As a little girl, I remember my mother’s excitement when she would receive a letter from her missionary friend, Gladys Aylward. She would gather us around to hear the powerful yet gentle words from a woman so utterly devoted to an inner vision, that she changed the world for generations of people including me.
Several years earlier, in the fall of 1959, my father took my mother on date in Sarnia, Ontario to hear missionary to China, Gladys Aylward. After a challenging message, Gladys gave an invitation for anyone interested in missionary service, and my father went forward to dedicate his life to missions. My mother waited at the back of the auditorium and was surprised when the small missionary woman approached her and took hold of both of her hands saying, “My, dear, promise me you will serve the Lord and go wherever He leads you.” She then prayed and said, “Bonnie, seek ye first the kingdom of God.” These simple words propelled my mother into a lifetime of service to God.
God specializes in using His people to accomplish the impossible. The stories of Gladys are ones of faith and determination while overcoming insurmountable difficulties. She is quoted as saying, “Oh God, here’s my Bible. Here’s my money. Here’s me. Use me, God.” Gladys was a dedicated soldier of the cross and the effect of her life on generations of people is immeasurable. She was a successful communicator in Chinese – sharing the Scriptures wherever she went. She planted churches, brought about prison reform, and travelled for 27 days over mountains on foot to take 100 orphans to safety during the Japanese war with China. She organized the Red Cross in the bombed-out cities and towns in Shansi province and she raised and educated dozens of orphans.
In 1968, my mother wrote to Gladys Aylward to thank her for influencing her young life and to tell her that our family had received missionary appointment to Colombia, South America. Here is a portion of my mother’s letter from Gladys dated April 29, 1969: “Now one thing more. This is because you told me you hoped for the field. You just trust for yourself, your husband and your children, for your daily food and everything. 28 years ago I started out from England with very little, no bank account or knowing anyone but here I am. I have brought up over 200 children and helped all sorts of others; I still have 41, a Mission and this small house. Where it all comes from I really cannot tell you. So look up, trust Him and I know all will be well. May He use you and give you all the love you will need to really love a people who are in most cases unlovable. How shall they know of Him unless we show them? All for now then, write again soon and let me know about your news.
Yours with love in Him and for His sake,
This small woman was a giant of the faith and because of her example and encouragement, my parents learned to love the unlovable. Don and Bonnie Stuckless dedicated 34 years to missionary service, and as a child, I was blessed to serve alongside them. After I married, they worked in Spain where they opened several Christian Centres. Their daily goal was to love the forgotten in their city and to search for drug addicts in darkest alleys – bringing them home to have a shower, get clean clothes and to savor a hot meal.
After dinner they would hear these words, “You’ve been so kind to me but I’m a drug addict, what are you going to do with me now?” It was then that they would hear of God’s great love. For most, it was the first time they had ever been told that God had a plan for their lives and that drug addiction wasn’t it. These “dear kids” as mother called them, would usually agree to go to the drug rehab centre and my parents would purchase their bus ticket, and make arrangements for someone to pick them up on the other end.
My heart is overwhelmed when I think that more than 200 heroin addicts were rescued from the streets of Spain because of my parent’s faithful ministry. Today, many of them are pastors and lay leaders in churches across that country – leading others to Christ. Missionaries sacrifice years away from their own loved ones to secure eternity for someone else’s. It is a real privilege to be a missionary kid and to have shared my parents with others who may never have known Christ or the promises found in His Word.
In closing, I’ve heard my father say countless times, “Answering the call to missions is not answering the emotional call of a moment; it is answering the preparational call of a lifetime.” God prepares His people to do His work and today I challenge you with these thoughts.
We are not all called to go; but we are all called to pray and to give. When we support missionaries and ministries around the world, we are supporting an army of soldiers. An army that translates and delivers God’s Word in countries we will never visit. An army that loves the unlovable that we will never see. An army that we have equipped to be His hands and feet on the earth – sharing the Bible’s promises and new life found in Christ – that must be given to those who have not yet heard.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3.16 (NIV)