Here's an account of a family whose faith enabled them to survive the worst of the Great Depression. It's from my novel The Song of Sadie Sparrow, so of course it's fictional. But the situation Beulah describes here echoes stories I've heard from many who have experienced apparently hopeless circumstances.
“And then there were five,” Jamie rejoiced when Beulah followed Sadie into the Southeast Sitting Room, both of their chairs powered by a brawny blonde aide. “One or two more and we’ll have to find ourselves a larger room.”
Sadie and Beulah settled themselves at the trestle table across from Charles Chapelle and his sweet granddaughter Elise. Jamie’s joviality was contagious; they were soon chatting about everything under the sun, and before long they found themselves engrossed in Beulah’s story.
“My life didn’t really begin until I became a genuine Christian,” she told the group. “My parents were Christian people, so I’d been going to church my whole life. But it wasn’t until we attended a revival meeting in 1936 that I repented and trusted in Christ. I was seventeen when I gave my life to Him, and I’ve never looked back.”
Sadie was fascinated. She didn’t recall that she had ever done anything so dramatic. She’d always heard people talking about “making a decision for Christ,” but she’d never heard a report quite like this one, delivered in such exquisite detail. Why, Beulah was even describing the boots she was wearing on that snowy night.
“And of course that was the Great Depression,” Beulah added with gusto. “My parents were farmers, and we lived on one hundred and fifty acres near Wausau, but we were as poor as church mice. It wasn’t long after my conversion that we had to move. We had lost everything, and so we went into Wausau and rented a room in a boarding house and just prayed for the Lord to take care of us as He had promised to.”
“I know He promised,” Sadie said, embarrassed to reveal her ignorance but desperate to know, “but where exactly did He make that promise?”
“Maybe the best-known passage,” Charles said, opening his Bible and flipping quickly to the sixth chapter of Matthew, “is right here in the Sermon on the Mount. That’s where Jesus said, ‘Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?’”
“Bravo, Charles,” Jamie said, beaming at the Chapelles. “In fact, let’s take a look at that subject in one of our next meetings, okay? It’s an important one. But please continue, Beulah.”
And she did, chattering on and on as if her life depended upon it.
Sadie felt suddenly sleepy—a frequent problem since her secret stroke—and she was having trouble focusing on the story line. But she faded back in when Beulah got to the part about her father passing up a job in the local lumberyard because he didn’t feel led to take it. Was that supposed to be a good thing?
“The world would have accused him of being lazy,” Jamie said solemnly, “but I know just how he must have felt.”
“Oh, yes,” Beulah said. “People were very critical of him. And honestly, I was worried myself. I heard my mother and father whispering at night, after we were in bed, about their savings being almost gone. It was hard not to hear; we were living in this single room, my parents and me and my two younger brothers.” She shook her head at the memory. “I don’t suppose people can get much poorer than we were.”
But then, suddenly, the Lord opened a door for them, she said.
“Old Lady Grayson invited us to come live with her and run her farm,” Beulah hooted. “It sounded awful to most people, and to be honest even to my mother and me, because Mrs. Grayson had a reputation for being cruel to her hired help. But my dad said, ‘This is it,’ and so we moved into her house. It was enormous, as big as a hotel in those days. I had my own room, and so did the boys, and she had both indoor plumbing and electricity. What luxuries for us farmers!”
Elise expressed amazement that they’d ever lived without the amenities taken for granted today, and they spent some time chatting about the advent of plumbing and electricity in rural America.
But, impressively, Beulah didn’t forget the original point of her story. “She put us all to work, even my brothers, and what do you know: two months later I was privileged to lead Old Lady Grayson to the Lord! I’ve never doubted that this was exactly why He sent us to her, and had my Daddy turn down the job at the lumberyard. And here’s the punch line: The following year she died and left everything to my parents. They worked that farm until the late 1960s, growing corn, mainly. They were approaching eighty by then, and He took care of them every passing day.”
“What a faithful God,” Elise said, her eyes shining.
She was really a very pretty girl, Sadie thought. In fact—she glanced surreptitiously at first Elise and then Jamie, and back again—yes, they’d make an attractive couple.
“I believe that it was exactly what the Lord wanted us to do,” Beulah said, interrupting Sadie’s daydream, “and He rewarded my parents for being obedient.”
“It must have been so hard,” Elise said. “I just can’t imagine how frightening it must have been to move into that room, all of you, and to know that the money was running out.”
Beulah nodded, her brow creased in thought. “But you know, if my father ever had a moment of worry, he never let on. And that gave us confidence.”
“He set the tone for you all,” Jamie offered.
“Exactly! We trusted him, and if he trusted the Lord, well then, that was that. As far as I know, I was the only one who ever had any fears over our situation.”
She stroked the worn Bible sitting in her lap.
“And I’ve never been really afraid since then. I’ve had disappointments and sorrows, of course, like anyone else. But no real fear. His eye is on the sparrow.”
“And I know He watches me,” Sadie chirped happily, not in the least embarrassed by her less-than-perfect pitch.
--The Song of Sadie Sparrow, pages 164-167