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Gladys Aylward, missionary to China, during the 1930s as a young woman she left her home in England and sailed to China. Here she opened a home for orphaned children who'd been left to starve or wander the streets. When the Japanese invaded China, Gladys was forced to flee. With only one assistant, for 12 days she led more than a hundred orphans over the mountains toward Free China.

In the face of extreme difficulty and danger, she devoted her life to becoming a mother to each of them. Years later when she was publicly honoured, she explained her amazing work like this:

"I did not choose this. I was led into it by God. I'm not really more interested in children than I am in other people. But God gave me to understand that this is what He wanted me to do -- so I did it!"

Her incredible story was told in the book The Small Woman by Alan Burgess, published in 1957. In 1958, the story was made into the Hollywood film, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman.

On one occasion during her many years of missionary service, Gladys was a spinster -- horrible word, I like what Ivor Powell used to say instead: "An unclaimed treasure."

One time in her life she noticed the happiness and companionship shared by a missionary couple. She was alone and so she asked God to call a partner to join her on the mission field. No one ever came!

When giving her testimony she said (not sure if it was tongue in cheek or not because she was an incredible woman of faith), she said: "God called him, but he wouldn’t come!"

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