“If God has called you to China or any other place and you are sure in your own heart, let nothing deter you. Remember, it is God who has called you and it is the same as when He called Moses or Samuel” – Gladys Aylward
Gladys Aylward was born in Edmonton, North London. She worked as a domestic worker at an early age but she longed to go overseas and work as a missionary. She worked hard to make this happen but was turned down because of her inadequate academic background. The China Mission she applied to was convinced that she couldn’t learn the language at her age.
In 1932, she spent her life savings on a train passage to Yangcheng, Shanxi Province, China. This perilous trip took her across Siberia with the Trans-Siberian Railway where she was detained by the Russians. However, with local help, she managed to evade them and take a lift from a Japanese ship. She travelled across Japan with the help of the British Consul and took another ship to China.
When she arrived in Yangcheng, she worked with Jeannie Lawson, an older missionary. Together, they founded the Inn of the Eight Happinesses, named for the eight virtues: Love, Virtue, Gentleness, Tolerance, Loyalty, Truth, Beauty, and Devotion. They provided hospitality to travelers and shared stories about Jesus. For a time, Gladys was the assistant to the Chinese government as foot inspector. She toured the countryside to enforce the law against foot binding in young Chinese girls.
Gladys became a Chinese citizen in 1936 and was revered among the people. She took in orphans, adopting several of them. When the Japanese invaded the region, she led over 100 orphans to safety over the mountains although she was wounded. She cared for them and converted many to Christianity. She never married but devoted her entire life to Christian work with the Chinese people.
In 1948, she returned to Britain, but when she tried to enter China ten years later she was denied entry by the Communist government. She settled in Taiwan where she founded the Gladys Aylward Orphanage and worked there until her death in 1970.
Gladys wanted to be a missionary overseas and thanks to her determination, she became one. She dedicated her life to loving and caring for the Chinese people and to them she was known as “the Virtuous One”.
“I wasn’t God’s first choice for what I’ve done in China…I don’t know who it was…it must have been a man…a well-educated man. I don’t know what happened. Perhaps he died. Perhaps he wasn’t willing…and God looked down…and saw Gladys Aylward…and God said, ‘Well, she’s willing.’” – Gladys Aylward