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Burning Mattresses: A Testimony

Photo of Hannah Gibney Hannah Gibney
4 min

The Stewardship team feel honoured and blessed to often have a front row seat to what the lord is doing through amazing ministries and generous Christians. We’d like to make space to share with you some of those testimonies of God’s goodness in the causes supported by some of our donors. Care for Children is one of those stories. We hope you are inspired and moved by this account of how one family impacted millions.

Author: Thomas Abbott, Head of Projects at Care for Children

Watching your belongings going up in flames is normally the result of a devastating tragedy. For the Glover family it was a literal ‘smoke signal’ for their waiting friends to pick them up and take them to the airport. And so began a remarkable adventure that has already transformed over a million orphans’ lives.

In 1998 Robert and Elizabeth Glover gathered their six children on a hill to burn their mattresses – the very last of their belongings that didn’t make the suitcases. They then left their cosy farmhouse and close church community in Guernsey for the hustle and bustle of the fastest growing city in the world, Shanghai. