James 1:27

Our daughter learned a little about orphan trains in Heritage Studies.  Curious, I decided to check out a book on the subject.  I found, Orphan Train Rider One Boy’s True Story by Andrea Warren.  It’s Lee Nailling’s story.

The author wrote, “More than 200,000 children rode ‘orphan trains’ in this country (America) between 1854 and 1930.  They were part of a ‘placing out’ program created to find homes for children who were orphans or whose parents could not take care of them…Within a week a child could go from living in an orphanage or on city streets to living in a Midwestern farmhouse or village.”

When Lee’s mom died, he was only seven.  He thinks his dad was dealing with sorrow when he decided to take Lee and one of his brothers to an orphanage.  Lee said, “Nobody visited us, nobody wanted us, nobody loved us…We lived off charity, wearing cast-off clothing people gave us.  Our only gift at Christmas was an apple or orange.  We had no future.”

When the orphan train came, Lee saw his dad with a little boy and ran to him.  Lee hoped his dad was there to take them home, but he found out that the little boy was another of his brothers, just a little older, and that the little brother was going on the train with them.

Lee’s story is full of heartache as he eventually gets separated from his brothers.  But thankfully, he ends up in a Christian home and was able to reconnect with most of his siblings.  One of the most moving parts of the book for me was when he started to experience what being loved is like.  His first night in the new home, he’s tucked in and kissed.  He didn’t know if anyone had ever kissed him before.  He thought his mom might have.  When it was breakfast time, he saw a lot of food and assumed they must be expecting company, however, he only saw place settings for the three of them.  When Lee started to eat, he was told they needed to pray first.

“Then I started to listen to her.  She was thanking God out loud for the beautiful day and the recovered health of a friend who had been sick, and for the bounty of food we were about to enjoy.  Then she said an amazing thing: ‘Father, thank you for sending our new son to us, for the privilege of allowing us to raise him.  We will try to be good parents to him.’  “I’m sure my jaw dropped in amazement.  Somebody was actually thankful I was there?  I had always felt like a bother to adults, but this woman was acting like she was glad I was there!  I stole a glance at Ben.  He smiled at me and said, ‘We’re happy you’re with us, son.  Now let’s eat.”

Lee’s harrowing and touching story is one orphan story.  Care to guess how many orphans there are estimated to be in the world?  “Around the world, there are an estimated 153 million orphans who have lost one parent. There are 17,900,000 orphans who have lost both parents and are living in orphanages or on the streets and lack the care and attention required for healthy development. These children are at risk for disease, malnutrition, and death.  Source: Childinfo (UNICEF, 2011)”  http://www.ccainstitute.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=25&Itemid=43

The Bible calls Christians to help orphans.  If you’re not already doing what you can to help them, this is a great place to get started:  http://www.samaritanspurse.org/donation-items/orphans-and-vulnerable-children/