In the last few weeks, I decided to write a sequel to my previous book, The Seeds. The title of this book will be The Least of These. Hopefully, I will have it published in 2021, but being on an inspired road, I went ahead and designed the cover…simple and direct to the Holy Scripture that reads:
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40
The main character of my book is Charlie. He was the second son of an Israeli couple. The Father was a devout Christian who had found the Messiah and his Mother still clings to the hopes that the true Messiah will eventually come. Trying to find a direction in his life, Charlie leaves Israel to work in the Seed Vault in northern Norway. It is here that he comes in contact with a famous Nazi who has fled, first to South America after World War II, and then to hide out at this remote area. (Do I have your attention yet?…if so, you can read the book, The Seeds.)
The sequel is after Charlie finds the faith he was looking for and is now trying to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead to parts of the world where he can invest his new wealth, inherited from his successful Father in Israel.
As I am asking God to also guide me in the writing of this new novel, I have been doing some research on people who have started out, not with a fortune, but with almost nothing to give poor and remote people a chance, at not only getting a good education, but also a lasting faith that will reach into future generations.
This is when I found a very old book in my library that I had bought when taking our daughter on a trip to find a college. We ended up at Berry College in Rome, Georgia…a private school founded by a remarkable women named Martha Berry. This story of her life and struggles to do what God wanted with her life and with the poor, southern mountain children was an extremely good read. It was what I needed, as an example, for one of my chapters and it is an honor to include her inspiring life.
Therefore, I continue to write my book…and thank Martha for her inspiration!
Who was Martha Berry?
Martha McChesney Berry was born on October 7, 1866, in Alabama, to Frances Margaret Rhea and Thomas Berry. Her Scots-Irish ancestors came to the British colonies in North America in the first half of the eighteenth century. Her father was a lieutenant in the Mexican War (1846-48), a Forty-niner in the California gold rush, and a captain for the Confederacy in the Civil War (1861-65). Her mother was a daughter of an Alabama planter. The family moved when she was still a baby to Rome, GA, where she lived for the remainder of her life. (from New Georgia Encyclopedia)
Martha Berry founded the Berry Schools for academically able but economically poor children of the rural South—those who usually could not afford to go to other schools. These schools of the early 1900s grew within three decades into Berry College, a comprehensive liberal arts college. As a result of her 40 years of work with the schools and college, Martha Berry is among Georgia’s most prominent women of the first half of the 20th century. (Berry College site)
One must realize that the South was coming out of the ruins of the Civil War. The old Southern mansion that belonged to her father sat on many acres that became hers, after her Father’s death. Keeping the house up was a challenge. Now, the South was reeling from the Depression and land was about all they had worth anything. When Martha told a Judge friend of hers that she planned to build a school for the poor, she was told, “Martha, you are out of your mind! Your land will make you rich someday.” Nevertheless, Martha was determined and believed that she was called of God to make this move as she rode her horse through the countryside and saw the tattered children with no school and no future.
Here are a few thoughts from the book about Martha, written by Joyce Blackburn (Rutledge Hill Press):
To the Judge, “…Don’t you see, I want the poor boys and girls of the rural South to be my heirs.” Choosing not to marry, even though she was a beautiful and spirited young woman, her vision became plain. “From that day on, Martha told anyone who would listen about her aims for the school…’Hands, head and heart must be educated.’ Religion would be taught, not as an exclusive specialty but as ‘a natural ingredient of daily living.’ Culture would have its place, but not as extra equipment. Labor would be the foundation, but not to the sole end of technical efficiency. Skill must be the servant of a thinking mind and a right spirit. If a boy had no money he could work to earn his tuition and board. He would be surrounded by learning, cleanliness and beauty. And when he finished his studies, he would be a practical example of Christian citizenship wherever he went.”
Martha Berry turned no boy or girl down, who came out of the hills wanting to learn. One boy walked miles to get there with his pig…which he told her he was bringing for his payment. He went on to graduate and become a fine citizen. Eventually, as the years went by, building after building rose on this beautiful campus. How this happened is part of this amazing story.
“She obtained money for the operation of the schools, the construction of numerous buildings, the purchase of additional lands and the establishment of an endowment for future support. Many of the gifts were small, but she also received support for the schools from such people as philanthropists Andrew Carnegie and Emily Vanderbilt Hammond, automotive pioneer Henry Ford, U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt and U.S. president Woodrow Wilson’s wife, Ellen Axson Wilson, who was a native of Rome. The institution purchased adjacent farms and forests, accumulating nearly 30,000 acres during Martha’s lifetime.” (Berry College)
As Martha made speeches around the country for her boys and girls, she knew that they represented the “least of these” that God wanted to bless…and she was determined to do all she could for them…and in doing so, she was doing it unto Christ, her Savior.
The favorite psalm of Miss Berry’s was Psalm 121. She would recite it with clarity: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills…My help cometh from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth…He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber…The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil, He shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.”
What has one woman’s vision, struggle and hard work become today?
Video 1 Modern Day Students
Video 2 Arial view of Berry College campus and surrounding acres. Turn up sound.