Title: Gladys Aylward: The Adventure of a Lifetime
Author: Janet & Geoff Benge
Series: Christian Heroes: Then & Now
Major Themes: China, Gladys Aylward, Russia
Synopsis: Gladys Aylward gave her life to spread God’s word in China, having the adventure of a lifetime along the way.
Gladys Aylward: The Adventure of a Lifetime is probably the best-known book in the Christian Heroes: Then & Now series. I believe it was one of, if not the, first of these books to be written. I’ve had many people tell me how much they enjoyed this book—and we sure do! I just finished reading it aloud for the third time, and even the older children, who have heard it so many times, were engrossed and didn’t want to miss a chapter.
Gladys wanted to become a missionary to China, but the China Inland Missionary Society decided that the 27-year-old was too old to learn the difficult Chinese language. She was discouraged, but soon determined that she would save all she could and pay her own way to the distant country. Her journey overland, through Europe and all the way across Russia, was quite the adventure; the “little war” between Russia and China, which she had brushed off as unimportant, became quite a problem for her. Oh, and by the way, if you read the book, pronounce the town name of Chita as Chee-TAH. I was glad to be able to ask a Russian-speaking friend, who was living with us when we started reading the book, how to pronounce it. Also, Vladivostok is pronounced Vlad-ih-vo-stoke, with long “o” sounds. (I like to pronounce the words correctly, especially when I’m reading aloud.)
After several incredibly hard weeks of travel, Gladys reached China, only to find that the woman she had come to help had moved, and more than one time. Finally, she reached Mrs. Lawson, in a remote village in the mountains. They were able to work together for several years, and Gladys learned the language. Soon after Mrs. Lawson’s death, God provided a job for Gladys, meaning she had an income that would keep her inn, her main missionary work, going. The job? A foot inspector! Then there was the day the Mandarin called her in to quell a riot in the prison. And the day she bought a little girl. Life held one adventure after another for the little woman the Chinese called “The Virtuous One.”
Of course, the best-known tale from Gladys Aylward’s life was her trek over the mountains with a hundred children. Our children were especially interested in it this time because they recently watched a movie about her life. They found it fascinating to notice differences between the two accounts. We loved the touches of humor here and there, especially the time she dragged a mule train into the courtyard! We also enjoyed the last chapter, about Gladys’ life after the war, although twenty years of her life are condensed into one chapter, while the rest of the book covers about nine years! We highly recommend this book for any family.
WARNING: In chapter 5, a Russian official came to Gladys’ room at night, up to no good. Then, she met a woman whose rings had been viciously ripped off her fingers. In chapter 7, a public execution is described. Chapter 10 describes a violent prison riot. Chapter 16 describes a mass public execution after the Communists took over China.
Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12, 10 – 13, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults