|photo courtesy of seriousfun morgueFile.com|
After thirty days of traveling, I stood at the gate of her inn rather dirty, tired, and I probably had a grumpy look on my face. She squinted. "Who are you?"
That might have seemed a normal question in most cases, but Mrs. Lawson and I were the only non Chinese people in Yengchen at the moment. Probably the only non Chinese for many miles!
She gave me the exact medicine I needed after that long trip: laughter.
She tapped her foot, waiting for me to answer her question. I bowed as the Chinese people did. "I am the missionary from London, Gladys Aylward."
She nodded and took a few steps toward the inn. "Are you coming?"
That's it? That was my greeting after riding a train across Russian, ship to Japan, and a mule through Chinese mountains? I started to laugh but fortunately stopped myself before she heard me. This lady had work to do and it didn't include lollygaggling with newcomers.
We walked into a large courtyard covered with scraggly grass. What a mess. Broken pieces from the inn's walls and other garbage coated the yard. She led me to the kitchen. "I suppose you're hungry."
I wanted to be polite, but I needed sleep. She brought a bowl of strange looking glop. It looked and smelled nasty.
I held my breath and forced myself to eat half of the food. As I ate, Jeannie told me about the building that would be our mission. "This inn hasn't been used for a long time. I need someone young to help me fix it up. The Chinese didn't want this place because they believed it was haunted." She laughed. "I told them I would drive the evil spirits away. I suppose they think I'm crazy."
Her eyes sparkled. I knew I would learn how to be a great missionary from her.
Jeannie sipped some tea then told me her plan. "I want to turn this place into a real inn."
I hadn't seen many cities as small as Yangchen. I didn't think many people lived here. "Who'd come?"
She laughed again. "Mule trains, my dear. They'll stop by Yangchen to rest then continue their journey. We'll give them food, a warm place to sleep, and something no other inn does: we'll tell them stories for entertainment. Bible Stories."
"How will they know to come to our inn?"
Jeannie took my bowl to the kitchen. "You'll pull the first mule of the train into our courtyard the rest of the train will follow."
"Me? I have to pull a mule into here?"
She raised her eyebrows. "Thats right."
Well, I'll have to tell you about the visiting mule trains next time.