Monday, April 19, 2021

I Have Chosen the Way of Faithfulness

“I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws.” Psalm 119:30-31

It is good to read how ordinary men and women choose to live faithfully. As Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”

Gladys Aylward was one such woman. She became a Christian at a young age all because she could not extricate herself from a crowd. She was so small that she got pushed and found herself inside a church and was too embarrassed to leave. So she stayed to listen to the Pastor. She became convicted after that experience and tried to get nuns, teachers, anybody to go to China and become a missionary and spread the gospel there. No one listened to her. When she tried to convince her brother, he said in disgust, “Why don’t you go yourself?”

She finally set her heart on going, first by studying in Hudson Taylor’s China Inland Mission. She was rejected after a while because she couldn’t seem to get the hang of learning Chinese. She decided to just go out on her own by saving money to take the Trans-Siberian Express across Europe to China. She worked as a parlor maid and read her master’s books about China. She tried all sorts of ways to increase her savings even to selling her nice shoes and buying second hand shoes which were both for the left foot! 

Eventually she set off on what turned out to be a perilous journey across Siberia only to find herself being caught up in a war between Russia and China. After surviving all sorts of challenges she arrived at her destination and met up with an older missionary named Jeannie Lawson. They set up The Inn of Eight Happinesses based on the eight virtues of Love, Virtue, Gentleness, Tolerance, Loyalty, Truth, Beauty and Devotion. Not only did they make a comfortable place for travelers, but they shared stories of Jesus. Gladys was also able to spread the good news when she became a “foot inspector” and travelled all over China to help enforce the new law against foot binding young Chinese girls. Of course at this time she was already fluent in Chinese, confounding the verdict of her teachers in the missionary school.

One time she managed to intervene in a volatile prison uprising, resulting in the improvement of the conditions in which the inmates lived. She also found herself in charge of about a hundred orphans during the war. After 27 days of trekking, she had led them over the mountains to the safety of an orphanage beyond the war zone. She collapsed of typhus and malnutrition upon arrival. All these efforts earned her the affectionate nickname  ‘Ai-weh-deh’ which means ‘Virtuous One’.

There are many more things this ordinary woman was able to do because she loved Jesus and wanted to obey Him faithfully. Her story was told in the book “The Small Woman” by Alan Burgess published in 1957, and adapted into a wildly inaccurate film, “The Inn of Sixth Happiness”, starring the tall Ingrid Bergman in 1958. 

Gladys always said, “I wasn’t God’s first choice for what I’ve done for China… [but] God looked down… and saw Gladys Aylward… and God said – ‘Well, she’s willing’.” Gladys Aylward chose the way of faithfulness. Have we? 

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:^) Patsy