“We Have an Orphan”
“We Have an Orphan” – Edward Nollau
As I write this month’s column, my heart is still filled with joy from Easter celebrations this year. Just last week a friend and I were in the office reflecting on how good it was to see church pews filled with families after several years of muted and virtual Easter gatherings. At South Euclid UCC on Easter Sunday, Pastor Courtney Clayton Jenkins preached from the point of view of Simon Peter, describing the various emotions he would have experienced mourning the death of Jesus on Silent Saturday, wrestling with sadness and despair at what to do while sitting in that space between Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection; what to do in the perceived absence of Jesus. After hearing this message, I reflected on how the challenges of our time can feel as if we are sitting in a perpetual state of despair, the news playing like a broken record of mass killings, political unrest, global conflicts, climate shifts, hunger, health, and wealth disparities and more. Does God see what is happening? Will God act or has God forsaken us?
Asking myself these questions, I thought of the story of Rev. Louis Edward Nollau, pastor of St. Peter’s Evangelical Church in St. Louis in the mid-nineteenth century. At that time St. Louis suffered three cholera epidemics and two major fires that killed 20 percent of the population, resulting in a great number of children being orphaned. When Nollau passionately proposed to St. Peter’s Church the founding of an orphanage, a church member protested, “But, Pastor, we don’t have what we need to start an orphanage.” Nollau responded, “Yes we do. We have an orphan.” The St. Peter’s members must have viewed their situation as hopeless, witnessing death move all around them, helplessly wondering when God would act to alleviate their suffering. However, Rev. Nollau recognized this crisis as a chance for God to work through the church, using whatever resources they had knowing God would provide the increase. In 1861 the German Protestant Orphan’s Home was incorporated, and over 160 years later the organization, now known as Every Child’s Hope, still provides outstanding services for emotionally challenged children and youth in the St. Louis area.
Edward Nollau and the church responded to the call to help one orphan, and over time that act of faith grew into a ministry that has helped thousands of youth in St. Louis for over a century. This is just one story out of hundreds in CHHSM’s history. Ministries across the country who acted boldly in their time to address pressing community needs, providing a living example of what can be accomplished when you “use what you got” as Pastor Jamesetta Ferguson of St. Peter’s UCC and founder of MOLO Village in Louisville often says.
How then are we to respond to the growing food crisis, housing crisis, mental health crisis, education crisis, healthcare crisis, environmental crisis, and the many other crises impacting our beloved communities today? Following Nollau’s example we are to confidently use what God has already provided to us, knowing that God will provide the increase. Thousands of churches and CHHSM agencies are already on the front lines in their communities every day, and you can use our find a provider tool to connect with CHHSM agencies and ask how you can help further their mission and/or refer someone in need. And if you have a church ministry, CHHSM is a great resource for you. Our ministries are stronger together, so connect with us as we collectively use our blessings to serve a world that is hurting.
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