The orphan children all had their dinners and were ready for bed. They always felt loved and cared for in the Bristol orphanage; little did they know that the orphanage had no money and there was no food for breakfast the next day. Though he did not know how, George Mueller was confident the Lord would provide for the orphans--after all, wasn't he a "Father to the fatherless" (Psalm 68:5)? Mr. Mueller went to bed, committing the care of the orphans to God. The next morning he went for a walk, praying for God to supply the orphanage's needs. In his walk he met a friend who asked him to accept some money for the orphanage. . . Mr. Mueller thanked him, but did not tell the friend about the pressing need. Instead, he praised God for the answer to prayer and went to the orphanage for breakfast.
No Salary for George
George Mueller had joyfully dedicated his "whole life to the object of exemplifying how much may be accomplished by prayer and faith." When he had moved to Bristol in 1832 to take the pulpit of Gideon chapel, he and his wife Mary decided not to accept a salary from the congregation. They wanted to daily depend upon the Lord for their needs, and they accepted only unsolicited freewill offerings. Mueller's journal is full of the amazing ways the Lord directed funds to them throughout his sixty-six years of ministry.
A Detestable Young Drunk
George Mueller had not always lived a life of faith. As a young man in Prussia (in today's Germany) he was busy pursuing his own pleasures. When he was fourteen and his mother lay dying, he was out partying and getting drunk with his friends. By sixteen he was a liar, a thief, a swindler, a drunkard, and in jail. Yet, God worked in the young man's soul and brought him to Himself. While at the University of Halle in 1825, he left behind the profligacy and self-seeking of his old life and became totally devoted to serving his Lord. Humility came to mark Mueller's life, for he depended on God for everything, viewing himself as a tool in the hands of the Master Workman.
By 1829, Mueller had left his native Prussia and gone to London to train as a missionary to the Jews. However, in England the Lord directed him along other paths, and by 1832 he was pastoring a Brethren congregation in Bristol, England. Bristol would be the center of his ministry for the next sixty-six years.
Influenced by Pietism
At Bristol, Mueller began reading a biography of a great leader of the "Pietism" movement, A. H. . Francke, who had founded an orphan house at Halle in 1696. Francke's orphanage became the largest enterprise for orphans then existing in the world, and he had trusted in God for every provision. As Mueller began to work with the poor in Bristol, he too wanted to trust the Lord and bring every need to Him in prayer.
A year after coming to Bristol, Mueller had established two Sunday Schools, two adult schools, and six day schools. In 1834 he founded the Scriptural Knowledge Institute. Debts were not allowed for this work of the Lord, and the "patronage of the World" was not to be accepted. The Lord prospered the work. By 1880 the S.K.I. was responsible for 72 day schools with 7000 students in Bristol as well as in Italy, Spain, and South America.
Homes for Orphans
As work among the poor in Bristol grew, Mueller believed he should open an orphan house. Within a year, one hundred orphans were being cared for; by 1870, the orphanages had multiplied and two thousand children were being cared for.
It's God's Concern
The history of the Bristol orphanages is page after page of answered prayer. Nothing was too small to bring to the Lord in prayer, for nothing was too small to be under God's care. In his prayers, Mueller would confidently set his need and his case before God: He is their Father, and therefore has pledged Himself, as it were, to provide for them; and I have only to remind Him of the need of these poor children in order to have it supplied.
An Unfailing Faith
It was this unshakable faith in God's providing hand which made the Bristol orphanages so unique. Some leaders visiting the orphanage asked the matron of the home, "Of course you cannot carry these institutions without a good stock of funds. . . Have you a good stock?" The matron quietly replied, "Our funds are deposited in a bank which cannot break." Tears came to the eyes of the visitors, who gave a donation to the work -- a very timely gift because at the moment there were no funds on hand! The orphanage never accumulated a surplus of funds, but daily relied on the Lord for their provisions.
When he was seventy, George Mueller turned over the management of the orphanages to his son-in-law and began a series of worldwide missionary tours. From 1875 to 1892 he traveled 250,000 miles and addressed 3 million people in forty-two countries. He died in Bristol at the age of 93. Though much money had passed through his hands he did not accumulate wealth for himself. His life demonstrated what extraordinary ministry can be accomplished through the combination of tender compassion for hungry and homeless children, unshakable faith in God, and practical action to meet need.
The homes emphasized education and the development of Christian character. The quality of education was so high that Mueller was accused of educating the poor beyond their station and robbing the factories and mines of their labor. Boys were kept in their homes until they were fourteen and girls until they were seventeen. All were trained in some work so they had jobs when they left the orphanage. Boys were often apprenticed to some trade, and the girls were prepared for domestic service, nursing, or teaching.