The most pitiful objects that I found in New Orleans were the old freed women worn out with years of slavery. They were, usually, rag-pickers and had a little hut where they lodged at night, and ate old scraps they had begged during the day. There was in the city an Old Ladies' Home but no department for colored, and there was no almshouse. These old people you sometimes found upon the streets, because, for some reason, they had been turned out of their little corner and had nowhere else to go. Sometimes the police took them up and lodged them in the parish prison; they were soon turned out of this because they were guilty of no offense but old age, poverty, and sickness. The colored people had tried several times to collect money for a home, but something always happened to the treasurer before they got enough to open a home.
For two years I made this a subject of prayer. But nothing else was done until December, 1878, when I called together those whom I thought the most interested of both colored and white friends, and for several weeks we met and unitedly asked God to supply this great need.
About the last of January, 1879, the Lord said, "Go forward!" Deacon Lease (white) was selected to hunt a house which he soon found. The first story was fitted up for the home for the aged and our missionaries moved into the second story. I first prayed for some one to take care of and cook for these old pilgrims. Kittie Lewis was the answer to this prayer. I wish you could have seen her. She was about seventy years old, tall and as dignified as a
queen, and wore her turban as gracefully. While a slave she was the head cook and general manager in the home of a rich planter. She was a good Christian, and had correct ideas about most things. I had never met her and the first day she came to my home she said, "Sister Moore, I am Kittie Lewis. The Lord showed me in a vision that I must come and help you take care of these babies (as she called the old slaves). I am old but I have good health and know how to cook, and I want to help you missionaries that the Lord has sent down into this low ground of sorrow. Now I am ready to go to work." This and more she said in a very direct, business-like way. I accepted her as God's gift; she did not ask for any money. Dear Kittie certainly was a Godsend and remained as long as I had charge of the home, leaving the day I left, because she would not serve under a colored matron.
Our first inmate, Sally Henderson, a rag-picker, old, dirty, cross, fretful, sick, was received Feb. 1, 1879. She had been unkindly treated for so long that she thought no one loved her, and I am sure she did not love any one, and yet she was a Christian, but down in a very low class, of which we still have so many in our churches. Brother Wilson had a cart, in which for more than a year he brought the old people to the home without charge. He did not at first know my plan to leave the old rags behind. Poor Sally had several bags of them. I succeeded in burning some of them but it almost broke her heart. I offered her nice, new garments, but she preferred the old rags, because, she said, "I am used to these."
We had the same trouble with most of our inmates and yet we found among these neglected ones a few real saints from whom I learned many lessons of gratitude. I had saved up $55 with which we began. Within one month we had five inmates; that money was all gone and some additional smaller gifts. But our motto over the mantel said, "The Lord will provide," and in that our faith rested as we prayed and according to the promise to supply our need, a check for $15 from E. C. Prudden, of Wheaton, Ill., came the very day it was greatly needed. Two years later she gave us $450 to help pay for the property. I had met this friend the preceding summer and told her about my old women, but she had not heard that the home was started. But the spirit that moved us to pray, said to her, "Send this money to Sister Moore for the old people." I wish I had time to tell you of the many remarkable answers to prayer in that blessed home. We never went in debt, but when the "oil and meal" were nearly gone the old sisters joined with me in asking supplies from our Heavenly Father. They all knew that God was our treasurer.
The first year we sheltered twenty-two weary pilgrims; none of them were well; six were crippled, one blind, and two, unable to leave their cots, were cared for like babies. I must say a word about two or three of "our babies." Harriet Taylor, a poor drunken woman whom I often found in an Irish woman's saloon, after much coaxing I finally persuaded to come and see my home. She was partly drunk; I led her to the street car, and because it was nearly dark, I succeeded in getting the wretched woman in the street car. My home was one block from the car line and I had hard work to drag her into the house; she was determined to go back. We could not do much with her that night, and the next morning she asked for whisky, and said she would die if she did not get it. Once she had been a professing Christian. I said, "Harriet, whisky is killing your soul and body. We will ask God to take away this wicked appetite, then if you believe, you will be saved." We prayed, and, glory to God, the answer came. Some days after Harriet said, "I don't study about whisky, I prays and prays; sometime I feel light and happy and sometimes low down and sorrowful, but I keeps on praying."
