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Scripture Memory: Abounding Comfort.

VERSE : 2 Corinthians 1:5 “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.”.

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O Worship the LORD in the Beauty of Holiness 

13 December 2015

8am & 11am: Worship Service

Rev Colin Wong (Finding Strength in Weakness, 2 Cor 12:1-10)

6:00 pm Evening Service

Rev Charles Seet (Favour is Deceitful, Beauty is Vain, Prov 31:30)

20 December 2015

9.30am Combined English Christmas Service

Rev Lee Hock Chin (The Hope & Joy of the World, Matt 1:21)

6:00 pm Evening Service

Rev Quek Keng Khwang (Emmanuel: God With Us, Matt :23)

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THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN MISSIONS (Part 16)

(Extracted from Jerusalem to Irian Jaya – A Biographical History of Christian Missions, by Ruth A. Tucker)

Gladys Aylward

If sex discrimination had been a factor in the past for women who had been denied missionary appointments, it was certainly not the case with Gladys Aylward. She applied to the China Inland Mission (CIM) in 1930 (a mission with a long-standing reputation for its eager acceptance of women) only to be turned down after a probationary term at the mission’s training center. She simply was no missionary material.

At 28, her age was not in her favour, but the main reason for rejecting her was her poor academic showing – which may have been caused by a profound learning disability. Although Gladys was bright conversationally, book learning seemed impossible for her. She studied as hard as the other students, but, according to one biographer, “when it came to imbibing knowledge by normally accepted methods, Gladys’ powers of mental digestion seemed automatically to go into neutral, and occasionally reverse.”

It was with a combination of fantasy and reality that Gladys moved through her twenties, and perhaps would have continued on into her thirties and beyond but for a significant change in her life – a spiritual change. Although she had entered church off and on and was familiar with the gospel message, she did not identify with Christ personally until one night at the close of a church service, when she was confronted by a stranger concerning her spiritual need. This led her to seek out the pastor, and finding him gone she agreed to talk with the pastor’s wife, who led her to a saving knowledge of Christ.

With her conversion, Gladys’ life changed. She began attending Young Life campaigns and dreaming about serving the Lord as a foreign missionary. It was this dream that brought her to the CIM headquarters in 1929, and it was the same dream that would not die when she was not invited to continue her training after her probationary term was over. She was convinced that God was calling her, and if she could not obtain a mission’s sponsorship she would go on her own.

So, alone in her little bedroom, once again employed as a parlour maid, she committed herself and her scant earnings to God, convinced that He could get her to China. But of course she could not stand idly by. She began saving every penny she earned and depositing it with the ticket agent at the railway station. (Rail passage through Europe, Russia, and Siberia was the cheapest transport available.)

She also began reading and inquiring about China every opportunity she had, which brought her in contact with Jeannie Lawson, an elderly widowed China missionary who was anxious that someone come out to assist her. If Gladys needed a direct sign from God, that was it, and on October 15, 1932, tickets in hand, she departed from the Liverpool Street Station en route to China.

Bundled up in an orange frock worn over a coat, Gladys was a curious-looking traveler, resembling a gypsy more than a missionary. Besides her bedroll she carried two suitcases (one stocked with food) and a bag clanking with a small stove and pots and pans. Despite the language barriers, Gladys had a relatively uneventful trip through Europe, but in Russia the situation began to change. Russia was in the midst of an undeclared border war with China, and after passing through Moscow the train was packed with Russian troops. At every stop the validity of her tickets and passport was questioned, and it was only by the grace of God that the non-English-speaking authorities allowed her to continue.

Alone with hundreds of soldiers, crossing the stark Siberian landscape, Gladys had second thoughts about her decision, but it was too late to turn back. She had to go on despite the war and uncertainty. The whole venture seemed so unreal as the train clanged along the frozen tracks, but then, almost without warning, she was told that she had gone as far as she would be allowed to travel. Only soldiers were allowed to stay on the train.

But Gladys refused to get off. She insisted that she be allowed to go on until the train stopped, thinking that every mile was bring her closer to China. The train continued on several miles down the track and then it stopped. The sound of gunfire could be heard in the distance as soldiers and supplies were unloaded, and Gladys found herself all alone in a deserted train only hundreds of yards away from the war zone. She had no choice but to trudge back on the snow-covered tracks to Chita. Her biographer recounts the ordeal:

“The Siberian wind blew the powdered snow around her heels, and she carried a suitcase in each hand, one still decorated ludicrously with kettle and saucepan. Around her shoulders she wore the fur rug. And so she trudged off into the night, a slight, lonely figure, dwarfed by the tall, sombre trees, the towering mountains, and the black sky, diamond bright with stars. There were wolves nearby, but this she did not know. Occasionally in the forest a handful of snow would slither to the ground with a sudden noise, or a branch would crack under the weight of snow, and she would pause and peer uncertainly in that direction. But nothing moved. There was no light, no warmth, nothing but endless loneliness.”

