The Storyteller {Book Club}

The Storyteller {Book Club}

Many of our local restaurants have one or two “Western” food items on their menus. I always advise visitors to order local food, especially the seafood or anything cooked in coconut milk because those are always the best.

But living here, when I see “beef burger” on the menu I think, “I wonder what this one is like.” I’ve sampled most of them, not every time we go out to eat, but once in a while. Some of them are quite good. Others…I stick to the local side of their menus in the future.

Anyway, one day I decided to test out another burger. The waiter came to take our order, and I said, “I’d like a hamburger.” He said, “Actually, we don’t have ham. But we have the beef burger.” And smiling broadly, I said, “Thank you. That’s actually what I wanted.” (I absolutely didn’t laugh at the time, though we had a giggle about it afterwards. It was my mistake – the restaurants never, ever use the word hamburger. It’s always beef burger, chicken burger, cheeseburger. Never ham.)

In this section of Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman, the Mandarin gave Gladys a job to do that turned out to be exactly what she wanted. As the only woman in the region who did not have bound feet, she was appointed to be the inspector of feet to make sure that the practice of foot binding was stopped. And when she warned the Mandarin that she would have to tell people about God as she went around to the villages, he didn’t have a problem with that. It’s much more serious and miraculous than my funny restaurant story, but I can picture her grinning, like me, and saying, “Thank you. That’s actually what I wanted.”

This is beyond amazing. What’s more, the people in the villages began fondly calling her “The Storyteller,” when I expected that their primary reaction would be to resent her big feet and her efforts (plus the efforts of the government) to change their cultural practices. The welcoming of Bible stories was also the work of God. Gladys herself describes it thus:

“As I look back, I am amazed at the way God opened up the opportunities for service. I had longed to go to China, but never in my wildest dreams had I imagined that God would overrule in such a way that I would be given entrance into every village home; have authority to banish a cruel, horrible custom; have government protection; and be paid to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ as I inspected feet!”

There were two other events in these chapters that stood out as especially profound to me.

The first was Mrs. Ching. Gladys wrote, “How much she longed for this Jesus to help her and to save her from the terrible beating her master would give her…” My thoughts when I read that line were that so many people long for help getting out of terrible situations. But you can’t guarantee them that God will work a miracle. Can you?

Then, Gladys brought Mrs. Ching to live with her. What a clear picture of James 2:15-16! Paraphrased: “If a [woman is enslaved and abused] and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled, [trust Jesus],’ without giving [her a way out], what good is that?” I was so happy when Mrs. Ching had a safe place to live and that Gladys worked to gain her freedom from slavery.

The second event that struck me was during the war. Gladys mentioned that Japanese soldiers were worshipping with Chinese Christians, almost just in passing, before later describing how she reported on the movement of the Japanese soldiers. I wanted to read more about those times of worship. I lingered over that picture in my mind: the Japanese soldiers who were already Christians, singing hymns in their own language while worshipping with Chinese Christians, with whom they were at war. Obviously the soldiers still had to do their jobs as soldiers. A few Christians worshipping with the other side doesn’t end a war. But that unity in the church…it’s something, and it seems to be a rare something. It’s a human tendency to see the differences between us rather than focusing on the Jesus we have in common.

I can’t stop thinking about multicultural worship in the middle of a war. What is on your mind after reading these chapters? What stands out to you? Do you have a story of something unexpected being exactly what you wanted?

Here’s the schedule for the rest of the book:

February 16: Ch 10-13

February 23: Ch 14-18

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.

Photo by Chastagner Thierry on Unsplash


  1. Sarah Hilkemann February 9, 2021

    I loved this quote from the section on the worship gathering: “How great was our joy that, at last, the years of faithful sowing were resulting in this abundant harvest”. We don’t always get to see “results”, especially in our era of shorter terms and assignments. I am always inspired by the stories of workers who share about the faithful sowing, like Gladys’ conversations with government officials, the ways she kept going in the midst of incredible challenges, how fully she immersed herself in the culture in order to love and serve those around her.

    1. Rachel Kahindi February 14, 2021

      Results sometimes take so long… And sometimes others see the harvest or we witness the harvest of work begun long before we arrived on the scene. It’s so interesting to have the perspective of someone who was in the work for the long haul. I was also amazed by her full immersion, even changing her citizenship!

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