This is the fifth blog in a series about historical missionaries who stood firm in the faith.
“Oh God, here's my Bible. Here's my money. Here's me. Use me, God.” -Gladys Aylward
Gladys Aylward—with little education, little money, and little support to be a missionary—had a grand desire and calling to take the gospel to China.
As a housemaid in the early 1900s in England, Aylward studied at the China Inland Mission, hoping to be accepted as one of the organization’s missionaries. After three months of training, the organization rejected her, saying the Chinese language would be too difficult for her to learn.
Aylward was undeterred. She knew God was calling her to China, and she was determined to go. She saved money and purchased a ticket to travel on the Trans-Siberian Railway through an active war zone. She was unmarried and did not have the backing of a missions organization.
Still, she went.
After a perilous journey, Aylward arrived in China and worked alongside Jeannie Lawson, a missionary to China in her 70s. The two opened an inn where they could share Bible stories with travelers. The hope was to share the gospel with the inn’s guests, who could then share it with others on their travels. Lawson fell ill and died, leaving Aylward to run the inn.
But she was soon set on another mission. A government official visited Aylward and asked for her help enforcing a ban on foot-binding. Foot-binding was the practice of binding girls’ feet tightly in bandages to prevent them from growing. The government needed a female foot inspector with unbound feet. Seeing it as an opportunity to further the gospel, Aylward agreed to help.
In her new role, Aylward came in contact with many Chinese families and shared the hope of the gospel along the way. She was so well respected and revered by the people in the region that she was once called to quell a prison riot. She also had a heart for children, adopting multiple orphans during her time in China.
When war broke out and the Japanese invaded the region, Aylward led about 100 orphans to safety over the mountains. She was wounded during the journey, but her spirit was unscathed. Upon reaching safety in Sian, she started a Christian church and continued her work for several more years.
As the Communist party took over in the late 1940s and targeted missionaries, Aylward went back to England and was unable to gain permission to return to China. She returned to Asia 10 years later, eventually establishing an orphanage in Taiwan.
Aylward’s work in Asia touched countless lives, who were impacted by both her humanitarian efforts and her commitment to take the gospel to a spiritually dark nation.
Aylward ignored the doubts about her education and abilities and instead listened to God’s call for her to go to China. She used humanitarian work as a gateway for sharing the good news of Jesus with scores of people.