Think of what you were when you were called,” said Paul. “Not many of you were wise … influential … of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things … ” (1 Co 1:26,27, NIV).
It had started on a bus in England. Gladys Aylward, a poorly educated 28-year-old parlormaid, was reading about China and the need for missionaries there; and from that moment, China became her life and passion. She applied to a missionary agency only to be turned down. Crushed with disappointment, she returned to her small servant’s room and turned her pocketbook upside down. Two pennies fell on top of her Bible. “O God,” she prayed, “here’s my Bible! Here’s my money! Here’s me!” Gladys began hoarding every cent to purchase passage to China. She knew she couldn’t afford to travel by ship, so she decided to go overland by train right across Europe and Asia, though it meant slicing through a dangerous war zone on the Manchurian border. On October 15, 1932 a little bewildered party gathered at London’s Liverpool Street Station to see Gladys Aylward off for China. The journey was hair-raising and nearly cost her life. But eventually Gladys reached China, showing up at the home of an older missionary who took her in—but didn’t quite know what to do with her.
And yet—to make a long story short—Gladys Aylward eventually became one of the most amazing single woman missionaries of modern history. Her missions career was so extraordinary that the world finally took notice. Her biography was made into a movie starring Ingrid Bergman. She dined with such dignitaries as Queen Elizabeth and spoke in great churches. She even became a subject of the television program “This Is Your Life.”
But Gladys never grew accustomed to the limelight, for her heart was always in Asia. “I wasn’t God’s first choice for what I’ve done for China,” she once said. “There was somebody else. … I don’t know who it was—God’s first choice. I don’t know what happened. Perhaps he died. Perhaps he wasn’t willing. And God looked down … and saw Gladys Aylward.”
My dear friends, remember what you were when God chose you. The people of this world didn’t think that many of you were wise. Only a few of you were in places of power, and not many of you came from important families. But God chose the foolish things of this world to put the wise to shame. He chose the weak things of this world to put the powerful to shame. (1 Corinthians 1:26,27)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Oct.15.