The group portrait below was one of the very first photographs I found in the Eliada archives, and it ignited the fire that fueled my need to tell their story. To this day I don’t fully understand why it had that effect on me, and it doesn’t really matter. I carried it with me wherever I went, and I showed it to almost everyone I met. I promised myself that I would try to identify each individual who appeared in it, and for the most part, I have. Practically every person whose story appears here was staring back at the camera that day. It was taken from behind the little girls’ dormitory, and in one instant it captured the essence of the Eliada family.
The picture first appeared in the May 1944 edition of “The New Testament Christian,” the newsletter of the Eliada Orphanage. It was taken by the Rev. R. B. Mitchell, Dean of the Open Bible Institute in Des Moines, Iowa while he was staying at the orphanange as an overnight guest. Reverend Lucius Bunyan Compton, the Founder and General Manager of Eliada, stated, “The family was blessed with his messages and visit, and while he was with us he took this splendid picture of our Eliada family.” Indeed.
It was published in the middle of WWII – the war was raging and D-Day was less than a month away. Compton was quick to point out that the orphanage had provided its share of manpower to the effort, and he bragged that Eliada had placed more than 20 boys in service, stating, “Not one has been rejected for physical disabilities. They grow up rugged, with few comforts, some hard tasks and considerable time for play. With all of this out-of-door life they develop into husky, hearty, alert chaps, normal in every way.”
Compton also reported that he had just completed a meeting with the State Board of Charities, and stated he was close to an agreement on what he called “the scope of our liberties in the acceptance of children from other states, and also girls for the Faith Cottage.” He was nearing 70 years old and the times were changing, but he was still fighting for the right to support his orphanage and rescue home “through prayer alone.” Rev. Compton closed by offering a Bible verse to his loyal readers:
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God.” (John 3:1)
“THE SPLENDID FAMILY PORTRAIT” – May/1944