What Once Was Lost, written by Kim Vogel Sawyer and published by WaterBrook Press (2013) will inspire you, and uplift your spirit.
It takes place in Brambleville, Kansas, in 1890, and introduces us to Christina Willems, a woman in her late twenties, who runs the Brambleville Asylum for the Poor. This small farm outside of town is home to twelve displaced individuals–children and adults. Under a mission board, the farm was previously managed by Christina’s parents who have passed away. Christina has lived at the asylum since she was a child, helping her parents with the ministry.
The novel opens with the residents gathered for a hearty meal. Christina is thinking about Hamilton Dresden, who used to live with them. He had been a good shot and provided them with game. But in other respects Dresden had been a ne’er-do-well and trouble. She had insisted he leave and she was glad of it.
In the middle of the night, fire breaks out in the kitchen . Tommy Kilgore, an eleven-year-old blind boy, accidentally comes upon the fire and wakens Christina and the residents, getting them out of the house. The damaged house cannot be lived in.
Christina sets about finding new homes for the residents and herself until she can get the mission board to provide funds for repairs. She and seventeen-year-old Cora move into Mrs. Beasley’s Boardinghouse. In exchange for room and board, they have to cook all the meals, along with putting up with a very cranky, demanding woman.
The last person to be placed is Tommy Kilgore. None of the town’s residents want him because of his blindness. Christina takes him to a recluse miner a few miles out of town named Levi Jonnson. Levi avoids others and shuns the faith in Jesus he held as a child, because people were unkind to his father when he was growing up. Initially, Levi also refuses to take Tommy in, but Christina finally persuades him. However, Levi insists she find another arrangement as soon as possible.
Christina meets with the director of the mission board, who seems reluctant to rebuild the kitchen at the asylum or even keep the home open at all. He feels it is too far from town and from other neighbors who could be of help. He talks of relocating it in another town. Also, Hamilton Dresden has complained to the board about Christina’s leadership. She tries to defend herself. The meeting ends unresolved–no concrete decision is made.
Christina is discouraged; the asylum is the only life she has ever known. Also, she has no money from her parents, as they always gave all they had to those in need. She does possess her father’s watch, which reminds her of him and his strong passion to help others. She clings to this watch, until she has to sell it so she can travel and check on two children who have been moved to an orphanage in another town.
During this time, Christina seeks the Lord, asking for His guidance, yet she still views the ministry as hers, and struggles with handing it back over to Him. Meanwhile, Levi Jonnson is also learning and growing, finding himself getting attached to Tommy. Since Levi is a also craftsman like his father, he teaches Tommy to cane chairs, .
Many other events happen and some very close calls. Christina is realizing that the entire ministry of the asylum belongs to the Lord and He will do with it as He sees fit. It is a heartbreaking time for her, as many of the residents of the asylum are finding other situations, places to live, and some of the children are adopted.
Seventeen-year-old Cora is pregnant and has not revealed it yet. She is sure she will be disowned when she does. The Lord is merciful and graciously opens up a home and job with the store owners in town. Mr. and Mrs. Creeger, a wonderful Christian couple, take her in. They show her the love of Christ and she becomes a follower of Jesus.
Levi is realizing that the way he is living, filled with bitterness towards God, is only making him miserable. He comes back to the Lord and begins to greatly admire Christina and her selfless heart. She realizes the ministry belongs to the Lord, and hands it back over to Him.
After some suspenseful events, all ends happily. God’s amazing plan for the Brambleville Asylum is revealed and you come away from this read believing once again that God’s ways are perfect. When we entrust our lives and futures to Him, He reveals his love and plans for our lives.
I think that anyone would enjoy reading this book, but particularly women eighteen and above. I found it to be delightful, suspenseful, and encouraging. It has inspired me to pray about more that I can do for those in need.
Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her five children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law are her joy. A teacher with forty years experience Patsy has taught children of all ages and also special needs children and adults. She writes occasionally for a local newspaper and performs in church theater productions on a regular basis. Her husband is the church choir and orchestra director. They have been married for 32 years. She says, “It is my desire to bring honor and glory to my Lord Jesus in every area where He has allowed me to minister.”