Harriet was brought to the home a perfect wreck and yet God restored her physical health so that she was a great help in taking care of Margaret Jones, a precious saint of whom I must also tell you. She was about one hundred years old. She had fallen on a pavement in December, and was never afterward able to walk. A kind-hearted sister gave her a room in which there was no fire; different persons brought her something to eat. The day I found her she was about to be turned out of this shelter. I brought her to my home and laid her on a cot and took care of her for more than two years, and then she moved to heaven. I wish you could have heard her say for every favor received, "Thank you, master, Jesus," and often with tears of gratitude rolling down her withered cheeks, she would turn and thank the one that brought the gift from Jesus. Harriet had never met Margaret before, and yet she cared for her as tenderly as any daughter could for a mother. We had several inmates who were addicted to drink. All were not so completely saved as Harriet.
One day in my visits, I saw a little child leading a blind woman across one of the back streets; she walked very slowly. I asked where she lived, and we climbed a dirty stairway. "Here," she said, "this is my home." I asked "Where is your bed?" "I sleep on the floor in one corner, this little girl's mother allows me to have." "Have you a home in heaven?" "No, I have no home on earth or in heaven," and the tears flowed from her sightless eyes. I said, "Wait here till I come back." I went out and made inquiry about her and all the neighhors said, "Do take her to the home." This I did but the car-drivers did not want to take such a filthy object into the cars. They did not see the immortal soul that now shines in glory. After several attempts we succeeded in crowding in. When I got home, which was long after dark, because poor, blind Lucy could walk so slowly. Kittie Lewis was feeling anxious lest something had happened to me, so she met me at the door. "What is that thing?" said she with contempt as the light revealed Lucy. "A human being for whom Christ died," I replied. "Oh, Sister Moore, you do not know the dirt and disease you are bringing into this home, you will ruin us." At first she did not want to help wash Lucy, but when I had all ready she came saying, "You go away, I will do this." Soon after Lucy was converted. She met me one evening, exclaiming, "Oh, Sister Moore, I have seen Jesus, and now I have a home on earth and one in heaven."
Jane Burk was about one hundred years old and was quite active. She knew how to care for the sick, of whom we had many. She was our peacemaker, and such persons are much needed in all homes, especially one like ours, where dwelt so many old bodies and souls, weary and full of pain and unhappiness. Every little thing hurt them. We feel that those younger and stronger often lack the tender sympathy that God wants us to give to those who have long borne the heat and burden of the day.
Patsy Pashaw, one of our inmates, was a character that any one could love. She was reared in Virginia and could read and write; she and her husband were sold to a trader and auctioned off in New Orleans about forty years previous. She was sold to a citizen of New Orleans; she begged him to buy her husband but he would not. He took Patsy home, but for three days she refused to eat, weeping bitterly. He was a humane man, and, for pity's sake, bought the husband. This bound her to the family by cords of love. Shortly after his wife died, leaving two children in Patsy's care. The father was now an invalid and very poor, the family having lost all their property. They were Catholics. Patsy was a strong Baptist, and still had her Bible and hymn-book which she brought from Virginia. The white children she had reared begged me to take Patsy into the home as they were unable to care for her. I said, "I'll send a cart for her," for she had been unable to leave her bed for several years, and they had cared for her. "Oh, no," said the daughter, "I never send my mammy in a cart, we will get a hack and bring her if it takes the last cent." So the brother and sister brought her, carried her in, laid her on the cot, knelt beside her and wept like children, while Patsy's old black hand wiped their tears away and she comforted them with loving words as I suppose she did when they were little children. They came to see her as often as possible. Patsy was a real lady of culture, fond of flowers and pretty things. One morning her face fairly shone; I asked, "Patsy, what makes you look so happy?" "O, Sister Moore, Jesus came last night and told me He had my mansion ready." That light never left Patsy's face until Jesus took her into the light of heaven.
I've told you about the good folks. I like to remember them. But surely we did have some rough, coarse natures with which to deal. One was Patience Jorum. She would take her staff and strike the others if they offended her. Yet she insisted that she was a Christian, and that the Lord gave her a spear and he said, "My little one, go into yonder world and spear my people." To which command she was very faithful. I am sorry the world has so many like her. A large number died in our home because they were very old and sick when we took them in; and because those admitted were both old and sick. We not only cared for their worn bodies, but directed them to the Great Physician, and none left our home before giving evidence of readiness for the home in heaven.
