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Thornwell Emphasis Month | Minutes for Mission | Willie’s Story

The mission of Thornwell is to prevent child abuse and neglect, build and reunite families, and support healthy communities in the name of Jesus Christ. Founded in 1875 in Clinton, SC, by a Presbyterian minister to care for orphans from the Civil War, Thornwell still cares for children who’ve experienced trauma while providing innovative ministries to strengthen families throughout Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.

Thornwell’s theme this Emphasis Month is “Pathways to Prayer.”

Willie’s Story

This Emphasis Month, Thornwell’s theme, “Pathways to Prayer,” highlights the embodiment of faith in Jesus. Through our prayer and submission, Jesus can use us to guide vulnerable children and families to know Him and experience His goodness. If you toss a stone into a still pond, the ripples will immediately emanate from the entry point and set out into different paths. This is an important reminder that our actions can impact those around us. We may not always see the full ripple effect, but everything we do can make a difference and impact the world.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Thornwell’s passion for helping others and directing new paths began with a simple act of generosity around 150 years ago by a young boy named Willie Anderson. Willie was just ten years old and had lost his father. Though he still had his loving mother, the world considered him an orphan. Through his path in life, God gave Willie a powerful gift of empathy. This gift led Willie to make a remarkable sacrifice the day Thornwell’s founder, Reverend William Plumer Jacobs, came to their door.

At the time, Jacobs had been called to start a home for children orphaned by the Civil War. Willie knew how important a home was to him. He knew how the weight that the title of “orphan” felt on children’s shoulders. So, Willie gave all he had – a gift of 50 cents – and told Dr. Jacobs,

“This is to go and build your orphanage.”
This young boy did not know the ripple effect his gift would make, but God did. Willie’s gift of 50 cents, worth around 15 dollars today, energized and facilitated Jacob’s dream of building an orphanage. Willie’s small gift in 1872 was like a stone in the pond of powerful life change for thousands of children and families touched by the ripples of Thornwell’s programs over its nearly 150 years of service.

Sometimes, we may believe that we have the answers to every path and spend a lot of effort searching for the right direction. It is important to remember that while we must put in the work, we should also have faith in God to guide us and bless us with His grace and mercy as we move forward. In the spirit of Willie’s generosity, Thornwell welcomes people of all ages to become a part of their ministry by volunteering their time and talents or by donating. In Bible days, a talent was an amount of money. Today, the word talent also means an ability. God wants us to use our abilities—whether it be raising money, singing or playing an instrument, raking leaves, cooking, or whatever we can do—for the glory of His work and His kingdom.

To learn more about Thornwell and how you can help, please visit If you feel led to give, please consider donating generously online at Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those in need.

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