by Ryan Duncan
It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. - Deuteronomy 13:4
Sometimes I feel like, as a Christian, I’m no good. I have no memory for Bible verses, I don’t have any gifts in leadership or preaching, and I’ve done some pretty stupid, not to mention embarrassing, things while trying to serve Christ in the past. In moments like these, I try to remember Gladys Alyward.
Gladys Alyward was a London-born woman who became a missionary to China in the 1930’s. Another missionary named Mrs. Lawson had invited Alyward to China, where the two women would run an inn and tell Bible stories to the passing travelers. Lawson and Alyward were the only foreigners in the city, at a time when Europeans were looked on with great distrust by the Chinese, and not long after her arrival, Mrs. Lawson suffered a severe fall and died a few days later.
Only a few weeks after Lawson’s death, Alyward was approached by the city’s Mandarin. The government had decided to put an end to the ancient practice of foot-binding, and this meant the government needed a foot-inspector, a woman (someone who could invade the women's quarters without scandal) who would patrol the district and enforce the decree. Though Alyward was now running the inn by herself, she chose to accept the position and used it to minister to countless individuals.
A year after that, Alyward was once again summoned by the Mandarin. A riot had broken out at a local prison, and Alyward was told to calm it. The prison guards had heard of her strange religion and wanted to put it to the test, so Alyward had no choice but to walk into the rampaging prison. To everyone’s surprise, when Alyward called for the rioting prisoners to stop, they did. She told them to select a spokesman for the prisoners whom she could speak with, which again, they did without argument. It turned out the prisoners were confined to close quarters all day, with nothing to do and nothing to eat but food sent to them by family members. Though prison reform was unheard of at the time, Alyward managed to gather equipment the men could use to grind grain, earning them money for food.
As the years passed, the people of the city gave Alyward the name Ai-weh-deh, meaning "Virtuous One." Her inn expanded to become an orphanage where she cared for over 100 children, and when the Japanese threatened to invade in WWII, it was she who led the children over the mountains to safety. Alyward continued to preach the message of Christ all her life until she died in 1970.
Funny thing about Gladys Alyward: when she first applied to be a missionary, she was turned down. The organization she’d applied for considered her "unqualified" to minister in a foreign country.
God loves unqualified Christians. Look at Peter - a day laborer and a coward. Look at Matthew, who was a tax collector and an outcast. Look at Mary, who the scripture say Jesus cast twelve demons from. Don’t underestimate what Christ can do with your life. Give God one willing Christian, and he can change the face of the world.
Intersecting Faith and Life: Do you feel like an unqualified Christian? Don’t feel down; pray to God and seek a place where you can serve him.
The Characters of Christmas is a podcast created to help you take a fresh look at the Christmas story by getting to know the minor characters that played a part in Jesus’ birth. It is the companion to Dan Darling's book "The Characters of Christmas: The Unlikely People Caught Up in the Story of Jesus."