The year was 1909. A five year old boy stood on the station platform in a town in central Iowa. The year before, the boy, his older sister and his parents had been living in upstate New York. An unknown tragedy struck the family. All that is known is that the parents brought their two children to the Children's Aid Society in New York. Both of the children were very ill. The oldest child, a girl named Myrtle died due to complications after a tonsilectomy. Her little brother was either never informed or he refused to talk about it. He only mentioned to his own children that he thought perhaps he did have a sister. Shortly thereafter, the boy was placed in care of Reverend H.D. Clarke who was an agent for the Children's Aid Society. This was the next step in his journey.
In Iowa, an unmarried middle-aged woman with a good farm, read an ad about children coming to Iowa looking for good homes. Her parents were no longer living and none of her remaining siblings had any children except her sister in Canada who was expecting a baby in the fall. It would be good to have a child on the place. She was financially secure and had a lot of property. She felt she could provide a very good home for a child. So, she headed into town on the appointed day.
When she arrived at the train station, she was hesitant. Which child should she pick? She'd already decided she wanted a boy but there were several small boys. Reverend Clarke pointed to the five year old boy. "I think this is the boy you want." he said. She took the boy home and he eventually became my maternal grandfather.
While researching family history, I read up a bit on Reverend Clarke, the man who placed my grandfather as well as so many other children in the early twentieth century. Contrary to the idea that all of the orphan train riders were just dropped off, Reverend Clarke was an example of a man who viewed his work with CAS as a ministry. He wrote to the children and their new families on a regular basis. He visited them whenever it was possible. He requested pictures and kept scrapbooks with pictures and letters. Most important of all, he prayed for those children and their future families.
When I learned about his prayers, tears formed in my eyes. Nearly 100 years ago, someone was praying for me! I thought about my mother's family. Had those prayers been answered? What sort of impact had they had on my life as well as the lives of others in my family?
To the best of our knowledge, my grandfather never accept Christ (although one of my aunts had been talking to him about the Lord earlier that day. She found herself in urgent prayer for her father later that day and really believes that God was dealing with him).
Although neither my grandfather nor his wife grew up in Christian homes, his wife did become a Christian when she was 14. She served the Lord faithfully and bore much fruit until her death two years ago at the age of 96. She taught her children to love the Lord and set an example for them. She put her trust in God for all things including her daily bread for a family of 10 during the depression years as well as for healing. My mother was actually healed of polio. We never knew she even had it until a few years ago when some tests were done. She was asked about when she had polio. She didn't know she ever had polio but the evidence was showing up on her scan. She asked my grandmother about it and grandma recalled a time when my mom was very ill. She said there was no money for a doctor so she just took it to the Lord. Then my mom was fine. Grandma had been afraid that it was polio but since mom seemed fine, she didn't think about it anymore!
My grandfather's oldest son became a Christian at age 16. He died suddenly in his early twenties but he had gone into evangelistic work right after becoming a Christian and had spent his remaining few years traveling with a group of young men and ministering to people through music as well as through the word of God.
Other children have been involved in Christian service both in the U.S. as well as on the mission field.
The legacy continued into the next generation. Nearly all of my cousins are serving the Lord. Many of us have been involved in the areas of teaching and preaching both to children and adults. As I look at my son's generation, I see the trend continue. Many in that generation have chosen to follow the Lord as well. My son has used his talent in the performing arts to minister to thousands of teenagers across the upper midwest both in churches as well as public schools. Several have spent time in Africa working in orphanages. One is preparing to go again this coming spring. One started a Bible study at her college. These are just a few things I thought about as I thought about the prayers of Reverend Clarke.
I thought about prayer. We don't always see the answers to prayers right away. We may not even see the answer fulfilled in our life time.
The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:16bI know for certain this was true in the case of our family. Prayers prayed nearly 100 years ago for a little boy and his family didn't just impact me, they've made a difference in the lives of every single person whose lives we've touched.
I shared this story to help us to remember that we do not pray in vain. We must never stop praying for our world if we desire to "turn the world upside down" for God!