By dawn, after having taken a two-hour rest next to her little alcohol stove, she could see the lights of Chita in the distance. The worst ordeal of the journey was over. From Chita she was able to get rail passage into Manchuria, but even then she was able to get into China only after making an unscheduled trip to Japan, where she received help from the British consul.

Once in China, Gladys began the arduous trek across the mountains to Yangcheng, where Jeannie Lawson was faithfully continuing the work she and her husband had begun so many years earlier. Jeannie welcomed Gladys, but in her own way. She was a brusque woman who had survived the harsh xenophobic environment she lived in by being tough-skinned, and she was hardly one to be impressed by any sacrifice that Gladys had endured. Gladys was shown around and then, without any celebration, got settled into the work of being a missionary.

The work was not what Gladys had expected. Her first assignment consisted of operating an inn for muleteers who passed through Yangcheng on their route west. For Jeannie it was an opportunity to share the gospel with the muleteers each evening, but for Gladys it was hard work – making her housework back in London seem like a genteel profession.

Despite the hard work and few rewards, Gladys was making progress. What she never could have learned in formal language training, she was readily picking up as she dealt with the muleteers. The Chinese tongue was not just a language of complex written characters, but a language of emotion and feeling, and it was through this facet of the language that she learned to communicate.

But if Gladys was making progress in communicating with the Chinese, she was regressing in her ability to communicate with Mrs Lawson – if, in fact they ever had truly communicated. Jeannie’s set ways and Gladys’s independent spirit clashed, and finally after one heated eruption (less than a year after her arrival), Gladys was ordered to leave. With nowhere else to go, she moved in with some CIM missionaries in another town; but when word came some time later that Mrs Lawson was ill, Gladys rushed back to be at her side and cared for her until she died several weeks later.

With the death of Mrs Lawson, Gladys no longer had the financial support she needed to operate the inn, but a new opportunity opened up – one that gave her a far wider influence than the inn had. She was asked by the Chinese magistrate of Yangcheng to become the local foot inspector. It became her job to go from house to house, making sure the new laws against female foot binding were being complied with. It was an exciting opportunity for her to improve her language skills, to get to know the people, and to share the gospel.

As Gladys traveled around, her ministry blossomed. Wherever she went people came out to see her and to listen to her Bible stories, sometimes embellished almost beyond recognition. As she visited and revisited villages, her prestige grew and the people began to view her as an authority figure – so much so that on one occasion she was called on to use her prowess to put down a prison riot.

During the years that Gladys spent traveling from village to village, she made friends and converts, and the future seemed bright. But outside her little world around Yangcheng in the Shansi Province, massive plots and military maneuvers were taking place. It was a period of time when the yet-obscure guerrilla leader, Mao Tse Tung, was building his revolutionary force, and when Japan was amassing thousands of troops on the Manchurian border.

But life went on in Yangcheng as usual until the summer of 1937. The once peaceful mountain villages of Shansi suddenly became targets of Japanese bombing raids. Gladys, who had recently become a Chinese citizen, stayed on; and in the spring of 1938, when Yangcheng itself was bombed, she refused to leave until the last casualties were accounted for.

The war had two very different effects on Gladys. On the one hand it brought courage and physical endurance that even amazed herself. She moved behind enemy lines, bringing supplies and assistance to villagers, and served so effectively as a spy for the Chinese military that she had a high price on her head. But on the other hand, the ravages of war made Gladys realize how very alone and vulnerable she really was. To those around her she was strong, but deep down inside she longed for strong arms to hold her when she could do no more.

Marriage was something that Gladys had never ruled out. Even before the war she had prayed for a husband and dreamed that one day her Prince Charming would come walking into Yangcheng. He never came, at least the one of her fantasies, but the war did bring another man into her life. His name was Linnen, and he was a Chinese military officer – the man who convinced her to become a spy against the Japanese. At first it was only mutual patriotism that brought them together, but as time went on it turned into love. As the suffering and hardships of war increased, Gladys’s desire for marriage and security grew more intense. She became convinced that Linnen was the one for her, and she wrote home to her family in England that she was planning to marry him. But the marriage never took place. In the devastated war-torn countryside nothing short of death seemed certain, and plans were made to be broken.

There were others who needed Gladys’s love and attention far more than Linnen: her adopted children. Ninepence was her first child – a tiny abandoned girl she had purchased for that amount. And as the years passed she “adopted” more, and besides her own there were dozens of war orphans that depended on her for sustenance. It was this overwhelming responsibility that loomed above all else, impelling Gladys to leave Shansi with her brood of nearly one hundred children in the spring of 1940 and to cross the mountains and the Yellow River into safety beyond the Siam (Thailand) border.

