By Dora Wang
Aylward, Gladys, as told to Christine Hunter. Gladys Aylward The Little Woman. Moody Press 1970.
Martin, Mildred Crowl. Chinatown’s Angry Angel: the Story of Donaldina Cameron. Pacific Books 1977.
Over 20 years ago, we began to research on women’s contributions to the faith journey of God’s people in the Bible, as documented in “A Passion for Fullness” (1997) and in “Jesus’ Ancestress” (2012). As we celebrate FiCF’s 15th Anniversary (2016), we are launching another project “Wonder Women Who Made History in Chinese Missions” to document women’s contributions to the faith journey of God’s people in the Chinese church.
The first three women we have chosen to launch this project are: Gladys Aylward—the British single housemaid who travelled to China to preach the Gospel, and was used by God to also enforce the national law of unbinding young girls’ feet, and to save hundreds of orphans from life threats of Japanese invasion; Donaldina Cameron—the angry angel who gave up twice the potential for marriage to battle with forces of darkness, and delivered thousands of young girls from slave trade in San Francisco Chinatown; and Dora Yu—the Chinese doctor who broke her engagement to serve God whole-heartedly, and became a dynamic preacher, who touched the hearts of many to dedicate their lives to serve God, including the renown Watchman Nee, founder of Local Church that forbids woman to preach and lead in the church even to this day!
Woman was endowed by God in creation with the royal status and mission. Her extraordinary contributions as testified in Scripture and in the history of Chinese missions repeatedly demonstrate the fact that woman in her apparent weakness, can become an instrument in the mighty hand of God, to perform works of wonder in Christ’s kingdom, reconciling the world to God. The purpose of this research project is but a part of FiCF’s endeavor to continue this legacy entrusted by God to restore woman to her glory-fullness in creation.
Gladys was born in 1902 to a working-class Christian family in London. She worked as a housemaid from an early age. As a teenage Christian, she read about millions of Chinese who had never heard of Jesus. Moved by the stories of Abram (Gen 12:1-2), she decided to leave home for the unknown in China to share the Gospel.
In 1932, rejected by the China Inland Mission due to her lack of schooling, she spent her life savings on a one-way train fare through Siberia to Yangcheng, China, and together with a missionary Mrs. Lawson, founded an inn for mule caravans and shared the Gospel with the travelers in the evenings.
Gladys continued the mission after Mrs. Lawson died at the end of the year. A few weeks later, she was hired as a foot-inspector to enforce the decree of the National government to end foot-binding, which gave her access to homes to share the Gospel and God’s will of natural feet for both men and women.
When invaded by Japanese forces in 1938, she led 100 orphans to climb mountains and cross rivers for 27 days, and reached Madame Chiang’s orphanages in Sian, where they were cared for while she collapsed.
Denied re-entry to Mainland China 10 years after her return to Britain in 1948, she settled in Taiwan and founded an orphanage until her death in 1970.
Donaldina was a Scottish born in 1869 in New Zealand. The family moved to live 150 miles south east of San Francisco when she was 2 years old. Fascinated by stories from a friend’s mother Mrs. Culbertson who rescued slave girls and brought them to live in a Mission Home in San Francisco, Donaldina went there in 1895 for one year.
The gold-rush that brought Chinamen to California and the passing in 1882 of the Exclusion Acts that forbade wives and children of Chinese Americans from entering the US, caused the ratio of men to woman to reach 2,000 to 1. Smuggling of girls from China as wives, prostitutes, or household slaves became big business. After a year of assisting with rescues and directing raids, Donaldina decided to stay, and soon began to manage the Home.
She risked her life to battle with the Chinatown “Tongs” (gangs), challenging their trafficking business. Supported by churches and civic groups, she influenced lawyers and legislators to change statutes. Donaldina was credited with saving several thousand girls, and stamping out of the “yellow slave trade” after 40 years. Affectionately called “Lo Mo” (“mother” in colloquial Cantonese), she cared for all the girls in the Home holistically. Many of them returned to become leaders of the Home.
At age 75 in 1942, she retired after attending the naming of the San Francisco Mission Home on 920 Sacramental St. “Donaldina Cameron House” in her honor. She died at the age of 99 in 1968.
Dora was born in 1873 to a Christian military doctor’s family in Hangchow, China. Later, her father became a pastor of a small village church.
Prior to graduation from medical school, she went through four crises: death of both parents, breaking of wedding engagement to serve God, confession of sin, and temptation of worldly pursuits. She considered herself having failed the last crisis upon her graduation, for she went with a missionary to Korea in 1897 without seeking God’s will. While her ministry flourished, Dora fell into depression and sickness. After much struggle with God’s call in 1901, she returned to Shanghai in 1903 and began to lead local revival meetings toward the end of the first wave of China’s Great Revival.
Refined and responded to God’s call again in 1908, she led national revivals at the peak of the third wave of the Great Revival, and was credited with the salvation and dedication to serve the Lord of Watchman Nee and his mother, as well as other subsequent male and female revival speakers, who in turn influenced other Christian leaders.
She was the only Chinese among Western ministers in initiating the global prayer revival movement of 1924 in China, and also the only Chinese who had been a keynote speaker at the Missionary Meeting of the Keswick Convention. She was the speaker in 1927.
After decades of living out her messages on confession, total surrender, sanctification, the spirit-filled life, spiritual warfare and unity of the Body of Christ, Dora died in 1930.
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