“I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity…I have seen with joy how willingly your people…have given to you. O Lord, God of our father Abraham, Isaac and Israel,…keep their hearts loyal to you” (from King David’s last recorded prayer, 1 Chronicles 29:17-18).
On Monday I asked why the Israelites would speak of or pray to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Perhaps their focus on the patriarchs brought to mind all the ways God had protected, guided, and cared for their forefathers. Just the mention of their names conjured up stronger faith for what God could do in the here and now.
I, too, come from a heritage of faith, my grandparents. I believe in the God of Rachel, Henry, and Clara.
On Monday I gave evidence of the God of Rachel bringing her through very difficult circumstances. You can read her story by clicking on the link above to Monday’s post. Today’s story: The Miracle of Henry and Clara.
Henry met Clara at a roller rink in Chicago, in 1922, and just nine months later the two were married. She was eighteen; he was twenty.
On Henry’s good salary from the Santa Fe Railroad, Clara settled down to make a home for them. Henry did everything but settle down. He was on the rise through the minor leagues of baseball. In fact, people said Henry had a good shot at playing catcher in the majors. These were the best years of his life, and he wasn’t about to spend them sitting at home every night.
Henry knew he was going to make it big, and started celebrating a little too soon and too much. Alcohol started to get the better of him.
He made promise after promise to Clara he’d stop drinking. Of course, he didn’t. He couldn’t. Over a period of ten years or so, dependency on alcohol became full-blown alcoholism.
He left Clara and his baby daughter, and began drinking his way from town to town, hitching rides on freight trains. An odd job here or there supplied his habit. One day he woke up in a gutter and had to admit to himself, “Henry, you’re nothing but a bum.”
Meanwhile, Clara had no way to support herself and her little girl, Geraldine. They lived with one relative, then another, as circumstances changed in those households.
When Geraldine was five, Clara contracted tuberculosis and had to go to a sanitarium. Geraldine continued to live with relatives, mostly with Clara’s sister, Hester, who had six children of her own. But to Aunt Hester and Uncle Jimmy, six or seven really didn’t matter. Geraldine was welcomed and loved.
After some time, Clara began to regain her strength, and attended a worship service at the sanitarium. Never before had she gone to church or Sunday School. So the message about Jesus, who offered forgiveness and eternal life, gave her the hope she desperately needed. Clara accepted Jesus as her Savior that very night.
A Bible study, led by Mr. and Mrs. Moore, was held weekly at the sanitarium. Clara became an eager student, and Mr. and Mrs. Moore lovingly mentored her. All three started praying for Henry. In fact, due to the city-wide connections of the Moores, many people all over Chicago began to pray.
One evening, a Dr. Hunt, assistant superintendent of a local mission, came to share with the patients. He explained their outreach programs and mentioned the ministry to alcoholics. Afterward, Clara told him, “If a man by the name of Henry M. should come to your mission, would you tell him his wife asked about him?”
Talk about the laws of improbability. Chicago was serviced by several missions in the 1930s. And most of the alcoholics who frequented the missions preferred to remain anonymous. In addition, how could Dr. Hunt possibly remember the name of one derelict out of hundreds?
But God loves to refute the improbable. He specializes in the impossible. Dr. Hunt replied, “Henry M. came into the mission just three days ago!”
You see, it was November, damp and chilly. Henry had decided to stop in a mission and get warm. Yes, he’d have to sit through some singing and a sermon, but then they’d serve hot soup and give the men warm beds for the night—if they went forward and accepted Jesus.
Henry had accepted Jesus many times, in order to get that soup and warm bed. But this night was different. Even though he’d been drinking just before the service, and was in his typical alcoholic stupor, when Dr. Hunt—yes, that Dr. Hunt—put his arm around Henry’s shoulder, Henry’s heart began to respond.
Dr. Hunt lovingly shared that when Jesus gave a man new life, he was a new creation. The old is gone; and new things happen (2 Corinthians 5:17). Suddenly, Henry decided he’d had enough of his old life on the streets. He accepted Jesus into his life–for real this time. To add to the wonder, it was November 5, Geraldine’s birthday.
The story does not end there with a “happily ever after” as Clara and Henry reunited. Henry owed a debt to society for not supporting his family. He spent six months in jail. But during that time and afterward, Dr. Hunt and others mentored Henry. Just like Clara, he became involved in Bible study. And after his release from jail, Henry took a job at the Christian Industrial League, the mission where he had met Jesus.
Meanwhile, Clara still had the hard work of recuperation, even after release from the sanitarium. The Moores invited her to come live with them, and later, Geraldine moved in, too.
Finally the day arrived when the little family was able to live together once more. I can only imagine the joy on Clara’s face to see her handsome Henry, healthy in body and spirit. I try to imagine the joy on Henry’s face, to realize God had not only saved Clara’s soul, he had saved her physical life as well. And I imagine their overflowing gratitude to God, who had worked amazing miracles behind the scenes–before either one of them even knew he was there.
“Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).
Even though their faith would be tested again and again, including a house fire that destroyed all their belongings, Henry and Clara remained true to their God.
The grandma and grandpa I knew were involved—heart and soul—in mission work for over twenty-years. Grandpa even became superintendent of a mission in Atlanta, then another in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He spent his days making a difference in this world—among the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, and the ones needing clothes (Matthew 25:37-40). Grandpa worked for the least among us, to share with them the hope of Jesus, and to express appreciation for what Jesus had done for him.
God of Clara and Henry, I thank you for the miraculous transformation you performed in Grandma and Grandpa. Their story offers further proof that nothing is impossible with you! I thank you, too, for their powerful legacy of faith, characterized by loving kindness, service, and generosity. Unselfishly they gave to family, friend, and stranger alike.
You, God of Rachel, Henry, and Clara, have done great things for our family, and we are filled with joy (Psalm 126:3)!
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