Maria, God’s Angel
To Widows and Orphans in
By Thomas Cosmades
One of the most horrific legacies of war are the helpless orphans.
Children left to fend for themselves on the streets are a
heart-rending consequence of these conflicts.
In every age the need to establish
homes for orphans has been paramount and universal.
Securing shelter, along with clothing, feeding and educating orphans
has always been a colossal undertaking.
Talking about orphanages, at least in the Christian milieu, the name
of George Müller (1805-1898), immediately comes to mind.
This mighty Christian and benefactor was born in Kroppenstadt in
We cannot begin to exhaust the names of the benevolent followers of Christ
who gave their lives, time and substance to uplift miserable little waifs.
At this point, we reverently extend a posthumous recognition to all those
Christians who became mother and father to multitudes of destitute children.
We bow with gratitude at their memory.
Our account here will deal with one woman, Maria A. Gerber, born
Maria was very musical and loved to sing and dance. Her father was proud that Maria had the name of being the most graceful dancer among all the family’s friends. But she was a somewhat sickly child and often had to be confined to her room. Shortly after her twentieth birthday Maria was stricken with rheumatic fever, heart trouble, tuberculosis and dropsy. The family was greatly alarmed as the local physician couldn’t offer therapy or healing. So they brought a professor specialist from a distant city. The prognosis of the old doctor was that she didn’t have long to live. He told the family, “Don’t spend more money on trying to find a cure; just give her any food her heart desires, anything she can keep down. She is a dying girl.” Maria overheard this conversation from the next room.
Fear gripped her heart that she would die without knowing Jesus Christ personally. She had heard the message of the Savior many times, but had never come to her own decision to follow him. Through those dark hours foreboding continued to haunt her. She fell into unconsciousness many times, but when she was lucid her panic was intensifying. She knew she was not God’s child. She grappled with this dread for three days. Finally, the Holy Spirit opened the door of faith in her heart. She cried, “Jesus, I want you to save me from my sins.” Christ’s peace flooded her soul. He gave her the assurance as stated in Peter’s letter: “who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Peter 1:5). Immediately following her born-again experience, Christ healed her and extended his call: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:18).
Maria grasped the promise of her Redeemer-Healer. The risen Christ suddenly became real to her. She heard his voice, “It is done!” Then and there she turned her life over to Jesus Christ. She asked for her clothes so she could get up and get dressed. But her mother had given all her clothing away to the poor! So the family had to scurry around to find something suitable for her to wear from some of the other children. Now in robust health, Maria was eager to start a new life with Jesus. Shortly after that, one of her friends invited her to come to the dance hall, where she had previously spent so many evenings dancing the night away. She felt led to go, and with all her beloved friends lined around the walls waiting for the music to start playing, she asked if she could speak. She said, “I always was the ringleader and caused you to walk on the broad way, but now I want to offer you something better to help you lead a happier life.” She read a short passage from the Bible and gave words of exhortation, after which she knelt down right in the middle of the hall and began to pray earnestly. The Holy Spirit was upon her and she wept and pled for the salvation of all those dear young people. She prayed a long prayer and when she opened her eyes she saw that there was nobody left in that dance hall! It was a bold witness and the Lord honored it. Many eventually turned to the Lord. Her pilgrimage of faith is a powerful testimony of how her God led her from that point on, step by step through spiritual battles and many joyful accomplishments, fulfilling his blessed plan for her.
Maria’s Ministry Gets Underway
Then came Christ’s command: “…and you shall be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). She courageously and boldly acted on this call. With Bible in hand she started evangelizing the children and young people in her neighborhood. She would ask them about the meaning of life and its value. From house to house she went, testifying for her Savior. She also devoted time and energy to visiting the sick and the elderly. Including her own family, many were exasperated with her bold witness. Even her pastor who was leading a formalistic church wasn’t very happy about her over-zealousness. She became the talk of all the church people. The pastor told the congregation: “This is a straw fire; it will soon burn itself out.” But instead of the fire being extinguished, it grew into a powerful flame. She began to realize that wider horizons were opening before her.
