Gladys Aylward was a missionary to China beginning around 1940. If she listened to the people around her telling her what she couldn’t do, she never would have gotten there. She had to drop out of school at 14 to work full time to help support her family. Some time in her 20’s, God pulled at her heart to go to China as a missionary. She took classes at the China Missionary Fellowship, but didn’t pass the exams. They told her she wasn’t smart enough, wouldn’t be able to learn Chinese, was too old and wouldn’t be able to stand the rigors.
Undeterred, she took on two more jobs and save money to pay for her own passage to China. She had seen an ad in her church from a missionary widow in China asking others to join her to help with the work, so Gladys was determined to go and help. This is what God put on her heart. She finally had enough money and bought a train ticket on the Trans-Siberian Railroad and took it by herself across Germany, Poland, Russia and Siberia until it finally headed into China.
Gladys found the widow Jeannie Lawson and took to learning Chinese, helping Jeannie at her mule outpost station. Jeannie had gotten dymensia and died within the first year of Gladys’ arrival. They called her a foreign devil. But she served God and the Chinese, working her way into their hearts. She served the travelers meals, took care of their mules and told the men Bible stories at night. The Chinese government made her a foot inspector, sending her to guarantee that girls’ feet would no longer be bound. As she did, she told them about Jesus.
One day a village official came to her requesting that she go to the local prison where there was a fierce riot that they could not stop. Gladys was 4′ 10″ tall, a tiny woman. She replied “I can’t go in there–they’ll kill me.” The official countered, “But you said the Spirit of the living God is inside you. They can’t kill you.” She went, quoting to herself her guiding verse “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
A crazed man came after her with a hatchet, swinging it as he ran straight toward her. She stood her ground, looked him in the eye and demanded firmly, “Give me that axe.” He froze and handed her the axe. She then told all of the men to line up, and amazingly so, they all listened. Gladys was able to negotiate with the officials that they clean up the filthy prison and give them more food. Through her direction, prison reform came and many placed their trust in Jesus.
Gladys’ story encourages me so. The Spirit of the living God is inside of me, as He is inside of all believers. No man is coming at me with a hatchet, but I sure need courage to stand strong in Jesus and to be used by Him in my world I need to believe in what God can do through me and not in all of the things people have told me all through life that I can’t do.
Mercy Me has a song out, “In the Blink of an Eye.” Some of its lyrics are “How can I further Your kingdom when I’m so wrapped up in mine?” And, “Though I’m living the good life, can my life be something great?” Usually being about God’s kingdom and not my own involves sacrifice and risk, even courage. I took a risk this week when I called up a work associate whose husband is in hospice, awaiting death from cancer. I knew I needed to pray with her and speak spiritual truths to them, not just well wishes in a difficult time. It was on my heart to give another coworker a devotional book to begin to open the door to talk about Jesus. I gave a recently widowed young mother and her three boys a gift card to a water park and hotel resort, telling them that God had put it on my heart to do so.
I’m realizing that being a servant, a vocal witness, and an uncompromising Jesus follower rests in the same promise that Gladys stood on “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” because an alive and powerful Holy Spirit is at work in my life. According to Ephesians 1, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work for me to see God do things in and through me.