This is the day that … Thomas John Barnardo was born in Dublin, Ireland, in the year 1845 … “and the doctor doubted whether or not the new baby would live”.
The little one survived only to become “desperately ill with diphtheria at the age of two. Doctors failed to detect a heartbeat … Funeral arrangements were made and the undertakers arrived; but as they came to lift the small boy into his coffin the movement caused his heart to give a slight flutter …” (Biography of Dr Barnardo, by N. Wymer, page 11).
We pass over his interesting childhood and come to his 17th year. On 26 May, 1862, he accompanied his two brothers – unwillingly – to hear the testimony of a “once dissolute actor” – and that night young Thomas came to know the Saviour.
He joined the Open Brethren … was baptised at a local Baptist chapel … and was led a step further in his spiritual pilgrimage by hearing Hudson Taylor speak.
He studied medicine at the London Hospital, engaged in street preaching and involved himself with helping the homeless waifs in the Stepney slums.
He commenced “The East End Juvenile Mission”, in a donkey shed, in 1870. By 1873 he had taken over larger premises … then “he built a village at Ilford to provide homes for girls.”
So the movement grew and grew.
By the time of his death – 19 September, 1905 – he had admitted 59,384 children to his Dr Barnardo homes, helped 20,000 to emigrate (to find employment), and materially assisted a further 250,000! (Dictionary of the Christian Church, page 105).
This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.