Heroes have moments of glory!

Brother Andrew (1928-alive)

     In 1957 Andy went behind the Iron Curtain to a Communist youth conference in Poland. He despised Communism but it was the only way that he could see for himself what Communism was doing to the church behind the Iron Curtain. He had 'smuggled' in some religious tracts and passed them out. He had even 'preached' at a few token churches allowed by Communism. He felt good about his trip until the final day when he watched the youths' 'Parade of Triumph' down the main avenue of Warsaw. They marched eight to a rank. Rank after rank, hundreds, thousands. The young Communists bristled with energy and determination. They seemed an invincible force. What could Christians in the western countries do? What could Andy do? Unnoticed in the clamor he sat down dejectedly on a bench. He opened his small Bible. A breeze whipped the pages to the Book of Revelations.
     Andy's eyes were drawn to a verse in chapter 3. He read, "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die."
     The meaning hammered him. The remaining believers in Poland must not die. They must be strengthened. This was surely his sign. He wasn't sure just how he would do it, but with God's help he would do it…

God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew (with John and Elizabeth Sherill), 1967]

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Gladys Aylward (1902-1970)

     Few have expressed the simple, quiet miracles wrought by Gladys Aylward better than Olin Stockwell, an American missionary in China:
          "I remember a little pint-sized missionary lady from England who had been with us
          out in West China for a year or so. She went into a leper colony to minister to lepers'
          needs…She preached and served with such enthusiasm that she brought new hope to
          that whole group of lepers. Before she came, the lepers had been quarrelsome and 
          jealous, fighting among themselves. Many of them felt that life was hopeless.  She
          came to tell them of a God who loved them. The tone of that colony changed.
          Christmas became a meaningful and happy day. On the Friday evening before Easter,
          the local Chinese pastor and I visited the leprosarium to join in the Passion Week
          service. At the close of the service, we administered the Sacrament of the Lord's
          Supper. We served bread and wine to men whose bodies were so twisted with the
          disease that they could not kneel at the altar, and whose hands were so deformed
          they could hardly receive the elements. But their eyes were alight with new joy and
          hope. God has used this little English Missionary as His Barnabas to them…"

Meditations From A Prison Cell by Olin F. Stockwell, 1954]

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     Many times Gladys Aylward had talked with the ruler of the province - the highly educated, sophisticated 'Mandarin' . He showed his approval of her by giving her ever more important tasks to do. He seemed pleased when his minions spontaneously began to call her Ai-Weh-Deh, the 'Virtuous One'. Once during the war with the Japanese he invited her to a banquet attended only by important local officials. Gladys was surprised to hear the Mandarin make a long speech of her accomplishments. But his conclusion stunned her.
     "I would like to embrace your faith!" he concluded.

John Bunyan  (1628-1688)

     Bunyan turned 50 years old in 1678. Nearly half his adult life had been spent in prison. Thousands of those prison hours he wrote about a guilt-ridden man trying to find salvation. It was the story of his own life, but submerged in allegory. For example, his main character was Christian, a man who lived in the City of Destruction but sought to remove a Burden from his back. "Wouldst thou see a Truth within a Fable?" Bunyan would ask later. His first wife had introduced him to allegory with
The Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven, a book she had inherited form her father. Bunyan had been impressed how such a story - with its labels - clung to the mind longer. "Read my fancies, they will stick like burs," he promised in the preface to his allegory called Pilgrim's Progress. But he felt something else about the form. Somehow the story of salvation could be told better with allegory than it could be told any other way except the Bible. And it was much more entertaining than a sermon on the same theme. In 1678 he took his labor of many years - his allegory about salvation - from his home in Bedford to London. He sought John Owen's opinion of Pilgrim's Progress. Owen was once Vice-Chancellor at Oxford University. Owen knew the late Oliver Cromwell and he knew the reigning Charles II.
     Once after hearing Bunyan preach in London Owen had gushed to the king, "Could I possess that tinker's ability for preaching, I would most gladly relinquish all my learning!"
     Owen was himself a writer, but he could not believe what Bunyan had written. He urged Bunyan to have it be printed immediately. When Bunyan returned to London weeks later to check on the printing he was aghast at what had happened. His printer Nathaniel Ponder sold copies as fast as he could print them. Bunyan became the victim of double-takes, stares and stammering praise. The King's Court asked of
Pilgrim's Progress not 'is it any good?' but 'is it a masterpiece'? People were demanding a sequel to save Christian's family. Bunyan heard Pilgrim's Progress had already been translated into Dutch and French. Apparently it was also becoming as popular in Scotland, Ireland and the American colonies as it was in England. But never would John Bunyan have imagined that - except his beloved Bible - his allegory of salvation would become the most printed book in the world. It would be a very rare Christian hero since 1678 who did not hold precious Pilgrim's Progress.

John Bunyan: His Life, Times and Work by John Brown, 1885]

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