Known as the “Little Woman” to the western world and “Ai-weh-deh” (Virtuous Woman) to the Chinese, Gladys Aylward was a woman of astonishing courage and faith. All of five feet, she made no imposing figure on her own and yet she single-handedly stopped a bloody riot of male Chinese prisoners. She also risked her life to lead hundreds of children over a mountainous trail amid enemy gunfire and starvation.
I love Glady’s story. Her absolute faith in God and her simple trust throughout mounting struggles is inspiring. I was refreshing my memory on her life the other day and came across a fantastic story in her autobiographical book “The Small Woman of the Inn of the Sixth Happiness” by Alyward and Hunter. It is set well into Gladys’ ministry when she is already caring for many orphans and the horrors of the Japanese-Chinese war were a part of daily life. Here is the first tid-bit:
My mule inn was a complete shambles, but I continued to use the courtyard as a sort of first-aid station. I had sent most of my children to various Christians homes in the surrounding villages, but I was needed in Yangcheng. Just around the corner from my inn, a family had been completely wiped out; so I used their desolate house as my temporary home.
Often as many as forty wounded men – sometimes Japanese, sometimes Chinese – would be carried into my courtyard during the day. There were no organized field hospitals, and the suffering was terrible. I did what I could for the less severely wounded – put on bandages, gave them food and drink, and let them rest until they were taken off to their various camps. I still had Mr. Lu, the evangelist, with me, and at times there were other Chinese Christians who gave what help they could, but it was shockingly inadequate.
Two days after the Japanese retreated for the second time, a crowd of Chinese women trooped into my battered courtyard. They were bewildered, weary of war and unhappy, and I seized the opportunity of telling them that the great God I served cared for them and could give them peace of heart even in these awful circumstances.
I stood in the middle of the courtyard and held up a large Bible Picture. I looked around on them all, my heart full of pity for them because they did not know God’s love.
“We are all sinners,” I said, pointing unthinkingly at a crowd in the doorway. “God says all have sinned, and the wages of sin is death. But because God did not want us to perish, He sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for your sins and mine. If you will believe in Him and accept Him as your Saviour, you will have great peace and happiness in your heart. And even if the enemy comes again and kills your body, your spirit will go to heaven where Jesus is.”
Gradually the women drifted away to whatever was left of their homes and I went inside to try to make up some sort of meal. There was only one small boy, Timothy, and Lu Yung Cheng, a Chinese evangelist, with me, but finding food for three was a problem.
About half an hour later, Lu Yung Cheng rushed in. “Have you had visitors?” he panted.
“Only the Chinese women who have been unable to come during the occupation.”
“No one else?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Because the general is coming here for you.”
Almost before he had finished speaking, some soldiers marched in and spoke to Lu Yung Cheng.
“I have to go with these soldiers,” he said, looking strangely pale.
“But why do you take him?” I asked the men.
“He is wanted at headquarters.”
I could do nothing, and sadly I watch my only companions marched off. I was left alone, wondering what would be the next move. I was not left long in doubt. A few moments later more soldiers marched in. I tried to greet them in a friendly fashion. After all, they were our soldiers, not the Japanese. I went into the kitchen to make tea, but when I came out, I realized that this was certainly not a friendly visit, for the six soldiers stood stiffly on guard all around the courtyard.
“Sit down and have some tea,” I encouraged the one nearest to me, though I felt anything but comfortable.
“Soldiers on duty do not sit down,” he replied curtly.
There was nothing I could do but wait and pray that Timothy and Lu Cheng would return soon, and that these men would leave.
Two hours later there was a commotion in the courtyard. I went outside and realized that the general himself had actually deigned to pay me a visit. I bowed to him, and asked him to enter my poor home.
He glared at me fiercely. “Do you know, woman, that you are under arrest?”
He still glared, but made no answer. I turned and went back into the kitchen, my legs feeling very shaky. He followed me in.
“Woman, what do you know about me?”
“Nothing, except that from your uniform I conclude that you are the general who has retaken our city, and, of course, I have heard your name.”
“Who told you about me?”
“Nobody. I only know what everyone else in the city knows.”
“Oh, yes, someone did! Tell me who it was and I will take my soldier away.”
Again, and again, I declared that I knew nothing of his private life. But he continued to rave and curse and, at length, after much shouting, he left. But the soldiers were still on guard.
A little later I asked them politely if I could send out for some food. They refused, so I ate the small bowl of porridge which was all I had in the house. Still there was no sign of Timothy or Lu Yung Cheng, so I lay down, fully dressed, to get what sleep I could…”
Don’t worry, this is only Part One!! Be sure to read the rest of it later – and in my opinion, it only gets better!