Gladys Aylward, Missionary to China
By Elise Wixtrom, Kids of Courage Student Reviewer
Gladys Aylward was a missionary in China when the Japanese invaded the country during World War II. Like Eric Liddell, she lived in a village that was attacked by air. She and many orphans had to flee in the middle of the night. They made their way to the next city by foot.
Ever since she was very small, Gladys had wanted to be a missionary to China. She knew that she was supposed to bring the gospel to the unreached people there. Although she was sure of her calling, the missionary school she applied to did not think she was qualified to take on work like that.
Even though Gladys was rejected from that school, she began to save money for a train trip from her home in England to China. With no material support, Gladys headed on the long train ride through Europe and Asia. She was armed with nothing but a faith in God and a clear purpose to fulfill.
Though she experienced many setbacks on the way to China, Gladys made it to her destination safely. She and another woman operated an inn, where they ministered to the people of the local town. They had great success, until Gladys’ business partner fell sick and suddenly died, leaving Gladys to take care of the inn by herself. She quickly began to run out of money. Desperate, she prayed for God to grant her a miraculous opportunity. As she was praying, a knock came at the door. It was the mandarin (royal official) of that region, who offered her a job inspecting young women’s feet and making sure that they were healthy. With this newfound job, Gladys soon made enough money to reopen the inn and even take in orphans who she met in her travels.
She was known throughout the region as a powerful woman of faith, one who took in the sick and orphaned, calmed fights and riots, and gave hope in times of trouble. Gladys was widely respected, and her work in rural China touched many lives. However, when the war came, all that she had built was about to crumble. Gladys and the orphans had to run away in the middle of the night. They traveled on foot for many miles, overcome by tiredness and hunger. Afraid of the Japanese planes overhead, they hunkered beneath trees and rocks, and were shot at many times. They eventually made it to safety, and Gladys took in even more refugees who were displaced by the brutal war.
Gladys Aylward never gave up, even when she encountered setbacks and obstacles to her mission. She always trusted that God knew her destiny and that all she had to do was follow His plan for her. With her powerful faith, Gladys persevered through countless difficulties. Though she was weakened by many of the events of her life, she continued to serve God with an undying faith until the day she died.
Learn about the old Chinese custom of foot binding and view photos of the tiny shoes women wore until Gladys unbound their feet.