An remarkable story of courage, taking a leap of faith, and fully relying on God's provision and protection in difficult days. Once again, the Benges do a magnificent job of detailing difficult circumstances in a way that is appropriate for children. In a day and age when children don't have the opportunity to see very many "heros", this book points them to a true hero of the faith. Not because of what she did, although she accomplished some remarkable things in her lifetime, but because of how she lived a life totally and fully devoted to serving God by ministering to the Chinese people. Just be aware, if you are reading this with younger children, that there are some descriptions of tragic events and death that are present. After all, Gladys served in China during the period of the Japanese invasion of China and later during the communistic take over of the country.
Several years ago a friend told me that I should read this book. I finally got around to it. Once I started, I could not put the book down. This book will draw you in from the very first page. The cliff hangers at the end of the chapters will keep you reading. Gladys Aylward's life is more thrilling than a movie. She left her home in England to answer the call of God to go to China. With no missionary backing, she saved her own money for a one-way train ticket to China. There are many adventures along the way - adventures that will encourage believers to keep trusting God in their most difficult trials.
When I opened up this book, I sat down and read the first two chapters. I was immediately struck that this book was interesting and had great description, though it was very easy to read. The vocabulary is about a 5th or 6th grade reading level. I'd say it would be great for students in grades 4-8. Over the next week, I read the book and the farther I got into it, the more I wanted to read it. It drew me in. It is a biography that is written in story form. When I reached the end, I was glad I had the entire book--every page of it.
But, when I read a book, I am usually thinking about it as more than just a simple story. I want my children to read books that are worth reading. So, I ponder what message this book would tell kids--what will they take from it? What did I take from it? Interestingly, I'm reading a book about evangelical feminism right now which really made me ponder her actions as a woman. I came to several conclusions.
1) I need to focus on the strengths of Gladys Aylward and what she did.
2) George Santayana said "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." What can we learn from Gladys Aylward and her life? Hopefully, the reader will be able to see the Chinese as people and with compassion after reading this book.
3) When we make decisions, I have come to believe that we should seek God in prayer, in His Word, and seek out godly counsel (Proverbs 15:22). Psalms is filled with David crying out to God in prayer. That is the one thing that isn't mentioned in this book and what I struggled with. In the story, Gladys isn't encouraged by anyone to go to China. If anything, she is discouraged. What I realized is that this story is told from the authors' perspective--it is not an autobiography. I don't know if there was anyone who encouraged her to go, but there could have been. If you or your children have questions about book, do more research! Find another biography and see if you can find an answer to what you're questioning.
I highly recommend getting the curriculum guide to go with this book if you're homeschooling--I actually liked it even better than the book! I brought a lot to my understanding of Gladys Aylward.
My conclusion? I like the series. I would definitely recommend getting and using the curriculum guides with the novels. There may be topics you want to discuss with your children that are covered in the books. I would recommend that you read them too. I think you'll probably enjoy them. My plan is to read several of these books with my children when they are in grades 4-8 and contrast the lives of the missionaries with our own lives. As a culture, we have an idealized view of the past and expect there to be less suffering than there is. In the past, people expected life to be hard. It's reflected in their writings. These books don't idealize the past and will hopefully help our children that God didn't promise that life would be easy.
There is one last note that I want to make about these books. It is important not to see missionaries as saints. They were sinners too. They weren't perfect. God used them just as he uses all imperfect people. In the Bible, we see that over and over--God uses imperfect people. They spread the gospel as we are all called to do and they answered this command in a particular way.
Please note that I received a complimentary copy of these materials from YWAM for review.
This book was given to us a few years ago and I put off having my oldest daughter read it because I wasn't sure how detailed it was going to be about dangerous or depressing situations. I finally got around to reading it myself and was very impressed. The authors do a very good job of telling the story and giving the details of some scary situations without being overly upsetting or depressing. It was a wonderful, exciting, uplifting book that makes you yearn to be used by God.