If Dwight L. Moody began to realize his ambition to make money, he did not forget his own childhood of poverty and the needs of his mother and siblings. Indeed, he regularly sent money to his mother, enabling her to own and maintain the family house in Northfield and provide for her needs and those of his younger siblings.
In late 1856 and well into 1857, a religious revival broke out in Chicago. Moody and many other business men found themselves going to prayer meetings at lunchtime and worship services most evenings. As a result of seeking a closer walk with the Lord, the twenty-two-year-old lad from Massachusetts grew increasingly restless. While continuing to buy and sell city lots on speculation, as well as marketing boots and shoes, Moody discovered more fulfillment in child evangelism and late-night witnessing to sailors and laboring men who lived, worked, and drank to excess along the docks of Lake Michigan.
During his open-air evangelistic outreaches along the lakefront, Moody met J. B. Stillson, a man at least twice his age who served as a spiritual father. He taught his young disciple how to study the Bible. He also introduced him to study aids such as a concordance and Bible dictionary. Stillson not only taught Moody how to get riches from the Bible in more systematic and contextual ways, he introduced his young protégé to George Müller’s A Life of Trust. This book, plus the ever-growing nuggets he began to glean from Scripture, helped the spiritually alert young man discern a gift of faith and a growing calling to the rescue and care of souls.
At the onset of the Civil War in April 1861, Moody was increasing his commitment to evangelistic work among Chicago’s poorest street children—herding them into a one-time saloon he turned into a mission school and recruiting volunteers to help tame and teach the destitute children whom no one, not even the committed Christians in the mainline churches, knew how to reach.
It became apparent to everyone who knew Moody that he had been blessed with a sacred anointing. His ability to rescue children, introduce them to Jesus Christ, and help them to form Christ-honoring lives was phenomenal. It likewise grew evident that Moody had a unique ability to find facilities to house a mission school for boys and another for girls. He also did more than find buildings; like a magnet he attracted a following of businessmen who eagerly dug into their pockets for money to purchase property and support “the work.” Additionally, Moody attracted young women and men to help nurture and teach the children. Among them was Emma Revell who would eventually become Dwight’s wife and the love of his life. In brief, Moody became an American George Müller.
As Moody imbibed deep drafts of Scripture and spent increasing time in prayer and ministry, he gradually turned from business to full-time ministry. Worldlings called Moody “crazy,” because he gave up his lucrative real estate and business ventures to “waste time” on dirty and rowdy children. But for Mr. Moody, going into full-time Christian service was neither insane nor impulsive. On the contrary, he gradually and prayerfully followed the Lord’s guidance one step at a time. When acquaintances chided, “What are you doing now, Moody?” his joyful response remained the same: “I am working for Jesus Christ.”
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