I've just finished reading a truly inspiring book. Friends from Logos, returned to the USA in July last year, initially for six months furlough, but have been unable to return to their ministry here in Cambodia due to the special needs of their youngest son. I miss them, but am able to keep up to date with their little family through Facebook and her blog. The husband was able to return recently to finalise some things here, and also to see people. It was a time which also enabled him to have some real closure to his time in Cambodia. During that visit I enjoyed spending some time with him, and he left me with the wonderful gift of two new books to read, both missionary biographies (as well as some delicious sweets). It is one of those two books that I've just finished.
The title of the book is: The Woman with the Book: A Friend's Account of Gladys Aylward's Life. It has been translated into English (from German as far as I can tell), and is a compelling read. As I think back over this lady's story, I am encouraged to continue in service of God, and especially to His love with those around me. In these days of cut-price airfares, relatively easy travel, and ease of communication (Skype, e-mail, Facebook, mobile phones, etc), it is hard to imagine leaving home and not returning for 17 years. It is equally hard to imagine the lack of communication that was part of her life. I don't think I can thank God enough that I am a 21st century "missionary" rather than a 19th century or even 20th century one. What a privilege to serve and yet be in touch with what is going on at home, and even in other parts of the world.
The thing which came through most of all in this book, which has truly challenged me in my own life, is Gladys' total dependence on God for not only her own needs, but the needs of the children placed in her care. Each time she had a need, she turned to God. At times she did not understand why God was asking her to do certain things, but she did them anyway, and was later amazed and thrilled at the responses to His Word from the Chinese people. There are times when the story made me feel sad, as I read how she suffered at different times, but it was wonderful to see how God cared for her. There were times when this lady did not take adequate care of herself, and she suffered as a result, but it was usually because she sensed a greater need. There were times when, in the midst of war, God provided what she needed, much to the amazement of those around her. Through it all, God's love was shared.
What will I do with this challenge that God has placed before me? Will I pray more? Will I pray more fervently? Will I seek to forget know His Word more fully, so that I might, as Gladys did, share it easily with those around me? What am I willing to go without so that others might be fed and clothed? Will my dependence on Him grow deeper? Or will I just forget these lessons as I put the book on the bookshelf. We have a wonderful, powerful, awesome God, who has each step of our lives in the palm of His hand. He doesn't promise it will be easy, but He does promise to stick with us! Praise Him.