Why Don’t You Go Yourself? {Book Club}

Why Don't You Go Yourself? {Book Club}

“[Abraham] went out, without knowing where he was going.” Hebrews 11:8

I used to have a sign beside our front door which said, “Don’t ask God to guide your footsteps if you aren’t willing to move your feet.” It reminded me that God will show us where to go, but we must be in motion. Someone who is standing still cannot be led.

Abraham didn’t know where he was going until he got there, and God said, “This is the place I’m going to give you.”

When the Israelites prepared to leave Egypt they knew they were going to the Promised Land, but they didn’t know how. Many miracles resulted in the Egyptians giving them everything they wanted, and the Israelites found themselves standing beside the Red Sea, with the Egyptian army closing in on them. And God parted the sea! Amazing! He led them in a visible way with the tower of cloud by day and the tower of fire by night.

I love these kind of beginnings. Many Christian biographies and memoirs start similarly. God places a longing in someone’s heart for a particular place or work. He then works miracles to get that person into exactly the right place to begin the work. They meet just the right person, in a city of millions. Money is raised, slowly and faithfully over time, then suddenly all at once it is enough. Roadblocks and red tape vanish without human effort. What miracles did God work in the beginnings of your overseas story?

I believe these miracles are also to remind us of God’s character when those roadblocks and red tape or other challenges come up later and inexplicably thwart us. God constantly instructed the Israelites to remember what he had done for them, how he led them out of Egypt. Our faith is also strengthened by remembering what God has done for us.

In the first 4 chapters of Gladys Aylward’s book, The Little Woman, she tells about how she made the decision to move to China, how God provided for her to go, the overland (and sea) trip there, and her first year in China. It is not a lot of pages to read, but emotionally, it felt like a lot!

Gladys believed, “If I wanted to go to China, God would take me there; but I would have to be willing to move and to give up what little comfort and security I had.” She worked to earn money to pay her fare to China, but also God provided more and she saved up enough money more quickly than she expected.

Trouble started early – on the train journey through Russia. I knew she would get through it. She had to! Because I know she made it to China! I could see myself in that situation, frozen with indecision and confusion. Would I have had the courage to keep going? Or would I have given up and become a machinist in Russia? As she traveled Gladys asked, “Why should I worry about my journey when God is helping me all the time?”

Finally, she arrived in China, at the house of the woman she had connected with via letters, Mrs. Lawson. They began running an inn together, and Gladys wrote, “This was not at all the sort of life I had pictured for myself when I had been in England, but it was a splendid ‘battle course’ for what was to follow.”

That is so relatable! Many times, in different places and jobs, I knew God led me there, and I had some preconceived ideas about what it would be like. Then, it’s nothing like that at all. The work I thought I would be doing does not happen, is not even possible in some cases. The friends, coworkers, or family members I assumed I would be able to lean on aren’t there. Every plan gets changed. “Not at all the sort of life I had pictured.” The last part of that sentence is a bit ominous, though.

The best advice Gladys got before leaving for China was from Dr. and Mrs. Fisher, who told her, “’God never lets you down. He sends you, guides you and provides for you. Maybe He doesn’t answer your prayers as you want them answered, but he does answer them. Remember, no is as much an answer as yes.’”

Now, over to you. What did you relate to in these chapters? What good advice did you receive before arriving on the field?

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

February 9: Ch 5-9

February 16: Ch 10-13

February 23: Ch 14-18

Photo by June Liu on Unsplash

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  1. Megan Smith February 1, 2021

    Oh my goodness, I loved the beginning of this book! I first of all felt so grateful for air travel, if I had been in Gladys’s position, I might never have made it there. I think there are so many times in our lives that God puts just the right person at just the right place though. It reminds in of the random encouraging encounters that I have had in airports where a cup of coffee and good conversation can make all the difference in the world.

    I think the best advice I received before starting out was that it was go to go and not have crazy, amazing stories. Going is enough and God works through that obedience.

    1. Amanda Hutton February 4, 2021

      Megan, I totally agree about air travel! It is amazing how much easier it has become to cross borders. What a miracle that she made it!

    2. Amanda Hutton February 4, 2021

      What struck me most in the first few chapters of this book was HOW difficult travel was in those days! My decision to move abroad did not involve nearly as much risk or danger. Reading Gladys’ words was a reminder that the more challenging and impossible the task before us, the more we are led to truly depend on God.

      As for the mission field not being what exactly she had expected, I totally agree. There are no words or testimonies that can prepare one for cross-cultural living. In many ways, it has been so much better than I had imagined, now that I have shifted some expectations and learned from experiencing my context. How cool to think that Jesus understands our humanity because he experienced it firsthand-the good and the bad.

      1. Rachel Kahindi February 4, 2021

        Such great points here. Hard things make us depend on God and Jesus understands what we go through. That’s always a comforting thought.

    3. Rachel Kahindi February 4, 2021

      Yes! I’m also so thankful for air travel. I’ve complained about the travel complications of the past year, but still we have it so good.

      1. Phyllis February 8, 2021

        Beyond just the travel part, I’m thankful for communications these days, too!

  2. Grace L February 1, 2021

    I read this book just as I was being called to overseas work. Being in my early 50’s already, I could very much identify with Gladys Aylward. Reading her story helped me have the courage to go forward with God’s call to me as a single woman. I love reading biographies of missionaries and each one has helped to motivate me in the work He has called me to.

    1. Rachel Kahindi February 4, 2021

      I love reading these types of books, too. It’s so inspiring to know about those who’ve gone before.

  3. Spring February 1, 2021

    I am really enjoying this book. It is an encouragement to me, the provision and trust she had. I know that she probably leaves out some difficult parts, like the years of not knowing language and if it was lonely. It has been faith growing to hear / read her humble beginning

    1. Rachel Kahindi February 4, 2021

      There must be so much left out. Other bios/memoirs I’ve read tend to mention letters from and to home, but she hasn’t said anything about that, so I’ve been wondering if that means that it wasn’t the part of the story she wanted to tell or if (what’s coming up in the next chapters) meant that she wasn’t able to receive letters from home.

  4. Sarah Hilkemann February 2, 2021

    I feel like I would have given up before arriving if I was on the same journey as Gladys! It was hard enough for me to hug my family goodbye and then let go and get through security with tears streaming down my face. 🙂
    I love hearing how the Father provides in each of our stories! I am also always struck with the kindness of people- supporters and friends and strangers even along the way. I remember when I was visiting my aunt and uncle’s church and sharing about going to Cambodia, one of the members snuck a bit of cash into my hand. I don’t remember why exactly, but I used that to purchase a French press for my teammate and me. That French press made its way in my suitcase through every step of my journey, and brought a bit of comfort and familiarity in every house/apartment we lived in. It felt like such a kind gesture, and a gift that reminded me of God’s faithfulness every step of the way.
    I read about Gladys Aylward as a kid and have always loved learning about her. I am enjoying reading about her story from her own perspective! 🙂

    1. Rachel Kahindi February 4, 2021

      I always over analyze difficult situations like Gladys’s journey. Like: is this something I should persevere through or is it a sign I shouldn’t keep going? Because giving up sounds more comfortable at this point…

      That’s such a sweet story about the French press. ❤️

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