Thursday, October 28, 2010

Unusual missionary jobs

At some point I was in a biography mood while Kindle-browsing, and decided to download a few missionary volumes. One of these was about Gladys Aylward, missionary to China.*

I'd heard of her before, but only briefly, and I was interested in reading more of her story. It has turned out to be quite a page-turner even though I feel like I'm reading something I might have read in grade school as far as the reading level.

It always amazes me when I read about someone who may have been similar to me but had a totally different calling. Maybe my life would have seemed intimidating to Gladys, but I don't know how I would have survived in her situation. I like this book overall, but I had to take a break after it gave me some violent dreams.

This passage blew me away the first time I was reading it: click for more/-

'So,' continued the mandarin, looking rather proud of himself, 'the government has given me a problem. I need someone to be a foot inspector. A man would not do, because men are not to look at a woman's feet. I need a female foot inspector. But where, I asked myself, would I find a woman who could travel on foot over rough roads and climb mountains to reach the small villages to make sure every girl's feet have been unbound? Only a woman with unbound feet could do that. And I asked myself, in all of China, who is the woman who speaks the Yangcheng dialect and has unbound feet? That woman will be my foot inspector.'

The mandarin stopped for a moment to smile at his logic. Then he proceeded. 'There is only one such woman in the whole district, and it is you, Gladys Aylward!' (see book credit below)

Can you imagine moving to a foreign land to be a missionary, and being commanded to look at people's feet? Obviously many missionaries have medical duties, but what a specific task! It is so bizarre on the one hand, and on the other hand so clearly a witness to God's leading and providence. He brought her there and showed her exactly what to do...

*Gladys Aylward: The Adventure of a Lifetime (Christian Heroes: Then & Now)


  1. I saw your post via Nations Be Glad - and tweeted it. Hopefully you will pick up some new readers!

  2. Seems like a "good work" - but yes, a surprising one!

  3. Hi Liz,

    Gladys Aylard was a Christian in mind and action. I'm eager to know more about her.

    Peter's objection makes the reason for foot washing clear. It is based on expressions of love and humility.

    Russians are particular about washing feet and legs before sleeping, their own and that of their children. Maybe the derivation of this is partly from the Gospel?

    Rob MacDonald at American Russia Observations

  4. Rob,

    I hadn't even thought of that scripture reference! I was thinking more about how we sometimes set out to serve in one way and find ourselves in very surprising situations! But I think that Gladys possessed this type of Biblical humility, in that she didn't see this kind of labor as a burden or something "below" her; she was just glad to be doing something helpful that would further the Gospel.

    No idea about Russians and foot-washing, but I like washing my feet even if I don't have time for a full shower. I guess it's universal!


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