Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Gladys Aylward and Amy Carmichael: A Lesson in Provident Self-Acceptance by Chris White

Amy Carmichael
Gladys Aylward
“ For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”   Eph. 2:10
Gladys Aylward and Amy Carmichael are two well-known 20th century missionaries.  Gladys served as a missionary to children in China while Amy Carmichael ran a ministry to morally endangered children in India.  In addition to having similar ministries, both of these ladies were actually famous in their lifetimes.  Amy Carmichael was known as a prolific author of devotional books that have inspired several generations of Christians.  Jim and Elisabeth Elliot and Francis and Edith Schaeffer also well-known authors and missionaries both claim that Amy Carmichael’s writings were instrumental in leading them into ministry.  Gladys Aylward was not an author but a book was written about her which was later turned into a Hollywood movie entitled “The Inn of Sixth Happiness” which also made her famous.  But there was another point of commonality that Amy and Gladys shared: both of them truly disliked their personal appearance.  When Amy was a little girl her mother taught her that she could ask anything of God in prayer.  She disliked her dark brown eyes and decided to ask God to give her blue eyes which she thought were beautiful.  When she woke up the next morning she was deeply disappointed to find her eyes were the same color.  Her mother used this as a teachable moment and pointed out that God hears our prayers always, but sometimes his answer is no and that too is a good thing.  Gladys never asked God to change her appearance, but she always felt her short stature and straight black hair were ugly and unbecoming.  But both of these women would later realize that they looked the way they did for a reason.  Several years into her ministry Amy Carmichael began rescuing children from Hindu temples who were being used as prostitutes.  To blend in with the crowd she would wear an Indian sari, and would use coffee grounds to give her white skin a brownish hue.  On one of her trips she realized that had she had blue eyes, she could have never passed herself off as an Indian.  In that day, she was quite thankful that God had not answered those prayers of her childhood.  Gladys Aylward came to the realization after arriving in China that when she put on Chinese clothing, she blended right in with the people she came to evangelize.  She too realized in that moment that she looked the way she looked because of her calling to China.  Our outward appearance truly is a small thing in the eyes of the Lord, and is usually in the realm of what most of us would think of as superficial, but there is still a spiritual point to this story: you are who you are (personality, temperament, intellect, physicality) for a reason.  And that one thing you may not like about yourself is exactly the thing God will use for His great purposes.

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