Gladys Aylward (1902-1970)
As a teenager, Gladys read a magazine article about China that changed her life. She kept thinking about the millions of people in that distant land who had not yet heard of God’s love. She knew she had to tell them.
To do this, she was told, she would have to go to Missionary Training School. After finishing, she was informed that she was not qualified – she failed her exams. This setback did not derail her passion. She worked at jobs and saved her money. Then she heard of a 73-year-old missionary, Mrs. Jeannie Lawson, who was looking for a younger woman to carry on her work. Gladys wrote to Mrs. Lawson and was accepted if she could get to China.
On Saturday, October 15, 1932, at age 30 Gladys Aylward left Liverpool, England bound for China.
Upon her arrival in Yangchen she took up Ms. Lawson’s work and began learning the Chinese language; something the training school said she could never do. She began sharing the Gospel in surrounding villages. She began to take in orphans. Before long she had 20 young children under her care – not to mention the 30-40 wounded soldiers she cared for. Her ministry eventually grew to over 100 children.
She adopted china as her homeland and became a citizen in 1936. This was not motivated by politics or ideology but by love for Jesus. It afforded her a more effective venue to proclaim Jesus Christ.
When the war reaching its pinnacle in 1938 she smuggled her children out of China – it took 27 days. When they arrived in Sian the doctors were amazed. She had pneumonia, Typhus, malnutrition, and exhaustion.
She recovered by God’s grace.
At the end of her life Gladys wrote the following about herself: My heart is full of praise that on one so insignificant, uneducated, and ordinary in every way could be used to His glory for the blessing of His people in poor and persecuted China.
When the communist took over china Gladys was forced to leave. But she did not stop. God called her to work among the Chinese and she never disobeyed. Rather, she established refugee centers in Hong Kong and Taipei.
Gladys Aylward is a sterling example of taking Jesus at His word when he said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”