A Step of Faith
China is in the forefront of the news today. There is no portion of the world that has not been negatively impacted by the tentacles of the Covid virus that has its origins in Wuhan, China. Leaders of China have been uncooperative in helping to get the pandemic under control. Their focus in this season seems to be on persecuting Christians and stopping the amazing growth of their community. Believers in Jesus are being thrown into prison while their churches are being destroyed. The latest scheme from the Chinese government is to offer money to anyone who will lead them to an underground home fellowship. The Chinese people are aware that when they take a step of faith and confess Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they may face great difficulties. However, they gladly commit their lives to love and serve Jesus. Missionaries from the west, who came to China in the early 1800s, demonstrated the love of Jesus and the persistence needed to sustain their faith. Chinese Christians are dedicated to their faith, at all costs.
Among the individuals who were called to share the good news of Jesus in China were two British women willing to take a step of faith into the unknown. Knowing that God had called them to the far east, they traveled to China without knowing their final destinations. Since no missionary society would back Gladys Aylward as a missionary, she worked as a parlor maid to raise money to take the Trans-Siberian Railway to China in 1930. At the age 26, Gladys planned to join another self-supporting Scottish missionary named Jeannie Lawson in Yangcheng in central China. Her trip was not for the faint of heart. After the train reached the end of the line, she continued her travels by sailing, taking a bus ride, and finally riding on a mule. She came to the broken-down inn that Jeannie had purchased. The two women fixed it up as a place to accommodate mule drivers who came through the City. They provided the men with meals, a clean place to sleep and stories of Jesus. Gladys was famous for taking in orphan children, some of whom she adopted. After Jeannie's death, the Mandarin leader of Shansi Province appointed her to be a foot inspector in surrounding villages. As Gladys enforced the prohibition against the ancient custom of binding infant girl's feet, she shared the stories of Jesus. In the spring of 1938, the Japanese attacked China. Gladys led 100 children to an orphanage in Sian where they would be safe. She and the children walked for 100 miles over mountains to Sian. During the trip they saw the miraculous provision of God as He fed them when they ran out of food and provided a boat to cross over the Yellow River.
At the age of five, Jackie Pullinger made a commitment to become a missionary. In her teenage years, she learned to play the piano and did so for her youth group meetings. Jackie wanted to be faithful in the call of God on her life but did not know where it was that God was calling her. At one of the meetings she heard from God: "Go. Trust me, and I will lead you. I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go; I will guide you with my eye." (Psalm 32:8) Willing to go but frustrated that she still did not know where to go, Jackie confided in Parish Minister Richard Thompson. He advised her to trust God and gave this recommendation: "If I were you, I would go out and buy a ticket for a boat going on the longest journey you can find and pray to know where to get off." This is exactly what she did. Jackie found peace when the ship reached Hong Kong and began her ministry at age 22.
The people of the Walled City, whose name in Chinese--Hak Nam--means darkness, would become her life-long mission. The narrow walkways of this City, covered with slim, excrement, rotten food, and rubbish, would become the paths that Jackie walked regularly as she ministered to the drug dealers and addicts, prostitutes, and pornography peddlers. During her time of ministry, she founded the St. Stephen's Society where she could help those in need. She became a trusted, well-respected friend of the people in the region and was known by the heroin addicts as one who would help them withdraw from addiction without pain. Jackie would lead them to Christ; then they would receive a prayer language. Complete freedom from addiction came as they spoke in tongues for a prolonged period.
Both Gladys and Jackie had challenges that kept them totally connected to God. His intervention on their behalf led them to trust in Him unconditionally, and they looked to Him for every step of faith. They were like Father Abraham. "By faith, Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going." (Hebrews 11:8) These women inspire me to trust God for help in today's difficulties and in life in the future. Are we willing to take a step of faith? He may not be calling us to go to a foreign land, but He is calling us to live a life of trust and obedience to Him.
Joan E. Mathias