In 1881 she left her village and went to the city of
At one point she decided to go back to visit her village. Her father was very ill and wasn’t functioning well mentally. As Maria openly spoke to him about receiving the Savior she was in the spirit of prayer. Suddenly her father opened his eyes and exclaimed, “Now I recognize God’s grace in my own life!” He received Jesus into his heart, like a little boy. Shortly after this he departed for heaven.
Maria trusting in her Lord moved to the town of
Mr. Moody was a man full of faith, a true spiritual giant and a capable
strategist. He divided
Call to Turkey
Disturbing news was coming from the
The two ladies visited numerous churches conveying to the congregations
their heartfelt burden and their readiness to proceed straight to
The American Board of Commissioners was already operating separately a boys’
and a girls’ home for orphans.
Due to the state of war and the upheaval in the
The two women started feeding hundreds of starving people.
The gratitude expressed by the destitute women and orphans touched
their hearts. Among them were
widows of doctors, school teachers and other professionals who had been
taken away, leaving their families forlorn.
For the survivors to take the long journey from their places in
In search of other desolate women and children Maria traveled to various towns where she discovered more people in dire need. She would sometimes ask people what they had to eat. They would bring a handful of grass and show it to Maria, saying, “This is our food.” Providing for them, she ushered them into a life they could never have imagined. During these journeys, Maria utilized her unique opportunity to evangelize as she moved from place to place. Everywhere she went she encountered misery, poverty, sickness and in many cases illiteracy. Even those who were literate did not have Bibles. She immediately arranged to order a supply of Bibles for these desperate people, offering them the source of all hope and comfort.
Maria had to wear a straw hat to protect her fair skin from the sun. At first the children were afraid of Maria’s broad-brimmed hat. They were immersed in deep fear; therefore anything unusual frightened them. Maria’s hat was one of those things. But before long they warmed up to her, realizing that an angel of rescue had come to them. Some of the people in the villages would not let her leave them. They begged her to stay with them forever. She encouraged them with the ever-abiding presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, quoting the passage from Hebrews: “’I will never fail you nor forsake you.’ Therefore we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5b, 6). Children desperately wanted Maria’s warm embrace and her care. So what did she do? She hired donkeys, secured the guardianship of reliable men and sent them to Hajin where she would later join them. Meanwhile she continued her travels and visits to various towns and villages.
She joyfully pursued her God-given responsibility on horseback, encountering many dangers. Riding over high and low terrain, fording streams with no bridges, she was exposed to burning sun on the plains and excruciating cold in the mountains. All these she bore with joy, considering what her own Savior had suffered for her. Working and moving from place to place in St. Paul’s land she remembered the deep sentiments of the great apostle in II Corinthians 11:23-29. He had gone through all those trying experiences and now Maria was allowed by the Lord to go through some of the same. She saw hundreds of precious lives perishing before her eyes. Death was a bitter messenger knocking at one wounded heart after another. She remembered Elijah’s experience with the widow of Zarephath (cf. I Kings 17:8-15). Along with every act of benevolence, this angel of mercy would explain the love and salvation offered by Jesus Christ. In the midst of this woeful situation, she rejoiced that people who had lost every hope on this earth went to meet their Savior with thanksgiving and rejoicing.
Maria had to invent some occupation for these desperate people in order to
help them to become involved in a paying line of work.
Merchants were bringing unsheared sheepskins on camels to Hajin.
Maria started buying as many skins as she could.
Immediately she put the widows to work, separating the wool from the
hides. Then she would teach
them to wash the wool and spin it.
