As I read this week’s chapters of Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman, what I wanted was a map of her journey over the mountains with the children, and over other mountains to the lamasery.
I don’t know much about Chinese geography, and I wanted a good picture in my mind. How far was it? Do the villages still exist today? Have the names changed? Searching the maps app on my phone for the places she named was inconclusive. But googling “Gladys Aylward map” was more successful! So, before we get into this week’s reading, a bit of show and tell.
Alan Burgess included this map in his book The Small Woman. I found it on this page, which includes lots of other pictures of Gladys. Here I learned that there is actually a movie made during Gladys’s lifetime, which she hated because of the liberties they took in changing reality. (For that reason I decided against trying to find it and watch it.)
If I’m reading the map and the book correctly, Gladys started in Yangcheng, in the lower middle of the map. When she and the 100 children ran from the war, they went south and crossed the Yellow River (Hwang ho). Then the train they took part of the way ran alongside the river, heading west. Their destination was Sian. Is that right? If you know more about this geography than me, please chime in!
Another find was this page, which takes us to present-day Yangcheng and the next page on the same site which takes us to The Inn of Eight Happinesses. The name didn’t mean anything to me at first because I don’t think Gladys ever mentioned the name of the inn in her narrative. But apparently, this is what the inn was called where she worked with Mrs Lawson and later took care of all of those children and wounded soldiers. And today it is called “the old Jesus hall courtyard.” I haven’t read all of the text on either sites, but I loved scrolling through the pictures and getting some real images to go with what I’d imagined while reading.
One more show and tell which gave me so much joy was a letter that Gladys sent to her parents. I mentioned in the comments last week that I was wondering about her communication with her family. Now I know: they were able to send letters. I love the part about Ninepence as well as the confident assurance Gladys had that she was exactly where she ought to be. Here’s the image of the letter, and I’ll transcribe it below.
Ai. Ai.’ Ninepence says, ‘not call her that, she nice old lady,’ so now you know what I am in the eyes of a child of 8.
Life is pitiful, death so familiar, suffering & pain so common, yet I would not be anywhere else.
Do not wish me out of this or in any way seek to get me out, for I will not be got out while this trial is on. These are my people, God have given them to me, & I will live or die with them for Him and His glory.
We read chapters 10-13 this week. It begins with Gladys deciding whether to stay in Yangcheng or run from the Japanese forces who were getting nearer and nearer. God clearly prompted her to leave.
One of the most amazing parts happened on the banks of the Yellow River. The Japanese troops were heading that way. The town was deserted. There were no boats to cross the river because the Chinese wanted to keep the Japanese troops from crossing.
And so Gladys and 100 children were stuck there, with no way forward. The faith of a child was all that was needed for them to cross. Sualan reminded Gladys of God parting the Red Sea for the children of Israel. Gladys reacted exactly the way I would have: “But I am not Moses.” Sualan responded, “Of course you are not, but Jehovah is still God!”
When we read Moses’ story in Exodus, we see that he reacted the same way. He had so many excuses for why he wasn’t enough to do what God was sending him to do. Sualan was right, though. It is not on us to be great enough. We serve a great God, and he is still the same one who parted the Red Sea.
After praying, a man showed up who signaled for a boat to come get them – what?! So incredible! His conversation with Gladys included one of my favorite lines in the book. He told her, “You have chosen a strange occupation.”
Join me in the comments! What are your thoughts from these chapters? What amazed you? What did you relate to?
This week, we’ll finish the book.
Join us in March as we go through the book Shalom Sistas: Living Wholeheartedly in a Brokenhearted World by Osheta Moore! Here’s a summary of the book from Amazon:
Shalom, the Hebrew word often translated as “peace,” was a far cry from blogger and podcaster Osheta Moore’s crazy life. Like a lot of women, she loved God’s dream for a world that is whole, vibrant, and flourishing. But honestly: who’s got the time? So one night she whispered a dangerous prayer: God, show me the things that make for peace. In Shalom Sistas, Moore shares what she learned when she challenged herself to study peace in the Bible for forty days.
Here’s the schedule for the book:
March 2: Part 1 (Chapters 1-3)
March 9: Part 2 (Chapters 4-6)
March 16: Part 3 (Chapters 7-9)
March 23: Part 4 (Chapters 10-12)
March 30: Part 5 (Chapters 13-15)