• “The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of woman.” – Elisabeth Elliot

The Importance of Atmosphere by Katie Booth-Clibborn

We all know how sensitive flowers are to atmosphere. That is why we have greenhouses. But are not children a hundred times more sensitive?

In France I had an orphanage of illegitimate children. I would rather say with Lady Henry Somerset, when speaking of this class, “children of illegitimate parents,” for we have nothing to do with the circumstances of our birth, and it is an unwarrantable insult to cast that stigma on any child. The fathers of some of the children I speak of were doing penal servitude; some of the mothers were actresses, and others were of a questionable character. Several of the little ones were thieves and liars.

One child of six years old I got away from immoral surroundings and adopted her myself. Two of my comrades almost despaired of her. “Shame on us all,” I said, “if the grace of God is not strong enough in us to cast the devil out of a child of six.”

After a week of special care, during which I dedicated one hour each day to teaching her, she gave her little heart to God, and grew up a Christian girl. Like many such children she was very intelligent, and soon acquired German, French and English. Later on I got her into a governess’s situation, not revealing her secret. When she left, the children having gone to Boarding School, their father wrote me for a maid, adding, “My wife says she does not think you can have another like her! She was an angel in our home!”

Some years later, she married a Christian in Finland. I sent her, from Scotland, a little bag and a clock which were acknowledged in a letter blotted with tears, praising God for the way in which she had been saved. During the War their faith was severely tested, for they lost their comfortable little home, valued papers and the little clock, yet she wrote, “Our only hope is in Him who changes not.” She returned to her native land (France), and was chosen to be head of an Orphanage, from where she now writes, “I do for these little boys what you did for me when naughty–I pray with them.”

Another little girl in Lyons was sent to me. She was nine years old. Her little back was all covered with scars, and her wrists were marked. Her mother had done this. My helpers wrote me, “We really cannot keep her, as she contaminates the others.”

I wrote, “Wait till I come.” When she came before me she said, “I am too bad to stay here, I am going to walk the Boulevards.”

I said, “Annette, I feel very tired, come and take tea with me.”

“Me! alone with you,” she said.

“Yes, Annette, and what would you like for tea?”

“Sausages,” she replied. “Anything else?” “Jam!”

“Good, you shall have them.”

When tea was over we had a heart to heart talk, and prayers and tears followed that tea.

I changed her diet, and ordered long walks and baths every day. I took a doll which closed its eyes, to a friend who, for a few shillings, dressed it in long clothes like a baby (the great joy of my childhood), and when bed-time came I brought this doll to her.

“Oh, how beautiful!” she exclaimed, lifting the dress and admiring its feet. “Look, she shuts her eyes.”

“And it is for you,” I said.

“For me alone? Oh, how beautiful!”

“Yes,” I said, “but you can only have it at night; you can never see this doll in the day-time. Now what will you call it?” “After you,” she said.

Oh, I thought, there shall be no reformatory school for you. “My name is Catherine,” I said; so we christened the baby Catherine.

Leaving the room, I waited on the staircase, and on returning in a few minutes I found her fast asleep with the doll in her arms.

A few years later a lady wrote me for a girl to help her in her house, but the Matron said, “Send anyone but Annette! If I ever have a difficult case she helps me so!”

This is what atmosphere had done! The Spirit of Jesus Christ, love, and patience had driven out of this child all dirty ways, bad words, thieving and lying, and changed her utterly.

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  • “Keep your eye upon the cross of Christ, and you need not fear to see yourself as you are.” – Mary Winslow

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[Jesus the Good Shepherd] Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. — John 10:7, 9-10 (NKJV)

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