Samuel Barriball was an orphan boy who was admitted into the Ashley Down Homes on October 3rd 1856. His records are typical of the information that was gathered and recorded for each of the orphans who were accepted to be cared for at the Homes. Find out more about his personal story from an extract of a talk he gave around 1980.
The children followed a regular daily routine at the Ashley Down Homes:
06:00 Rise, finish washing and dressing, older children helping the younger
07:00 Girls knitting, boys reading
08:30 Morning service
09:00 School (some older children first help to make beds etc. to 09:30)
17:30 Evening service
18:30 "useful work" - girls "at their needle", boys in the garden
20:00 Younger children to bed
21:00 Older children to bed
It was towards the end of November 1857, when George Müller was most unexpectedly informed that the boiler of the heating apparatus at No. 1 had leaked very considerably, so that it was impossible to go through the winter with such a leak. The boiler was entirely surrounded by brickwork; its state, therefore, could not be known without taking down the brickwork. The problem had occurred suddenly, and most unexpectedly, at the commencement of the winter. What then was to be done?
The introduction of a new boiler would, in all probability, take many weeks. The repairing of the boiler was a questionable matter, on account of the greatness of the leak; but, if not, nothing could be said of it, till the brick-chamber in which it is enclosed, was, at least in part, removed; but that would, at least, as far as we could judge, take days; and what was to be done in the meantime, to find warm rooms for 300 children?
For the children, especially the younger infants, George Müller felt deeply concerned, that they might not suffer, through want of warmth. He weighed many alternative options for heating the large rooms at Ashley Down but found no suitable alternative. At last George determined on falling entirely into the hands of God, who is very merciful and of tender compassion, and decided on having the brick-chamber opened, to see the extent of the damage, and whether the boiler might be repaired, so as to carry them through the winter.
The first really cold weather came during the first days of December. What was to be done? The repairs could not be put off. George Müller asked the Lord for two things: first, that He would be pleased to change the north wind into a south wind. Secondly, that He would give to the workmen “a mind to work”; for George remembered how much Nehemiah accomplished in 52 days whilst building the walls of Jerusalem, because “the people had a mind to work”.
On the morning set aside for the work, the wind changed from the north to the south, answering George’s first prayer. The work on the boiler commenced and it was decided it could be repaired. The manager of the repair firm sought to have the men return early the following morning however, the foreman said that they would rather work through the night in order to complete the task quickly. Thus George Müller’s second prayer was answered, the men indeed had a “mind to work”.
Thus it was: by the morning the repair was accomplished, the leak was stopped, though with great difficulty, and with about 30 hours the brickwork was up again and the fire in the boiler; and all the time the south wind blew mildly, that there was not the least need of a fire.
Here, then, is one of George Muller’s difficulties which was overcome by prayer and faith.