Her background in the farming
At this time, Maria could count two thousand widows and children. Most of them were living in make-shift huts. Every morning they would congregate in the rented houses of the orphanage where they would pray that their needs would be met. The day would start with Bible reading and a basic message, uplifting Christ who loves men and women, boys and girls, and meets their needs. The houses were turned into workshops and the products from their labor were converted to money, so that women could purchase items for their basic essentials before returning to their very meager dwellings.
Money was being sent by Maria’s friends in
There with tears she knelt before her heavenly Father and brought the
distressing situation to him. A
few days later a letter came from a farmer in the
At the same time, they began praying for a spiritual awakening among the large number of women and children in their care. Some of the women with spiritual perception joined them. Their group grew as they were convinced that there was something of far greater value than being physically satisfied. The Armenian ladies of Hajin offered these praying women a room for their meetings at the local school.
The Gregorian church leaders were highly appreciative of what the two
missionaries were accomplishing.
They did something extraordinary by offering them the use of their
large church sanctuary. Nightly
meetings were held there for several months.
Maria was always the speaker and her message was interpreted by a
lady who had studied in one of the American academies in
There was nothing more propitious than presenting Christ the Redeemer-Restorer to people who were still in the throes of a catastrophe. Maria would extend the invitation with amazing response. People were fervently seeking the Savior realizing that he was the only One who could offer them salvation and continuous support. Out of their liturgical church milieu they were transferred to a living faith. Those converted began asking questions about what they should do next and how they could grow in their faith. Christ’s regenerating power showed its true effect in these lives. Maria was strong in the doctrine of the Second Coming of the Lord. She would often switch her theme to this subject. Those assembled knew nothing about Christ’s triumphant appearing and his glorious kingdom. Many grasped how totally different Christ’s kingdom would be from the oppressive rule of the country where they lived. Maria’s practice was to always pray for the sick, often with amazing results.
Nobody could have imagined that Hajin would shelter a great company of women
and children who had come out of the massacre, that they would be properly
fed and in the meantime receive God’s manna for their needy souls.
Those were the days of the genocide initiated by Abdul Hamid II in
the eastern provinces. Hajin
being far away was not touched until the general massacre of 1916-17,
engineered by the infamous Talat, which would be more catastrophic.
The town would be entirely wiped out during this massacre.
All residents, including the refugees who had fled from the east
would be banished to Der-ez-Zor in the
She was a little homeless child. God led her to the orphanage where she found the shelter she had longed for. In those desperate years the child had been entirely neglected. One of the many forlorn orphans, she was begging from door to door in Hajin. One night God led her steps to Maria’s house. With bashfulness and reticence she asked for help. She had no place to sleep. Death was dogging her steps in the very budding of her youthful life. She later related to Maria that a particular anxiety gripped her soul. “What if I die now? Where will I go?”
Maria, as she did with every person who came her way, pointed her to the waiting arms of the Savior. She encouraged Nunia with motherly words, telling her that the Savior was there ready to receive her. He would meet every need of her life. Nunia was about eleven years old at the time, very much aware that she had sin in her life. When she started praying for salvation she confessed every sin she could remember. Suddenly she began praising God as her newly-found Father. She expressed the joy that flooded her soul and thanked Christ that the burden of her heart was taken away. She joyfully told Maria about the happiness that filled her heart and soul. She became a transformed girl, assuring Maria that the Holy Spirit had come into her heart. Without hesitation she submitted to water baptism. She became an obedient follower of the Lord Jesus Christ from the very outset.
