One of my big interests is in train travel and the history of railroads. I like to visit old railroad sites, and find out how these Kansas towns have made use of their train depots (both former and current ones). In Concordia, Kansas the former Union Pacific depot has been turned into the Orphan Train Museum. It has been fully renovated and put to a good use...
The story of the orphan trains began with the history of immigration overflow in America, and primarily in New York. Millions of immigrants arrived -- fleeing poverty and other difficult circumstances in their home countries. Lacking jobs and resources as they arrived, often they were unable to take care of their children.
The result reminded me of the situation in Kenya. Children were abandoned by their parents, where they took to the streets, joined gangs, and struggled to survive.
In this time many parents made the difficult decision to surrender their children to orphanages. One boy's story struck me in particular. He said he hated the Statue of Liberty. Why? Well, he could see it from the window of his orphanage. He always associated it with the memory of being abandoned by his parents.
The picture on the lower left is of a booklet that parents signed to officially relinquish their rights and hand their children over to the church-based organizations that would assume their care.
The museum focused alot of energy on telling the stories of some of the different orphan train children. One of them was Clara Morgan. Her journey took her from New York by an orphan train to a Presbyterian pastor's family in Belleville, Kansas -- and eventually to school in Emporia, which began her career as a teacher. This is her story...
The exterior sign above describes the impacts of the orphan train effort on America today. I think of this work alongside the ongoing work of the ministry in Kenya that we support: the Happy Life Children's Home. And I also think of what James wrote in his epistle in the Bible (in James 1:27) -- "Pure and undefiled religion before God and our Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their need, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world."