In 1939 my mother died; I was eight at the time. There were four children in our family, and we lived in Highley Nr Bridgenorth in Shropshire . It was war time and my father was in his sixties. He was too old to look after us and needed to find somewhere for us to go together to be looked after. My Aunty went to church at a little Mission Hall in Birmingham where they supported an orphanage called George Müller's Homes. My Aunty felt this would be the right place for us to go and persuaded my father to send us there. My brother and one sister went in 1939 and I followed a year later in 1940. My other sister stayed home with them.
I arrived at Müller's very excited and wondering what life would be like, but missing my mum and my other sister, as we had been very close. I had been fostered for a year, which had been a very unhappy experience when I often went hungry. George Müller's Homes seemed like heaven to me, with regular meals, plain and simple, clean clothes, baths (I hadn't had many of them) good shoes, discipline and education.
We read the Bible and sang children's songs. We had our own hymn book, a copy of which I still have today. I did not know anything at all about Jesus. I was so hungry for love and in such need of reassurance that as I heard the stories of Jesus, who loved me, a little orphan, my heart just opened up to him. I was nine then, and Jesus and those truths are still with me at the age of 74.
What was life really like there? Fun and hard. It was wartime, and we had to share everything. We slept 60 to a dormitory, made our own beds, scrubbed and polished floors, worked in the laundry (for about a thousand children and the staff). Imagine the washing for all of us! We were taught to clean our own shoes, brush our hair, knit our own stocking and socks darn them too. We used scrubbing boards in the laundry, learned how to lay tables, wait at table, clean silver and polish furniture. We learned how to make our own clothes, stitch samplers, write letters, to sing and recite poetry, march to music, skip to music, sing the alphabet and other songs.
My favourite was reciting poetry, and I write it and love it to this day thanks to Mullers dedicated teaching staff. People came from far and wide to see us perform. We were taught to write properly with nib pens and ink Although the teaching staff could not really show affection because they mustn't be seen favouring one more than another they were very kind. We did miss out on cuddles which made me miss my mum more, but I was fortunate I had a big sister and a brother in the boy's department who we saw once a month. When we left Müller's it was hard to get close to him as we'd missed out on the growing up and together times.
The highlight for me was Sunday afternoons when the book cupboard was opened. I was an avid reader then and still am. We were encouraged to read all good books and it taught me to choose carefully what things I read and I vetted all my children's books and comics as they were growing up. I read 'Pilgrim's Progress', and 'The Holy City' by John Bunyan, and was fascinated in later life to see the cage on Bedford bridge where he was imprisoned. I now have my own copy of 'The Holy War'. I always had a copy of 'Pilgrims Progress' as we were given a Bible and a copy of Pilgrims Progress when we left the home.
There is so much more I could tell! Such is my love for Müller's and the happy times I had there that I go up there every year to our reunion and am on the committee which runs it. Old boys and girls come from all over the world. George Müller and his Faithful God live on in his family, of which I am proud to belong. We sing the song 'We Love This Family of God' and one line in it says 'We are family, we are one' - and that's how we feel!