Maria noticed in Nunia a desire to serve Christ, so she assigned her to go from one child to the other, telling them of God’s salvation. This she gladly did, explaining to each one that the Savior was waiting to receive them. She brought new joy to each bedside as child after child came to Christ in simple faith. But Nunia’s delightful service was not to last long. One day she showed signs of illness. It was soon discovered that she had contracted typhoid fever from another child. Much prayer went up on her behalf, but she was not to recover. Maria would visit her often as she lay in bed. Nunia told her, “Mother, I must tell you that Jesus Christ appeared to me, stood next to my bed and told me that he would soon send a band of angels to carry me to his glorious land.” As she was relating her story, her face shone. Maria tried to comfort her, suggesting that they further pray in faith to Jesus Christ for healing. “No, no!” she emphatically responded. “Jesus told me that he is taking me to be with him. I must go home.” With this shining testimony Nunia was transferred with absolute assurance into the arms of her Savior. She was now freed from all earthly suffering. Maria related later that Nunia’s salvation would have been reward enough for having left the States and coming to Hajin. “Among the numerous children I sought to assist, this one was a bright star and she is now shining in heaven.”
There were other children also who succumbed to the hardship and misery of
life. God knows how many
desperate women and children entered through the pearly gates of heaven
during those dark days in Hajin.
Maria wrote: “Each of the dear orphan children who died while in my
care during the nineteen fruitful years I spent in the
“Around the throne of God in heaven
Thousands of children stand,
Children whose sins are all forgiven,
A holy, happy band,
Singing Glory, Glory.
In flowing robes of spotless white,
See everyone arrayed,
Dwelling in everlasting light
And joys that never fade,
Singing Glory, Glory.
What brought them to that world above
That heaven so bright and fair,
Where all is peace and joy and love,
How came those children there?
Singing Glory, Glory.
Because the Savior shed his blood
To wash away their sin;
Bathed in that pure and precious blood,
Behold them white and clean,
Singing Glory, Glory.
On earth they sought the Savior’s grace,
On earth they loved his name;
So now they see his blessed face
And stand before the Lamb,
Singing Glory! Glory!
The rules of the house were these: Rising bell, . Until six, the children had to wash up and make their beds. From six to six-thirty there was Bible study and prayer time. Breakfast was served at six-thirty. At the table the children were supervised by the teachers. At a general chapel service took place for children, teachers, widows, workers and people from outside. After the chapel service, classes began with teaching sessions until twelve. At , the dining room bell rang for a very simple lunch. Afternoon classes started at one and continued until four. Then there was recess, when children joyfully played outside in the fresh air. Supper was served at five, which was somewhat relaxed time-wise. Evening prayer was called at six-thirty and at the little children were tucked into bed. From seven to eight-thirty the older children prepared their lessons. Bedtime was at nine. It was a tightly regimented schedule. Naturally, Sundays were special. Sunday school was at , followed by preaching. At , the evening service was held with testimonies, singing, and a short Bible lesson after which there was opportunity for the children to raise questions relating to the study. The meeting was closed with prayer.
Maria leaves Hajin in Rose’s Hands
Maria was a person who could not stay in one place.
She was always looking for new opportunities and uncharted frontiers.
Her illustrious service in Hajin lasted for five years, every day
full of worthwhile activity for her Lord.
After serving day and night, her strength was not as robust as when
she first arrived in Hajin. She
started praying that the Lord would lead her to another fruitful field.
But first she needed some rest.
In 1902 her health broke, so she
went to the
At the outset of the massacre the acting superintendent and two of the most
useful and trustworthy Armenians who were assisting in the work were
brutally murdered. Aside from
the terrible grief she experienced, Rose Lambert was suddenly left with the
total responsibility of running the orphanage.
She contracted typhoid fever, but eventually recovered.
She related to her supporters in the
Maria belonged to the Mennonite denomination.
Through her, many of these people caught a vision of missionary work
In October 1904 she sailed back to
Move to Zinjidere
Maria Gerber understood that her brief time in
Indeed, Zinjidere was the right place for the site of the orphanage she had
in mind. It lay at the foot of
Immediately Maria pressed the two precious Swiss francs into his hand and promised him work, provided the necessary funds would come in. She took some boys from the orphanage with long sticks (not having a measuring rod) to lay out end-to-end on the ground where the foundations of the first house should stand. Amazingly, the granite was in the exact location needed for the foundations of the building.
