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"The Inn of the Sixth Happiness": Faith Against All Odds

The 1958 film The Inn of the Sixth Happiness is the true story of Gladys Aylward (Ingrid Bergman), an English servant who became a faithful missionary in a remote region of northern China. The China Inland Mission Center in England refused to sponsor her due to her lack of vocation and experience. Consequently, in 1932 she set out on her own, believing with all her heart she was called by God. Not officially under the authority of the Mission, she was free to stay in China according to her own discretion.

She finds work running an inn for traveling mule drivers. After the death of the inn manager, a seasoned missionary, a government official delivers a letter to Gladys, which states that funding for the Inn will be cut off because of her lack of experience.

Bewildered by the news, Gladys expresses her concerns to the Chinese government official, Captain Lin Nan, who delivered the message: "One reason and always the same one: I'm not qualified. I was a servant in England. That's what they mean. But I came here when they said I couldn't. And I'll stay here though they say I can't."

When Captain Lin Nan kindly offers to escort her to Sien Chen, where she will deport, Gladys stubbornly insists, "I'm not going to leave!"

Captain Lin Nan tries to dissuade her: she's broke, and vendors won't give her credit; she has no friends; and she is in an isolated country with inveterate problems. "It isn't your country. It isn't your problem," he says. "You're white. You shouldn't be in China at all."

Emphasizing her resolve to stay, Gladys reminds the captain, "I came here to be of value."

Mildly irritated, the captain says, "How? By trying to make people believe what you believe? By saving souls who don't want to be saved? Who will agree to anything for an extra bowl of rice, and laugh at you once the rice is eaten?" When Gladys attempts a retort, he says, "The dangers that confront you—those are real. Leave now, while you still can. Go back to England where you belong."

"If I feel that God wants me in China," Gladys argues, "then that's where I belong."

Lin Nan resigns, leaving Gladys in God's hands. As he leaves, Gladys cries out, "Oh, Captain Lin Nan. I know you think I'm stubborn. But I'm not ungrateful. For you to be concerned, to bother, it is very kind."

"If I were really kind," Lin Nan responds, "I'd have you ordered out of Bien Chen. But since I'm not obsessed with souls or lives, I wish you well."

Because she stays, God uses Gladys to convert the village's mandarin governor to Christianity. And when the Japanese army attacks China, she heroically leads over 100 orphan children to safety through numerous mountains, avoiding enemy soldiers.

Elapsed time: Measured from the beginning of the opening credit, this scene begins at 00:49:00 and ends at 00:52:30.

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