of the soldiers was Colonel Linnan. He had come to ask Gladys to help the Chinese by becoming a spy! Dressed like an old Chinese woman, Gladys could move around in the mountains that she was very familiar with and report on the movements of the Japanese troops. Gladys did this for some time; Colonel Linnan stopped by the mission and received her reports often. They soon fell in love.

Eventually the Japanese in the area became very strong. Colonel Linnan wanted Gladys to flee to a safer part of China with him but she could not leave her people. Though there was a price on her head for her capture, Gladys decided to leave in her own way taking her orphans, nearly 100 in number, to safety.

Gladys went to Yangchen and got the children together and began their Gladys Aylward, a missionary in China, leads over 100 children to safety during the China-Japan warincredible twelve-day march over mountains and rough terrain with very little food. Sometimes friendly Chinese would give the children as much food as they were able. Other times they slept on the cold mountainside after no supper.

On the twelfth day they reached the Yellow River. There was no way to cross. The children were tired and hungry and growing weaker by the day. But God answered their prayers again. As they were singing and praying a Chinese soldier heard them and told them where they could get a boat. The soldiers helped the children across.

There were still some difficulties to come. Some villages would not open their gates to the children. Eventually they found a train to take them. Gladys became very ill after so many days of sleeplessness, lack of food, and exhaustion. She and the children finally arrived at Sian. After seeing that the children were safe and fed, Gladys collapsed.

Local Christians took Gladys to a hospital. When she recovered she began a new work. She helped missionaries care for refugees.

Because she never fully recovered from injuries that she had received in China she needed to return to England for an operation in 1947. She wanted to return to China but the communists were not letting missionaries back in. Gladys helped China by traveling all over Britain and speaking on behalf of the Chinese people.

In 1957 Gladys sailed for Taiwan where she helped in orphanages, taught Bible classes, and preached the Gospel.

Gladya Aylward with childGladys continued to help orphans, even taking one in during the last days of her life on New Year’s Day in 1970. Gladys fed and bathed the baby and tucked the child into a crib. Gladys went to sleep that night in Taipei and woke up in Heaven.

There are many books, articles, and even a movie about Gladys Aylward. The movie stars Ingrid Bergman and is titled, “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness”. I highly recommend it. It is fairly accurate but more of the Christianity could have been brought out. For example, in the movie the children are singing “This Old Man” when they are crossing the mountains. In fact they were singing, “Count Your Blessings”.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,

When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

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Great Biographies – Learning History the Fun Way

Don’t have enough time to read a large volume? If you have enjoyed some of the recent stories on my blog about some courageous women and would like to read more, but are too busy to engage in a 300 to 400-page book, try some of the following books.

I read books that are written for middle school-aged or high school-aged girls often. I choose ones that are well written, historically accurate, and very interesting. The fact that I can read them in one or two sittings makes them all the more enjoyable.

The books that I am reviewing in this posting are suitable for your 9 and above girls and YOURSELF! They are from the “Trail Blazers” series, published in the U.K.

These books would be great to share with your daughters. Each one has an appendix called, “Thinking Further Topics” with questions and answers for each chapter. There is also a summary time line at the back of the book that includes worldwide events that were going on at the time. For example, the book on Gladys Aylward lists her birth, 1902 to her death, 1970. There are 31 chronologically ordered events throughout her life so that the reader can put Gladys’ life into context with history. (1914 – WWI, for example) This is one of my favorite parts of the books. You and your child will get a better feel for history. And I always tell my children and grandchildren, “The most fun way to learn history is to read good biographies!”

One of my granddaughters has some mild difficulty with reading and so these books are wonderful to share with her. She loves the attention when someone will read with her. You will be edified and encouraged by the stories of these brave women who sacrificed much to serve God and others.

—  Grant, Myrna, Gladys Aylward: No Mountain Too High, (Christian Focus Gladya Aylward with childPublications, Scotland, U.K., 2003).

In my “Movie Reviews” posting (September, 2010) I did a review of “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness”. This movie tells the story of Gladys Aylward’s mission in China. Part of her story takes place when the Japanese invade China. Gladys must help the orphans in her charge get to a safe place. Both the book and the movie are exciting.
—  Howat, Irene, Isobel Kuhn: Lights in Lisuland, (Christian Focus Publications, Scotland, U.K., 2001).

isobel kuhn.4For a bit more information, see my posting on November 19, 2013. Isobel also went to China to the Lisu people. She and her husband and the Lisu people were also affected by the Japanese invasion.

Isobel was not a likely missionary candidate as a child. She had many doubts about God. This story will encourage your heart as you read how God met her need and then Isobel gave her whole life back to God in gratitude for her salvation.
—  Howat, Irene, Helen Roseveare: On His Majesty’s Service, (Christian Focus Publications, Scotland, U.K., 2007).

Helen Roseveare was a medical doctor from England. She went to be a missionaryhelen roseveare in the Belgian Congo (as it was called in the 1950’s). Here too war played a part in her service to the African people. The communists were taking over and in the 1960’s the country became independent and changed its name to Zaire. Today that country is called the Democratic Republic of Congo. Helen helped to set up hospitals and train nurses. She was captured by the wicked rebels in 1964 and beaten and tortured. She was eventually freed and sent home to recover. This courageous woman loved her African people so much that she returned to serve them again. Eventually she went back to Britain and spent many years traveling around the world and telling her story. As of this writing I believe that she is still living (she must be 88 if she is) and living in Ireland.
—  Howat, Irene, Patricia St. John: The Story Behind the Stories, (Christian Focus Publications, Scotland, U.K., 2008).

patricia st. johnPatricia St. John is one of the world’s greatest storytellers for children. Perhaps you might have read, “The Tanglewoods’ Secret” or “Treasures of the Snow”. These are great stories. Patricia St. John’s own life is a great story. War enters her story like so many others. In this case, during WWII, when the bombs were falling in London, Patricia helped out as a nurse. She later helped her brother at his hospital in Morrocco. Patricia enjoyed life very much and was able to capture the excitement and put it into stories for children.

—  Mackenzie, Catherine, Joni Eareckson Tada” Swimming Against the Tide, (Christian Focus Publications, Scotland, U.K., 2003).

Many people have probably heard about this amazing woman who was left Joniparalyzed from the shoulders down after a diving accident. This book tells the whole amazing story of Joni’s accident and her struggles with depression and learning to function with her disability. There are addresses for how to contact Joni and become involved in her programs in the back of the book. Joni also authored several books and you can find information on getting those in the book also. There is even a full-length feature film, “Joni”, in which she has told her life story. It has been translated into 15 languages around the world.

—  Watson, Jean, Corrie ten Boom: The Watchmaker’s Daughter, (Christian Focus Publications, Scotland, U.K., 2003).

Corrie ten Boom.4Here is another biography of a great woman of courage. Again, war enters our story. During WWII in Holland, the Germans had made many rules against the rights of the Jews. Corrie and her family tried to help the Jews. For this they were arrested. Corrie and her sister spent time in the most horrible women’s concentration camp in Europe. Corrie’s faith in God helped her get through this terrible time. There is also a great movie that tells this story, “The Hiding Place”. I highly recommend it.

Ok, now. Don’t let lack of time be your excuse any more. Get some of these or other books in the “Trail Blazers” series and be edified and encouraged. There are many more books in this series, even for boys!!

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