I wish I could introduce you to our more than forty inmates, and show you how beautiful they grew under the culture of God's word. We repeated texts in the dining-room, prayer-room, everywhere. They could memorize only one each month. Did prayers alone supply our needs, you ask? I answer, "Yes"; letters often came inclosing money, sometimes without any name, and provisions were received when we did not know the donor. Persons in the North that I had never seen sent boxes of clothing. I wish you could have seen our old folks when we dressed them up on Sundays and state occasions?white turbans, white neck-handkerchiefs, and gingham aprons?they never felt dressed without an apron. When these gifts came I wrote grateful letters and told of the work being done. At the end of the year, I published a report and sent it to all who had helped, and so the good news spread, not by telling what we were going to do, but by praising God for what had been done. The fact that something has been done encourages individuals to give. The colored churches in New Orleans began also to contribute monthly, and the little children from the Sabbath schools came trooping in with glad songs and put their offering of money and provisions in the old wrinkled hands and received a "God bless you." Once George W. Cable sent me ten dollars. Rev. Hartzell, now Bishop Hartzell, did the same, also Dr. Holcome, and other white people in New Orleans. I remained in charge about three years and stood by the work until the property, which cost $1,500, was paid for. The price was $2,500, but in answer to prayer, the owner donated $1,000 without being asked to do so. I then gave it into the hands of the colored Baptists with the earnest request that they would not go into debt. They tried to obey, but when hungry, incurred debt, saying as an excuse, "Sister Moore, we are trusting God to get us out of debt, which is just as good as to give us money before we go in debt." Their philosophy is very popular to-day. But notwithstanding all mistakes, that "Faith Home" has lived twenty-four years, and to-day shelters many poor of New Orleans. To God be all the glory!
Our readers must not think it was an easy task to manage that home. No, verily! And yet I count my work there as one of my greatest blessings. The missionaries assisted me as far as they had time, and Jennie Peck took charge when I was away from home. This home is only one of the many proofs that God hears and answers prayer.
Before I close this narrative I must refer to a lesson I learned in this home, and one I have to review daily or I forget. It is this:
YOU MUST LOVE BEFORE YOU CAN COMFORT AND HELP.
I've told you how repulsive the most of those old people were to me. God showed me that I only pitied them but did not love them, as Christ loved me when I was all covered with sin and was in rebellion against Him. I did not love even to shake their hands, and yet I would have shared my last piece of bread with them. I knew this feeling was wrong and spent many hours in prayer for a baptism of love. One night I received the answer to my prayer. The next morning we rang the bell as usual for prayers and the old people came tottering in. (The cots for the two who never left their beds were in the prayer-room.) Our lesson was Luke 23:27-45. I read the comforting words of Jesus to the weeping women with tears in my voice, when I came to "Father forgive them, they know not what they do," we all burst into tears and fell on our knees and prayed. After prayer the old people gathered around me saying, "Sister Moore, we will not worry you any more. We'll be good." They saw they could put their arms around me and I let them, for my heart was full of love. After this it was easier for me to control them. I did not need to say in words that I loved them. They read in the touch of my hand and the tone of my voice. O, God, I long to be always full of this overflowing love of God?a love that all the coldness and ingratitude of earth cannot chill.
Referring to my first annual report of "Faith Home," I find the following record:
In starting this home I hoped to accomplish three things: 1. To care for the aged poor. 2. To teach greater faith in God's promises. I found some who were willing to join hands with me on the faith principle, namely: to begin with one inmate and enlarge as the Lord sent the means, having no capital but the promises of God, but believing that the daily presentation of these at the bank of heaven would bring needed supplies, and that there would never be any need of going in debt, if we allowed God to direct the amount which we should spend.
3. We hoped also that this home would teach the people the Bible plan of giving?to lay by from their income a portion for the Lord as He should prosper them, each according to his ability and not resort to such wrong methods as suppers, concerts, fairs and such things, and going about begging contributions from the world.
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