When the miracle of finding the granite was heard in
The work went very fast.
Building after building went up.
There were sizeable rooms for the children, a large hall with a
capacity for over one thousand for meetings, kitchen and laundry room, a
bakery, rooms for learning trades, housing for staff, places for
recreational activity and a stable.
During the time of building there was constant prayer and financial
support. God honored his worthy
servant Maria and her faithful supporters. The construction of the four
stone houses was completed from start to finish in two years. She and her
associates seriously contemplated possible names for this place.
Several suggestions were put forward, each one weighed against the
The day of dedication arrived. A commodious dwelling place and school for orphans were to be consecrated to God’s glory. American missionaries from the nearby Talas academy and hospital were all present. Turkish officials were also in attendance. Greek and Armenian community leaders were delighted for what God had brought to their town. The Scripture reading by an Armenian preacher was from I Kings 8 and II Chronicles 16. The orphans enthusiastically sang hymns, of course all in Turkish. The older boys who had a music teacher, himself a former orphan, and instruments supplied by Christians added to the joyful celebration with their rousing brass band. The assembly hall was spacious. Maria had foreseen that in such an important institution there should be an auditorium large enough to accommodate several hundred people. That day the overflow crowd, numbering a few hundred, had to stand outside. Maria, herself being an evangelist, realized that the orphanage should have its own evangelist-pastor. The first person to be assigned for this duty was the Reverend Mr. Migirdich Aijian. Well-known Christians such as Haralambos Bostanjoglu and Vahram Tahmisian later became part of the pastoral staff.
At one point Zinjidere was hit by a catastrophic fire.
The tragedy destroyed the nearby huts of widows and orphans.
There were about two hundred of these improvised dwellings that
burned to the ground. Women and
children were going through the smoldering ruins picking up whatever was
left, including half-burned wheat and rice.
Even these could not go wasted.
Once again an unexpected duty fell on Maria’s shoulders.
She rushed to the help of these devastated people, offering them
immediate assistance and consoling them in their desperation. The many
widows welcomed her with tears and deep grief.
Now they were really on the verge of starvation. She assured them
that she would dispatch letters to supporters in
She returned to the orphanage with a burdened heart. It was breakfast time. The soup was already poured into the bowls and the bread was sliced. But the children were just sitting before their plates with folded hands. Puzzled, Maria asked them why they weren’t eating. A little boy who was the group’s appointed spokesman stood up. He asked Maria (whom they all called ‘Mother’) on behalf of all the children for permission not to eat breakfast, but instead give their morning meal to those who had been ravished by the fire. Deeply touched, Maria accepted this request. Suddenly, shouts of joy swept through the dining room. The children inundated Maria with thanks. The order was given: Each child was to take his or her bowl and spoon in one hand and the piece of bread in the other, and walk carefully down the hill in an orderly fashion so as not to spill the soup. A teacher guided this happy band of little benefactors on their way to give their soup to whomever they chose.
A while later the exuberant children came back carrying empty bowls in their little hands, each with a story to tell of the expressions of thankfulness from those who had received their offering. They realized that since Christ gave his life on the Cross for others, his true followers must share whatever they have with people in need. Quoting the words of the Apostle Paul: “…one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts ). The children forgot their own hunger. Full of joy, they studied their lessons and played happily without having a morsel of food until the meal.
This was not an isolated incident in the life of the home. Being grateful for the Lord Jesus Christ’s supreme offer on the Cross and observing Maria’s readiness to help wherever needed, the ‘little lambs’ as she called them, learned the joy of giving and receiving. Another time the children did not rush to their places at mealtime as they usually did. Again Maria asked them why they were not running to the table to eat their food. One of the children volunteered to explain. At the children were usually given bread and cheese or olives. Meals were cooked only in the evenings. On this particular day their meal was raisins with bread, a special treat. Children waited to receive their share of raisins, carefully counted out, with a thick slice of bread. The boy who volunteered to speak on behalf of the others asked permission to eat only bread, sell the raisins, then buy bread from the home and offer the bread to the destitute folks who had lost everything in the fire.
