Gladys Aylward: "Virtuous One" | CBE International

You are here

Gladys Aylward: "Virtuous One"

On January 07, 2009

“…‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12: 9-10, TNIV).

Have you ever noticed that God seems to delight in confronting the prejudices of the church? Have you also noted how failures and disappointments, even raw prejudice, can be used by God to prepare us for extraordinary leadership? Don’t you love the way God recycles pain, even rejection by others, to make us better servants of the cross of Christ?!

Consider the life of Gladys Aylward (1904-1970) who, after coming to faith in Christ, felt a burning desire to serve Jesus in China. Being an older woman of small stature and little education made her an unlikely candidate for missionary service, and may have been the primary reasons the China Inland Missions rejected her as a candidate. But the more doors that closed in her face, the harder she worked and the more determined she was to travel to China. Perhaps some may have viewed her as unbalanced and foolish, but Gladys recognized the call of Jesus. She knew that though she suffered rejection from human gatekeepers, ultimately God was able to open any locked door.

With God's help alone, Gladys made her way to China, overcoming gender and class prejudice, to become one of the most celebrated missionaries of her era. God’s call and gifting, though unrecognized by her own people, was celebrated and welcomed by her adopted land who gave her the name of  (Ai-weh-deh) which means “Virtuous One.” And her virtues were many. She fearlessly traveled the countryside to oppose the practice of foot-binding; she quieted a prison riot and instituted significant prison reform; she led more than 100 Chinese children over the mountains out of harm from Japanese soldiers. She also founded a church and worked among lepers near Tibet. Her virtuous character led many to Christ, including the local magistrate. The hardships she encountered as a younger woman prepared her for the challenges of leadership she would face in a distant land. Through human frailty, Gladys- (Ai-weh-deh) discovered the power of God.

Friends, we work to remove the barriers that discourage women from using their God-given gifts in the church, home, and society by proclaiming a biblical understanding of gender and giftedness. We also recognize that God is unconquerable! God will accomplish his purposes, despite human frailty, prejudice, and sin. If you are convinced you have a call from God that brings meaning and purpose to your life, even while many tell you this cannot be the case, remember the life of  (Ai-weh-deh), our virtuous sister in Christ. Facing prejudice and rejection, she viewed them as opportunities to prove God omnipotent. For when we are weak, then we are strong in Jesus!

Join the Cause

Barring women from using their God-given talents is an injustice that diminishes the gospel and its impact in the world. CBE International works to inspire and mobilize Christians with the Bible’s call for women and men to co-lead and co-serve as equals.

Learn More