If you like old movies, you might remember one that goes back to 1958. And now I know that’s a long time ago, but I’m thinking of the Ingrid Bergman movie, “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.” You might know that story. Gladys Aylward was a young woman in England who felt a call by God to go as a missionary to China. So she signed up with the China Inland Mission and began her training. But she just didn’t fit their mold, and they had to tell her ‘we’re sorry, but you just won’t make it as a missionary to China with us’. She was very discouraged about this news, but she wasn’t willing to let that deter her from what she thought was the obvious call from God.
She began to work as a maid. She saved any money she had so that she could buy her own passage to China. This was toward the beginning of the 1900s, and turns out that when she finally left England and took a train across Siberia to go to China, it was unfortunately, during the Russian China war, so there were all sorts of difficulties that she had to go through to get into China. But she finally arrived, but life was very hard. In fact, her ministry was running an inn for mule drivers. That’s what she did.
But God blessed her work and even gave her a job from the Chinese government. She became the main foot inspector for her region, going around and checking to make sure the Chinese were no longer binding the legs and the feet of the female Children, the little girls so that their legs would grow freely and straight and normally. And in that job, she was able to go to every single village and share Bible stories and talk about Jesus Christ in the gospel message, and many people came to know Jesus Christ through her.
Now, of course, what she’s probably most famous for was what she did with the Children. A remarkable story, she adopted many Children in China, cared for dozens of orphans, and when the Japanese invaded China in 1938 she became famous for leading 100 Children for weeks over the mountains of China and the Yellow River, in order to take them to safety in the province that had not yet been hit by war, 100 Children were saved. It is an inspiring story.
Listen to God – not people
The point I want to make is that God used her in a mighty and powerful way throughout her time in China to bring many of the Chinese to faith in Christ to save the lives of those 100 Children. But if she’d listened to the folks in the mission agency back home in England, she would never have gone. They said she didn’t fit in. She didn’t fit the mold. The reality is that God knows better, and he’s often about doing new things in the world around us.
Are we open to the new things that God might want from us? Don’t always accept people’s comments. “You can’t do it“. They could be wrong. God has made you unique, even if you feel you don’t fit the mold or some say you’ll never make it. But Gladys Aylward was open to God’s leading – she had that strong conviction of what he wanted her to do, and she responded, Isn’t it amazing?
God is a God of surprises
It was like that for the Children of Israel. When the Prophet Isaiah said to them, The Lord always does what’s right. He blesses those who trust him. Now you will see the Lord and he will guide you. Whether you turn to the right or the left. You will hear a voice saying, This is the road. Now follow this. That’s in Isaiah 30. One of the wonderful things about God is that he’s created each of us to do something special. We’ve got desires and skills, talents to accomplish that work. And so have you found your life’s mission?
For instance, a nurse has an inbuilt attitude of caring. A carpenter has an inbuilt attitude of being creative, so whatever it is, you possess a unique set of abilities and personality. The New Testament in 1 Peter 4:10 says each of you has received a gift to use to serve others. Be good servants of God’s various gifts of grace. And in Proverbs 3 it says – with all your heart, you must trust the Lord and not your own judgement. Always let him lead you and he will clear the road for you to follow.
Heavenly Father, I guess it’s human nature to be wanting to give advice to others. But, Lord, if you’ve got other plans, then they must take the priority. Bless those people, Lord, who follow their dream and especially those who are missionaries serving in difficult countries. We salute and honour them today. Amen.