George Müller, Guardian of Bristol’s Orphans

This is the story of George Müller, the man who opened his doors to the orphans of Bristol beginning in the 1830s. His “Breakfast Club” of thirty orphans grew to five large houses where over the next century ten thousand orphans would reside and grow up.[1] Müller never asked for donations, but made his needs known only to God.

As a boy growing up in Prussia/Germany, George Müller (1805-1898) began stealing and, despite being caned by his father when caught, carried on doing what he knew was wrong. In college, he took to carousing with friends in the drinking establishments of Nordhausen, his college town. Studying for the ministry seemed to George a good idea; it mattered not to him that he did not believe in God or the Bible. But a friend, Beta, was made of sterner stuff, and it was this friend who bothered George to begin attending a Bible study. The Bible study, and the hymn singing and the prayers prayed while the students got down on their knees, were the entrance for George into the kingdom of God.

Money became a problem for George; in the past he would have gambled or “borrowed” or pawned his books. But now George was a Christian and would not use any of his old tricks or schemes to raise the money he needed. As he gazed out the window at the trees now laden with golden leaves, George had a strange idea. At first he resisted it. It was too childish for a grown man and much too simple for a university student. It would be foolish to kneel down and ask God to send him the money he needed.[2] In this way George began trusting God for the money he needed for his life and ministry.

For our purpose, we uncover many references to George Müller’s involvement in mission societies, including The Continental Mission Society and the London Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews.

 George became pastor of Gideon Chapel in Bristol, a post he remained in until nearly the end of his life. Thus, he was a leader in two kinds of Christian structures, a congregation and an orphanage. There were two administrations, two missions, two kinds of giving. Christians support the cost of their church, and they support a mission causeThere are separate administrations—two boards of directors—for governing these two kinds of structures.

There were two important friends who encouraged George Müller to depend on God for his finances. Those friends were Anthony Groves and Henry Craik. We wrote about them here. After selling his dental office and giving away the proceeds, Groves became a missionary to Baghdad and then India, all the while “trusting God to meet all of his financial needs.”[3] While in Baghdad, Craik was tutor to Groves’ children. These men were Plymouth Brethren, and George joined them. George would meet Mary Groves, Anthony’s sister, and they would marry in 1830. He was twenty-five, she was thirty-two. You can read about Mary Müller here. Anthony Groves is the true father of “faith missions,” inspiring George and Mary Müller to make their needs known only to God. Anthony Groves inspired many to live by faith, as this “family tree” indicates.

George Müller

Bristol was a bustling port city, second only to Liverpool in the number of ships it serviced. It was smoky and dirty. Beggars and pickpockets and children weaved through the crowds. “George felt that Bristol was a city he could work in, a city that needed plenty of help.”[4] In April 1832 he and Henry Craik held ten evenings of evangelistic meetings, each night more well attended than the night before. But that summer a cholera epidemic spread through Bristol. “It took only twelve hours from the time a person felt sick and started vomiting to the time he or she was laid in a coffin—if a coffin could be found. All through July and August bodies piled up on the sidewalks, until a cart driver would move them to a place of burial. The people prayed earnestly, but the church bells continued to toll.[5] Young Pastor George Müller was summonsed every day to a home where a death had just occurred.

That was the setting for George Müller’s calling to open his home to orphans. He spoke of the vision, but he spoke only to God for the financial needs that an orphanage would require. The story of the growth of the orphanage and the miraculous provision of funds day after day, sometimes meal by meal, is told in this thrilling account of George Müller, “the guarding of Bristol’s orphans.”

[1] Janet and Geoff Benge, George Muller: The Guardian of Bristol’s Orphans (YWAM Publishing, 1999). From the back cover.

[2] Ibid. 49

[3] Ibid. 67

[4] Benge, George Muller: The Guardian of Bristol’s Orphans. 86

[5] Ibid. 89