Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Another Famous Charles

Our grandson, Douglas Charles, is now fifteen. When he was born, I asked our son, Robby, why he named him Douglas Charles. I knew where the name Douglas came from, but what about the name Charles? Robby was surprised and said, "Dad, you know. Charles Spurgeon, your hero!"

Yes, most of us have heard of Charles Spurgeon, the famous godly preacher, orphanage and pastors' college founder, author, and pastor of the London Metropolitan Tabernacle in the 1800s. However, there is another "Charles," a Charles about whom many of us have heard very little or nothing. This is Charles Loring Brace of New York City in the 1850s.

Imagine yourself a child, abandoned on the streets of New York. Your immigrant parents died on a ship on the way to America or in poverty in a city alley. You have no money and no relatives. You can't speak English, and you are left to fend for yourself.

As many as 30,000 orphans found themselves in exactly that predicament in the 1850s. They slept in alleys, huddling for warmth in boxes or metal drums. To survive, the boys mostly stole, caught rats to eat, and rummaged in garbage cans. Girls sometimes worked as "panel thieves" for prostitutes, slipping their tiny hands through camouflaged openings in walls to lift a watch or wallet from a preoccupied customer.

Immigrants were flooding New York City then, and no one had the time or money to look after the orphans—no one, that is, except Charles Loring Brace, a 26-year-old minister. Horrified by their plight, he began the foster home plan. When he ran out of homes, he organized a unique solution, the Orphan Train. The idea was simple: put hundreds of orphans on a train heading west. As the train passed through towns along the way, Christian committees brought approved Christian families to the train station to claim a new son or daughter from the Orphan Train.

By the time the last Orphan Train steamed west in 1929, between 150,000 and 200,000 children had found new homes and new lives. Some of the homes were not the best or very loving, but most of the children were taken in by families who loved and cared for them even in a day when orphans were looked down upon. Two orphans from such trains became governors, one served as a United States Congressman, and still another was a U.S. Supreme Court justice. [Source: http://www.42explore2.com/orphan.htm]

Perhaps our loving God would raise up another Charles in this century to take the Gospel and compassionate care to the 10 million orphans today in Africa. If one hundred people named Charles (or Carl or Carol or Clara) took responsibility for 100,000 orphans each in Africa (as Charles Brace did), a total of 10 million would be ministered to and cared for in Jesus' name.

Is this too much to ask and trust God for? Yes, but only if God meant James 1:27 for a few orphans and not all of them!

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