Perhaps Gladys first discovered this
when she was told she had to leave missions
school because she was an unfit candidate
who could never hope to learn the chal-
lenging Chinese language. She left, but she
saved every cent she earned, and gradually
saved enough to go to China on her own.
She had planned to join Jeannie Lawson, a missionary who had been serving
in China for some time. After a more than
hazardous journey to reach her, Gladys discovered that instead of preaching the Gospel, she’d be helping Jeannie run an inn for
the mule drivers who traveled through the
village. While doing so, she learned to share
the Gospel through stories and adopted the
Chinese language as her own.
After Jeannie’s death, Gladys found
herself with another unexpected job—
that of foot inspector! Foot binding had
only recently been outlawed in China,
and Gladys was needed to help educate
the women. Gladys took on this task
and continued to share the Gospel story
wherever she went.
These, however, were only a few of the
many unexpected turns Gladys would encounter. She was once called on to settle a
riot at a men’s prison—a foreign woman
barely five feet tall! Through her life and
work in the villages, she led an influential
Chinese politician to faith in Christ. During
the years leading up to World War II, during
the war between China and Japan, Gladys
even became a spy for the Chinese army.
One of the ways that God most sur-
prised this “small woman with a great God”
as some would later call her, is the way
He provided her with a family. Like most
young women at the time, Gladys expected
to marry and have a family to care for, only
the right man never came along. Orphaned
and abandoned children, however, did
come along—and they kept coming.
The first child to become part of Gladys’ family was a little girl Gladys called
Ninepence, because that is the price she
paid to rescue her. Later, Ninepence rescued a needy boy and offered to eat less so
he could eat more, and so “Less” came to
live with Gladys as well.
These two were only the beginning. Over
the years, close to 100 children came into
Gladys’ care. They were abandoned by their
families or orphaned, many due to the war
that raged around them.
When the war came too close to Gladys
and the children, she made a very difficult choice. She would lead the children to
safety—nearly 100 miles away. They would
make the journey with no pack animals and
no other adults. Gladys alone would be the
one responsible for keeping them together
and keeping them safe, with the teens in
her charge the only others able to help. She
knew such a journey could only be made
with God at the lead, and just as she had
by Bonnie Rose Hudson
Gladys Aylward: Watching God
Provide in Unexpected Ways
Over the years, close to 100 children came into Gladys’ care.