The journey was a harrowing one. Enemy troops were never far away, and moving unnoticed with nearly one hundred noisy children was a constant emotional strain. When at last they reached their destination, Gladys collapsed from mental and physical exhaustion, and the children were scattered around in refugee housing. They had made it out safely, but not without paying a price.

After months of care by a missionary couple in Siam, Gladys slowly regained her strength, but mentally she remained impaired – suffering hallucinations and wandering around the village unable to find her way home. It was a difficult time for her; but as the months passed, the period of mental confusion decreased, and she was able once again to reestablish contact with her scattered children and minister to others.

By 1943, with the Japanese retreating, Gladys was back again in China, but not back to Yangcheng. She lived for a time with CIM missionaries in Lanchow, but she was restless and soon moved to Tsingsui and finally settled in Chengtu, where she eventually became employed by a local church as a Bible woman – a role heretofore that had always been reserved for native Chinese women, but Gladys had become so assimilated into Chinese society that she seemed perfectly suited to that lowly position of serving the church in evangelism and charity work.

In 1949, after nearly 20 years in China, Gladys was persuaded to make a visit home, and it was on that furlough that the “small woman” of China won her way into the hearts of the British people. Gladys, ill at ease in Western culture, would have preferred to remain in the background, but her mother had different ideas for her. According to one biographer, she was “an official unconscious publicity agent of the first order.” For many years she had eagerly accepted speaking invitations to deliver her one and only address, “Our Gladys in China,” and now that Gladys had returned she could hardly wait to bring her to her listeners in person.

In the years that followed, through a popular biography (The Small Woman by Alan Burgess), a film (“The Inn of Six Happiness,” starring Ingrid Bergman), and a “This is Your Life” feature on BBC, Gladys became an internationally known celebrity. Though she returned to minister and make her home in Taiwan in 1957, she continued her world travel and was never out of the limelight, speaking in such places as Hollywood First Presbyterian Church and dining with such dignitaries as Queen Elizabeth.

Yet through all the service she had rendered and the fame she had acquired, she was never fully secure in her calling – particularly that God really wanted to entrust a woman with the responsibilities He had given her. In an interview during her later years she confided her doubts to a friend: “I wasn’t God’s first choice for what I’ve done for China. There was somebody else.... I don’t know who it was – God’s first choice. It must have been a man – a wonderful man. A well-educated man. I don’t know what happened. Perhaps he died. Perhaps he wasn’t willing....And God looked down....and saw Gladys Aylward.” (To be continued)

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62nd YF / 34th YAF Anniversary 2015

Theme:         “Remember Thy Creator in the Days of Thy Youth”, Ecclesiastes 12

Speaker:       Elder Sherman Ong

Date:   31st December 2015Thursday (before Watchnight Service)

Time:   7pm

Venue:          Beulah Centre MPH

Other info:    Everyone is invited to fellowship over dinner thereafter (dinner will be provided)

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EDD is organizing a Street Evangelism at Orchard Road. Please come and join us this Friday (18 Dec 15)

Prayer Time: 6.30 pm in Beulah House 

Evangelism Time: 7.00 to 8.30 pm at Orchard Road walkway (commence outside CK Tang Entrance)

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1) Catechism Class for Easter Baptism on 27 Mar 2016 commences TODAY at Beulah Centre Rm 2-1, 9.40am. Those seeking baptism, reaffirmation of faith and transfer of membership must attend the catechism class.

2) The Sunday School cordially invites all members and friends to the SS Christmas Thanksgiving Fellowship on 19 Dec 15 at 10am, followed by fellowship lunch. The theme is “Glory to God in the Highest!” Please come and rejoice to commemorate Christ’s birth.

3) “Daily Manna”: Daily devotional by Rev Isaac Ong (Jan - Mar 2016). Available at the front counter. The same devotions are available online at http://www.calvaryjurong.com/index-4.html.

4) Scripture Memory Verses 2016: “O How I Love Thy Word!”. Memory verse booklets are available at the front counter.

5) Life B-P Church Calendar 2016. Please obtain a copy at the front counter.

6) Our condolences to Eliza Chia and Chia Siew Noi on the homegoing of their beloved father, Mr Chia Liang Ching (85 years old) on 9 Dec 15.

Preaching appointment: Rev Seet at Indonesian Service, 4pm. Rev Quek at Life Chinese Service, 11am.

Rev Lee at Thai Service, 2.30 pm and New Life BPC YF Camp, 17-18 Dec.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11