Save My Children is “the fictional retelling of a true story, made possible by the generous time and energy of certain individuals, not the least of whom was Harvey Jespersen.” (from the introduction) A small band of Canadian Christians gathered together, feeling the call of God, and built an orphanage in the fields of Alberta on some donated land and out of three army barracks given to them by the Canadian government. Thus began the quiet yet worthy ministry of Bethany Homes for Children in 1948. For the 60 year anniversary, they wanted to share their story with the world. And so Emily Wierenga began researching, interviewing Harvey Jespersen and others in order to write a slightly fictionalized account of the history. I think the fictionalization may be to respect the privacy of real individuals.
The style of this novel is quite different from most books I have reviewed recently. Much of it is like a biography of Harvey and Elsie Jespersen, interspersed with vignettes from the lives of children who came to know love and hope at Bethany. There was Jimmy, whose father had deserted him long ago and whose alcoholic mother killed herself. He came to Bethany feeling it was somehow his fault. Then there was little Eva, who at 12 found herself stealing and leading her nine little sisters and brothers to find shelter because the men who visited their mother abused the children if they went home. At Bethany, they found lots of love and food and learned to trust adults. Children who grew up in the cold city streets squealed with delight at the pigs and playing on the farm with “Dad” Jespersen. Children from Toronto, Saskatchewan, little victims of hardship and neglect, Native-American waifs and frightened orphans—they came to find a center of security, safety, and love at the Bethany Homes for Children. The Jespersens became Mom and Dad to all of them, at least for a period of time.
Save My Children is truly a moving story that demonstrates the lasting effects of God's love pouring through the lives and actions of his servants. Although most of the stories are left unfinished, this is as it really is in life. We touch lives briefly and never know what happens to those people in the future, but in our encounters with them we can make an everlasting impact if we let God work and speak through us. Some of the stories do reveal later lives of "Mom" and "Dad" Jespersen's children, children who may never have known Jesus or His love if they hadn't gone to Bethany.
The dedication of the book reads, "This book is dedicated to all children hungry for a father’s love. May this story make you believe in a better future." I hope it will do the same for all who read it.
Save My Children by Emily Wierenga
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Castle Quay Books (September 5, 2008)
For more information on the author, the book, and Bethany Homes for Children, see the author's website at www.emilywierenga.com .
Bethany Homes for Children . All proceeds go to Bethany Homes for Children.
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