"My heart is full of praise that one so insignificant, uneducated, and ordinary in every way could be used to His glory for the blessing of His people in poor persecuted China." (Gladys Aylward)
Gladys Aylward is one of my heroes.
I've been thinking about her this week - probably because I have a friend who makes me think of her. This friend has been coming with me every week, helping me teach a literacy class for the past few months. She doesn't speak the local verbal languages... but she's very fluent with languages that speak directly to hearts. Mamata (the oldest lady and most faithful student in the class) and those who live in her concession call my friend "Everyone's Friend..." The other day I think she told me (my Zarma isn't all that great - but it is improving) that getting to meet my friend has been a gift because Mamata doesn't just call her "Everyone's Friend" like everyone else. Instead, she gets to call her "My Friend." And she does. In fact, I don't think I've ever heard her use my friend's name...
So why does that make me think of Gladys Aylward?
I'd never heard of Gladys until 10-15 years ago, when I stumbled on an old Ingrid Bergman movie titled The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. It was the Hollywood-ized version of Gladys Aylward's amazing adventure, striking off on her own (after being rejected by a mission agency who said she didn't have the education, skills or ability to serve as a foreign missionary) to live life in rural, mountainous China ministering to the poorest of the poor under the most unbelievable circumstances. Even with its inaccuracies and departures from the real story of her life, it recounts the story of a mighty woman of faith who touched the lives of everyone around her. I immediately tracked down a biography to find out the real story!
So much of her story captivates my imagination... I wish I could be a missionary like her. But the part that totally captures my heart is when she is given her Chinese name by those all around her. Her Chinese community called her “Ai-weh-deh,” or Virtuous One.
Just consider some synonyms for that name:
- Honorable One
- Irreproachable One
- Gracious One
- Compelling One
- Persuasive One
- Fruitful One
- Approved One
That was her testimony. That was how she reflected God and His glory to the Chinese people...
I've also thought about the fact that she considered herself so un-extraordinary... and yet those to whom and with whom she ministered felt very differently. Virtue and virtuoso come from the same original root - a virtuoso is one who demonstrates masterly skill and excellence... God's grace grew her into a masterful servant of both the Most High and the "very-est low..."
I think of and am challenged by her story and example~ just as I am every time I see my friend here, a dear lady who reflects enthusiastic, joyful friendliness and a genuine love for people. That has been clearly evidenced by the name the people in Mamata's concession have given her.
It also leads me to prayerfully ask:
What name am I known by?
What name, some day, do I hope to be known by?
How about you?