How Ingrid Bergman Came to Christ
By J Christy Wilson Jr. (1918-1999)
The movie, “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness,” in which Ingrid Bergman starred, won many awards. It is the missionary biography of Gladys Aylward, who went as an English maid to serve in China. She worked with Jenny Lawson, who had started an inn to reach muleteers going into northwestern China with the good news of Jesus Christ. This was called “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.” Besides the fives joys which the Chinese usually have, the “sixth happiness” was the Gospel.
During the Japanese invasion, Gladys Aylward took more than 100 orphans by foot through the mountains on a difficult journey to safety. One of her converts to Christ, formerly a criminal, went on along to help her. But, as the enemy soldiers were about to discover them, he ran in the opposite direction and shouted, acting as a decoy to save them. As a result, he was shot and killed, but the others were saved. Gladys and the children held his funeral. There she reads the words of Jesus Christ, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lays down his life for his friends.” Gladys and all the children finally reached the Yellow River and were safe.
When Gladys heard that Ingrid Bergman was going to play her part, she was very upset since she knew this Hollywood actress had left her husband and children to marry an Italian movie producer. By then Gladys was in Taiwan. She shared her concerns with Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, with whom she prayed regularly. After they had brought this before the Lord, Madame Chiang was confident that God had heard and would overrule.
Ingrid Bergman was so deeply moved while playing the part of Gladys that she made a special trip to Taiwan to meet her. Only days before she arrived, however, Gladys got the flu and died. Seeing Ingrid’s disappointment, Gladys’ co-worker, Katherine Smith, asked Ingrid if she would like to see the simple room where Gladys had lived.
Ingrid fell down beside Gladys’ bed and wept, saying she was unworthy to play the life of such a woman of God. Katherine then had the opportunity to lead Ingrid through the steps to peace with God, showing her that Christ had died for her sins. Ingrid prayed the prayer of repentance and received Jesus as her Savior and Lord.
Only a few months later, Ingrid died of cancer. Before she died, she took part in the Easter sunrise service of the Presbyterian Church in Palm Springs, California, reading from the Scriptures the account of the resurrection. Although her movie career had won her many accolades, Ingrid’s greatest reward was receiving eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Editor’s note: Excerpt from the book MORE TO BE DESIRED THAN GOLD: A CLLECTION OF TRUE STORIES by J. Christy Wilson, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton: MA, Gordon-Conwell Seminary Book Centre, 4th Edition, 1998, p. 6. A collection of true stories given in his missions lectures at Gordon-Conwell Seminary – See more at: https://urbana.org/blog/gladys-aylward#sthash.2B0Ppxgc.dpuf