best thoughts, daughter of God, love story, woman story

A woman’s worth: she asked the price and gave all she had

I wasn’t God’s first choice for what I’ve done for 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

Gladys Aylward portrait


The half-starved Chinese prisoners in Yangcheng were rioting. In the center was a man with a large bloody kitchen meat cleaver. All were shouting. Several men had already collapsed on the ground, mortally wounded. The warden called to A-Weh-Deh, “Go in and stop them!” The woman known to foreigners by her English name, Gladys Aylward, stood trembling at the entrance. “Why me?” she gasped. The warden challenged, “You tell us your God is all powerful. Is He or is He not?”

“He is,” she declared, seeking to bolster her courage, as she stepped into the sandy courtyard. “But only through the help of Jesus will I prevail, for the Gospel of God in our Bible states, ‘I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.’”

One pair of eyes after another eyed the “Foreign Devil.” Hardly imposing, a whisper thin woman about thirty years of age, standing 4’10” tall, Gladys spoke to the man with the cleaver with unexpected authority, “Give me the cleaver,” she commanded. Astonishingly, he did. Then to the prisoners, “Now form yourselves into ranks and tell me what this is all about.”…

One day she saw a poor woman sitting by a wall with a small, very dirty child. “Is that your child?” Gladys asked her. “It looks very sick.” “What is that to you?” the woman replied with hostility. “Do you want to buy her or not?” Shocked at the idea of selling a human being, Gladys asked the price. All she had was nine pence. The woman agreed, probably sure that the infant would die anyhow. Though Gladys gave her the official name of Mei-en (“Beautiful Grace”) she always called her Ninepence. This was the first child she adopted. Soon she had more, many more, especially as the country erupted into war…alywardz


Gladys Aylward stands out as an example of how God can use someone of meager means and abilities when they give themselves over to the leading of the Holy Spirit…

Born into a working class family in Edmonton, London on February 24, 1902. Daughter of a mailman and oldest of two sisters and 1 brother. Unlike many famous Christians in history, she didn’t excel scholastically or set her self apart based on her exhaustive knowledge of the Bible and the classic languages, rather her early life was marked with a propensity for play acting and a willingness to serve…

She became a parlor maid at the age of only 14. Her call to missions came about when she attended a revival at when she was 18 in which the preacher expounded on giving ones life over to the service of the Lord…

She continued her work as a parlor maid with little chance to realize her calling. In her mid-twenties, she applied and was given a probationary position with the China Inland Mission Center in London but this endeavor didn’t bear fruit. At the age of 26 her probation ended in failure. She had fallen short of their expectations and was rejected for service as a missionary to China…

Determined to follow God by whatever means available, she continued to work and to save her money and after four years, at the age of 30, her opportunity came in the person of an aging missionary, Mrs. Jeannie Lawson,1 who was looking for a young assistant to carry on her work. Gladys was accepted but Mrs. Lawson didn’t have the means to assist her with the passage to China. Adding to the difficulties, save as she might, Gladys lacked the funds to travel by ship, the preferred method of travel to distant lands. So she put her affairs in order and with only her passport, her Bible, her tickets, and two pounds ninepence, set off for a perilous, overland journey to the inland city of Yangchen, in the mountainous province of Shansi, a little south of Peking. An area where few Europeans visited and the people didn’t trust foreigners…

Mrs. Lawson’s missionary strategy was to establish The Inn of the Eight Happinesses. Yangchen was an overnight stop for mule caravans that carried coal, raw cotton, pots and iron goods on six-week or three-month journeys. Lawson and Gladys provided forage for the mules, a nourishing supper, and then would entertain the men with Bible stories as a Christian witness.

As time when on, Gladys became fluent in Chinese and learned to work with Lawson who was in increasing stages of dementia. She died, a short time after Gladys’ arrival, thus leaving her to manage the inn only with the help of an older Chinese helper. One day she was visited by the local Mandarin (magistrate), a man held in the highest honor and even fear by the local citizens. He asked that she assist him by becoming his “foot inspector,” making sure that the new laws against the ancient custom of female foot binding were being complied with. As a result, A-Weh-Deh (“the virtuous one”) became increasingly known and respect by the citizenry not only of Yancheng, but also of the villages in the whole territory.

Wherever she went, she not only examined feet, but also spoke of the Lord Jesus and the salvation He offered to all who believed. “After 2,000 years, the Gospel had finally come to these mountain villages, and it was she, a tiny woman from a modest house on 67 Cheddington Road, delivering it in a sing-songy mountain dialect of Chinese” (Wellman p. 103). Only two years before she had been a parlor maid in an English manor. Over the years, little groups of believers in each of these villages began meeting together to worship the Lord—fruit of her ministry…

During those years China was under attack by Japan and many Chinese soldiers were wounded. So she added their numbers to those for whom she provided succor. Her Inn became a refuge for 20 orphans and as many as 30 to 40 injured soldiers at a time.

The war intensified and her children charges now numbered around 100. She had become a citizen of China in 1936 and her activities in support of the local populace,..she gathered up the children and narrowly escaped the city.GLADYS AYLWARD story

Unable to use roads or transportation, she was forced to lead her children, on foot, over the mountains to the safer province of Sian some 100 miles distant. The trek took twenty seven days in which they had to endure the elements and many hardships. She herself had become ill en route and when they finally arrived safely, she collapsed. The doctors were amazed by the feat as she was suffering from typhus, pneumonia, a relapsing fever, malnutrition, and supreme exhaustion.

She regained some strength but never recovered totally from her illness yet this didn’t stop her from continuing her ministry, now located in Sian. She started a church and once more she was sharing the Gospel in the villages, prisons and among the sick and helpless.

She continued working with refugees, lepers, anyone who needed help. She brought to the hopeless the hope of Christ. An American doctor observing the lepers, noted: “Their bodies are so contorted with disease, they cannot kneel. Their hands are so crippled, they can barely receive the elements. Yet their eyes flame with joy and hope. All because Gladys Aylward brought them Christ” (Wellman p. 190).

Once on a long trip she found a Buddhist monastery hidden in a deep valley amid high mountains. She was surprised to discover that they were expecting her. “Here at long last is the messenger we have waited for,” they said, as they accepted her message of salvation through Christ (Wellman p. 191).

Her ministry continued until 1947  when the new Communist regime told control. Gladys and other missionaries had to leave China and her choice of destination was decided because she had a burden for the spiritual condition of her native England.

She wrote, “England, seemingly so prosperous while other countries passed through terrible suffering… had forgotten what was all important – the realization that God mattered in the life of a nation no less than in that of an individual.”

In 1958, after ten years in England, she left for Taiwan and started another orphanage. She remained here for the rest of her life serving God by serving His children. She died January 3rd, 1970.

Ref: Wellman, Sam. Gladys Aylward. For the Children of China. Ulrichsville, OH: Barbour, 1998.; Swift, Catherine. Gladys Aylward. The Courageous English missionary whose life defied all expectations. Minneapolis: Bethany, 1989.



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