Leonard Shaw Of Manchester
The work for homeless children in Manchester was cradled in prayer.
Every step in preparation was laid before God. But what I want specially
to insist upon is the real connection there is between prayer and work.
From the first my practice has been to lay our wants before God in
prayer, and at the same time to use every means within our reach to
obtain what we desired. I well remember in the early days of the work
how anxiously we discussed whether it was to be conducted on the
"faith" principle, as it is called, or on the "work" principle. Looking
back on the way by which we have come, it seems to me now that faith and
work necessarily go together. Earnest believing prayer is not less
earnest and believing because you use the means God has put within your
reach. Your dependence upon God is just the same. You send out an
appeal, but it is God who disposes the hearts of the people to
subscribe. So I say the connection between praying and working, though
not always seen, is very real. Day by day the special needs of the work
are laid before God, and day by day they are supplied.
Of direct answers to prayer I have had many sweet and encouraging
assurances, particularly in connection with our orphan homes. In the
first five years of the work, we only took in boys between the ages of
ten and sixteen. At that time of life, boys who have been brought up on
the street are not easy to manage, and a friend to whom I was telling
some of our difficulties, suggested that we should take the boys in
younger. To do so meant a new departure, and on going into the matter I
found that a sum of about L600 would be needed to start such an orphan
home as was suggested. I said to my wife, "Let us pray about this; if it
is God's will that we should enter upon this new branch of work, He will
send the money." We resolved that should be the test; if the money came
we would start the home, otherwise we would not. Our annual meeting came
round soon after, and in the report I made an appeal on behalf of the
new scheme. The report was sent out with much prayer, but no individual
person was asked to contribute. In a few days I received a letter from a
gentleman residing in Southport, enclosing a cheque for L600. The house
for the first of our orphan homes was bought for L500, and the balance
of the cheque enabled us to furnish it.
At the end of the following year, the home was full of fatherless and
motherless little ones, and others were seeking admission for whom there
was no room. I sent out a second appeal, asking God to put it into the
heart of someone to provide a second home. A few weeks afterwards a lady
well known in Manchester paid us a visit at the home and two days later
I received from her a cheque for L1000. In this way we got our second
home. Another year and this second home was also full. Again I prayed
God to dispose the heart of some one to help us, and I sent out another
appeal. One day, perhaps two or three weeks later, a gentleman stopped
me in the street and said he had been wanting to see me for some days,
as he had a cheque for L700 waiting for me at his office. At the moment
the orphan home was not in my mind, and I asked what the cheque was for.
Why, he said, I understand your two orphan homes are full and that you
want another. And so we got our third home. Another year and it too was
full. Again after earnest prayer I received a cheque for L1000 from
another Manchester gentleman, who in some way had come to know that a
fourth home was needed.
In these four cases you have, I think, remarkable instances of direct
answer to prayer. So, at any rate, I must always regard them. I need not
say how encouraged we were, year after year, to go on with the work,
though each additional home meant a large increase in our annual
The money with which the fifth orphanage house was bought was not given
in one sum nor specially for the purpose, and the circumstances would
not warrant me in saying that it came in direct answer to prayer. When a
sixth home became necessary an appeal was made to the schoolgirls of
Lancashire and Cheshire, and they found the L500 for the purchase money.
This house is called "The School Girls' Home." The inscription on the
memorial stone, "His children shall have a place of refuge," was
suggested by the late Bishop of Manchester.
In smaller, but perhaps not less important matters, we have had
unmistakable proofs that God answers prayer. One case which occurred in
the early days of the work greatly impressed me. A letter came one
morning from Stalybridge asking us to take in five little children who
had been left destitute and without a friend in the world. I went over
to make inquiries, and found the children in the same room with the dead
body of their mother, which had little more to cover it than an old
sack. Our means at that time were very small, and I thought we could
hardly venture to take in all the children. The clergyman of the parish
pleaded with me to take at least two or three. I asked what was to
become of the others, and the answer was that there was nothing for them
but the workhouse. What to do I did not know. I made it a matter of
prayer, but all that night it lay upon my heart a great burden. Next
morning I came downstairs still wondering what to do. Amongst the
letters on my table was one from a gentleman at Bowdon, enclosing,
unasked, a cheque for L50. In those days L50 was an exceptionally large
sum for us to receive, and I took the letter as a direct word from God
that we should accept the care of the children. We did so, and I am glad
to say every one of them turned out well.
But direct answers to prayer are not confined to mere gifts of money.
Over and over again during these twenty-seven years of rescue work I
have put individual cases before God and asked Him to deal with them,
and it is just wonderful how He has subdued stubborn wills and changed
hearts and lives.
Years ago there came to the Refuges the son of a man known to the
Manchester police as "Mike the devil." Tom was as rough a customer as
ever I saw, and for a time we had some trouble with him. But a great
change came over him, and I have myself no doubt it was the result of
personal pleading with God on his behalf. Tom is now an ordained
minister of the Gospel in America. There is no end to the cases I could
give of that kind. They all point to the same conclusion, that God does
answer definite prayer. And to-day, after twenty-seven years of work, I
praise Him for it.
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