Gladys Aylward rightly has been called the most noted single woman missionary
of the 20th century. Her story has been told in a popular biography, a film
starring Ingrid Bergman, and a BBC ‘This Is Your Life’ feature.

If you’d met Gladys in her younger days, however, you would have wondered what
all the fuss was about. Born into a working-class family, Gladys did poorly in
school and began working as a maid at the age of 14. She would have remained a
maid for life if God had not intervened.

A pastor’s wife with a passion for the lost — whether they be rich or poor —
won Gladys to the Lord. After her conversion in her mid-twenties, Gladys began
dreaming of telling the lost about her Savior. And not just in the corner of
London where she worked. She felt distinctly called by God to go to China as a

The mission board to which she applied couldn’t have been less enthusiastic.
That didn’t hinder Gladys. She set out by train across Europe and Asia. That
she made it to China is a miracle. On one occasion, Gladys found herself in a
deserted train, stranded in Siberia — less than a mile from where Russian and
Chinese soldiers were at war.

Once in China, God allowed Gladys to undergo some harrowing experiences, but
used her to win many Chinese to Himself. She demonstrated courage and physical
endurance where many a man would have wilted. The secret wasn’t her background,
education, or missionary training. By all those standards, she didn’t measure
up. But because her life was centered on God alone, He was pleased to
demonstrate His power through her.

God wants to show His power in and through each of us, whatever our
circumstances and calling in life.

Illustration taken from:
Palau’s book, How to Renew Your Spiritual
, Discovery House, 1995.

View more sermon illustrations for inspiration for your next message.

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About The Author

Luis Palau and his ministry have shared the Gospel with more than 1 billion people through evangelistic events and media. He has spoken in person to 30 million people in 75 countries, with more than 1 million registered decisions for Jesus Christ. Luis Palau festivals have produced some of the largest audiences ever recorded in cities from south Florida to South America. His radio broadcasts in both English and Spanish are heard by millions on 3,500 radio outlets in 48 countries. Among other top-tier programs, Luis currently hosts Luis Palau Responde, an international Q&A program in Spanish, and Reaching Your World, a devotional-style program emphasizing biblical wisdom. He has authored close to 50 books, contributed articles on issues of faith to countless publications, and counseled business leaders, political leaders, and heads of state around the world.

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