Gladys Aylward

Tenacity is the ability to obstinately strive for a goal. For Gladys Aylward, tenacity meant that she wouldn't let go of her dream of being a missionary. Gladys clung to her aspiration in the face of financial hurdles, rejection from a missions agency, resistance from local authorities and several wars.

Born in 1902, Gladys started work at age 14 at a low-paying, dead-end parlor maid job. She occasionally attended church, but after one service, she was convicted of her sins and accepted the gift of salvation from Jesus Christ. After her conversion, Gladys' eyes turned to the land of China , where many people had yet to hear the good news.

Gladys applied to China Inland Mission, but when they rejected her, she remained determined to reach China . Gladys saved every penny of her salary for two years before she had enough to buy a rail ticket. She was headed to Yangcheng, where Jeannie Lawson, a widowed Chinese missionary, awaited her. But trouble came before she even reached China . At one Russian village, Gladys was ordered to disembark, but she refused. Russian soldiers packed the seats around her, but Gladys was satisfied that she was headed still towards China . But when the train stopped, Gladys was left alone on the train only a few hundred yards from an undeclared Chinese/Russian border war. She was so close to China , but her only option was to take her belongings, two suitcases, a cooking stove and a bedroll, and plod through the snow back to the Russian village.

Gladys wouldn't quit, and she finally reached Yangcheng. Jeannie assigned Gladys to an inn for the mountain travelers. Gladys learned the basics of communicating to the Chinese, her first step towards sharing the Gospel. But when Jeannie died, Gladys didn't have the support to operate the inn. Again, God provided when Gladys was offered the position of the local foot inspector. Laws had recently been implemented against the tradition of foot-binding, the practice of tightly binding, and often breaking, young girl's feet to keep them tiny. Through enforcing the foot-binding laws, Gladys had a greater potential to develop relationships and share the Gospel. Everywhere she went, she would tell the people Bible stories. She became well-known to the area, and people often came just to listen to her stories. Many Chinese converted to Christ, and Gladys became a loved and respected figure.

War reached Gladys' home in 1937 when Japanese raids bombed the nearby mountain villages. Even when artillery rained upon Yangcheng, Gladys didn't leave until every person was accounted for. Gladys clung to her adopted home when other missionaries escaped to safety. She would often slip through enemy lines to bring supplies to the villagers. She finally left when the welfare of her many orphaned or abandoned children was threatened. In 1940, she led almost 100 children across mountains, over the Yellow River and around enemy soldiers. When the troupe finally reached the safety of Sian , Gladys collapsed, emotionally drained.

Gladys eventually returned to her beloved China after the Japanese left. She knew that God had called her to take his Word to China , and no obstacle could make her surrender her calling. She ministered in China for nearly twenty years; always faithful to proclaim the Gospel to everyone she met. Gladys gave everything she had to provide for both the spiritual and physical needs of the Chinese people.

©2003, Travel the Road