Maria always alert to add a spiritual tone to such activity gladly accepted the request. She ordered a bag to be brought in, told two or three children to hold it open, and every child emptied his or her raisins from the plate into the bag. There was a particular joy in each face as they proceeded with their act of offering for the poor. After all the raisins were collected the bag was weighed on a scale. The realized value was determined, against which money bread was bought from the home’s bakery. The loaves of bread were carefully cut, each child taking a few slices, then running down the hill with joy to feed the desperate fire victims. Acts of generosity like these were quite common in this home. Also, when a child was given a little money by someone, he/she would run to Maria and present part of it for the missionary offering box.
One time, news reached all the way from
Maria was eager to gather the victims of massacres, deportations and famine wherever she could find them. The presence of death horrified the children. Maria taught them to defy death by emphasizing the giver of life, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Orphans’ Intercessory Ministry
The ominous signs of World War I were intensifying. It was summertime and the weather was extremely hot. One night the intense heat brought restlessness to everyone in the house. Maria, too, was affected by the heat and became ill. The following morning she was not able to get up and resume her duties. One of the teachers came in to check on her condition. Maria instructed her to carry on the work of the home, taking on her responsibilities, as she needed to rest. The teacher informed the children that Mother was very ill and that they shouldn’t make any noise. Fear gripped each little heart. Death being all-pervasive, they worried about the possibility of Mother dying. No child was given permission to go into her room. However, the children were so eager to see her that they came in secretly. Without any talk, her first visitors started praying for her. Within a few minutes, more children crept into the room. They all knelt around the bed, lifting their prayers of faith to Jesus Christ. Those who couldn’t enter the room were kneeling outside the door in the corridor.
One girl prayed, “Oh Lord, this is the only mother we have. Our mothers are all gone. Please, Jesus, don’t let Mother, whom we love so much, die!” Another child said, “Jesus, I promise you right here, if you will make our mother well, I will never, never, never be disobedient again.” Immediately after this prayer they started thanking God for healing their mother. Maria had taught the effect and significance of divine healing. God answered these intercessions of faith without delay. When they saw Maria feeling better, they whispered to each other, “We prayed for our mother and Jesus healed her!” The orphanage had no resident doctor or nurse, although there was an American hospital in nearby Talas. Maria Gerber often said, “We have no other house physician than Jesus. He is all-sufficient for everybody’s needs.” And she would remark joyfully, “My faithful native helpers are immersed in faith, zeal, self-denial and loyalty to their heavenly Father.”
World War I
The anticipated war broke out on August 4, 1914. It brought with it extremely harsh conditions and an ordeal almost beyond endurance. This happened while the ministry of the orphanage was progressing with much encouragement. A volume of intercession ascended from all those who had found such a beautiful home in Zinjidere. However, the pernicious conflict coming upon them was gong to usher in grief and sorrow beyond all that had been experienced until then. The effect of the war was immediately felt. Among the staff there were several highly qualified and dedicated young men. Abruptly they were all drafted into the Ottoman army. As Armenians their wretchedness was going to be extreme. One of them was a young fellow who had been brought up in the orphanage and eventually become a capable teacher at the school. Other than his teaching duties he was a genuine father to many boys and girls. At the time there were two hundred orphans. He was a model mentor to all the children. He himself was an amazing intercessor in every quandary, and he passed the spirit of prayer on to the children.
Night after night he would go from room to room, kneeling beside the bed of each child. Where he found some already sleeping he held their hands and prayed for the child’s particular needs. As in every institution there were difficult children. Through prayer and fatherly love and discipline he led them to the obedience taught in the Scriptures. The happy outcome was that they could lead untroubled, joyful lives. This newly-married young man was immediately snatched by the army. He was never heard from again.
