George Mueller: From Thief to Pastor and Protector of Orphans


The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety. ~George Mueller

George Mueller is well-known for starting orphanages in Bristol, England, during the 1800s, but most people don’t know the entire story of his life. Few people know that he was a thief and an alcoholic until he was a young man, and many would be surprised at how amazing his faith really was.

George Friedrich Mueller was born on September 27, 1805, in the nation of Prussia. His father, Johann Mueller, was a tax collector, and from a young age George would often steal money that his father collected. He was caught once and beaten by his father, but this did not cause him to change his ways. Instead, it only made George more determined to not get caught next time.

Throughout his teen years, George’s bad habits only grew worse. He would go out drinking with his friends and would gamble. He was even thrown in jail a few times! While he was around his family, George pretended to be improving his life, but he would really continue his immoral lifestyle. When he was fourteen, his mother died, but George didn’t even know she was sick because he was out drinking and gambling all the night before.

George started attending Halle University in 1827. His father had chosen for him to become a divinity student, but not a pastor. George, however, thought being a pastor would be fun. He thought Christians were overly-trusting and gullible, and that there would be so many people in a congregation for him to steal from and trick!

George continued his life without God while in university, until his friend Beta convinced him to go to a prayer meeting with him. George only went so that he could tell his other friends about how silly it was. His entire life was changed by that meeting, though. When Beta asked him what he thought, George said that that night had been the most enjoyable night he had ever had.

George was not yet a Christian, though. He continued to go to the prayer meetings with Beta and stopped many of his bad habits, but he did not accept Christ until a few months later. Once he did, he wanted to become a missionary. When he told his father this, his father was extremely upset, and George ended up telling him that he would never accept another penny from him again.

George soon became the minister of Ebenezer Chapel in the countryside of Britain. There he met Mary Groves, who had the same views as himself, and they were quickly married in 1830. They had four children, but two of them were still-born, and their son Elijah died as a small child from pneumonia. Their daughter Lydia survived, though.

In those days, most ministers made almost all of their salary from pew rent. Pew rent is just what it sounds like: pastors would rent out pews to whoever could pay the most for them, and so the richest people got the best pews and the pastor got a lot of money. George knew that this was wrong, and so he quickly got rid of pew rent in Ebenezer Chapel. He also made sure that he didn’t receive most of the rest of his salary, because he didn’t want his congregation to feel like they had to pay him, and because he wanted to depend more on God for his needs.

George continued to work towards his dream of becoming a missionary, but he was always turned down because of his poor health. One day, something happened that opened the door to a mission field that was entirely different from what he expected. He met a little girl out on the street with her brother. They didn’t have any money, and after giving them some, George wondered whether they had any food or a place to stay. Suddenly he realized that there was a whole mission field right at his feet: helping the orphans in Britain!

George and Mary soon opened an orphanage that could house thirty girls. They never asked for money, but God would always send someone with money or would send somebody with exactly what George had prayed for! George soon ran out of space in the one orphan house, and so he opened another, and then another! After some time, 300 orphans moved to a huge house on Ashley Downs. George continued to open more orphanages there, eventually building five orphan houses and providing homes for over 10,000 orphans during his lifetime.

There are many stories about George’s faith and God’s answers to his prayers, but this is one of my favorites:

One morning, all the plates and cups and bowls on the table were empty. There was no food in the larder and no money to buy food. The children were standing, waiting for their morning meal, when Müeller said, “Children, you know we must be in time for school.” Then lifting up his hands he prayed, “Dear Father, we thank Thee for what Thou art going to give us to eat.”

There was a knock at the door. The baker stood there, and said, “Mr. Müeller, I couldn’t sleep last night. Somehow I felt you didn’t have bread for breakfast, and the Lord wanted me to send you some. So I got up at 2 a.m. and baked some fresh bread, and have brought it.”

Mr. Müeller thanked the baker, and no sooner had he left, when there was a second knock at the door. It was the milkman. He announced that his milk cart had broken down right in front of the orphanage, and he would like to give the children his cans of fresh milk so he could empty his wagon and repair it.*

George’s wife Mary died in 1870, which was a hard blow for George. His health wasn’t the best as it was, but Mary’s death made it much worse. Though when he saw how happy his daughter, Lydia, was to marry George’s friend Jim Wright, George decided to remarry. This time he married Susannah Grace Sanger, who was much younger than he was.

George continued all of his work with orphans, though he did a lot more than just that. He traveled around Europe and even went to America a few times, speaking and encouraging Christians around the world. He also paid for the printing of over 250,000 Bibles to give away and paid for many of the children in England to be able to go to school.

Susannah died suddenly in 1894, and her death seriously affected George’s health. After all of his speaking tours, his health continued to decline too. He died on March 10, in 1898. George’s son-in-law, Jim Wright, ran the orphanages after George died.

There are so many amazing things to learn from George Muller’s life, but my favorites are that God took a man who was completely lost and was leading a life of sin, and used him to so change the conditions for orphans to live in! George’s faith was also amazing! He always asked God for help with everything, and look at what the results are! It was determined that in his lifetime he used the equal of $129,000,000 in modern money, and yet he died with very little money. He used it all for others. And he didn’t raise that money by himself. All of it came from his prayers and God’s answers to them. His orphanages also took care of nearly 18,000 children during the 150 years that the orphanages were running.

Faith has nothing to do with feelings or with impressions, with improbabilities or with outward experiences. If we desire to couple such things with faith, then we are no longer resting on the Word of God, because faith needs nothing of the kind. Faith rests on the naked Word of God. When we take Him at His Word, the heart is at peace. ~George Mueller


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