The armed conflict immediately showed its effect on the assistance coming from foreign countries. In many cases such help could not be sent, or its delivery would be held up by the officials without their giving any reason for doing so. Every day 700-800 meals had to be prepared, most of these for people who were living outside the home. Two hundred children had to be clothed. There was no other way to supply all these needs than teaching the widows and children trades such as sewing and knitting, shoe-making, rug-weaving, carpentry, and other useful skills. About five hundred pairs of children’s shoes were made in the orphanage workshop. All bread was baked at the home. Even a small printing shop was started to print a periodical in Turkish with Armenian characters. When practically all assistance sent from abroad was cut, people had to make do with whatever they had. As the Turkish proverb has it, ‘Kendi yağınla kavrul!’ i.e., ‘fry with whatever cooking oil you have’.
Until the war broke out containers from abroad were regularly coming in.
These were now reduced to a trickle.
Then came the inevitable disaster.
Turks having no qualms about taking over Christian institutions, told
Maria that they needed the larger buildings for their wounded soldiers.
Maria was not the only one to receive such a harsh demand.
The American Board was also deprived of some of their buildings in
nearby Talas. Now, what to do
with the children who were suddenly left homeless?
God always gave special ingenuity to his faithful servant Maria.
She traveled to
The nationalistic party of Union and Progress (I & T), holding the
government reins firmly in their hands had become even more cruel and
merciless than Sultan Abdul Hamid II, whom it had toppled in 1908.
When it came to power there were brilliant promises to the
minorities, particularly the Armenians, but it soon became clear that they
had diametrically changed their policy.
Chilling winds were blowing across
Maria and her colleagues who had joyfully experienced the birth of this
oasis in the desert were now witnessing the demise of all their labors.
Their much-loved home where desperate children were tenderly cared for was
snatched away. Seeing the Turks prevail over the Cross of the Lord Jesus
Christ in the name of Allah was the devastating climax of their overall
conquest. The first Turkish
victory won in Manazkirt in 1071, with a long series of intervening triumphs
was about to be consummated with their final supremacy.
This marked the end of an illustrious institution where many lives
were spared, met Jesus Christ as Savior and became useful to God.
One could say “Ichabod”
was written over the place (I Samuel ). Following the
passing of nearly a century the illuminating power of the Cross is being
felt here and there in
Adapted from Maria Gerber’s memoirs written in simple English, also from
minutes of several annual conferences of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ,
Board of Missions,
History of Orphanages
Jeremiah cried his heart out in the sight of his nation’s defeat and demise (cf. Lamentations 5:3). The cruel Babylonian conquest resulted in leaving numerous widows and orphans. The plight of orphans in older times was at least as bad as it is in many countries today. In days when there was no social concern for fatherless and motherless children, genuine uplift and assistance were extended only here and there. In the Middle Ages Christian monasteries and convents were the few avenues where such boys and girls could be housed and taken care of. This was slightly better than their being left abandoned in the streets. Naturally, in those times there were a vast number of forsaken children.
Until Christ’s unique love for children and his compassion for the little ones were actively demonstrated, the disturbing predicament of orphans did not draw extensive tenderheartedness. A person has to come to the New Testament to encounter and feel the anguishing pathos for helpless children. There was a period in history when abandoned children were placed with adult inmates, including insane, senile, crippled, diseased, drunkards and even criminals. We can only imagine the deplorable condition of helpless orphans living in such despicable circumstances.
By early 1550, orphanages were combined with educational reform centers in
The first orphanage was opened in
Adoption, foster care and smaller cottage-style child welfare institutions
by and large replaced the established orphanages in several states.
By the time of the Great Depression and the New Deal, with emphasis
on social welfare programs, the period of traditional orphanages was waning.
However, there were orphanages until after World War II.
The subject cannot be concluded without mentioning Father Edward J.
Flanagan’s shelter for homeless and delinquents at Boys’ Town in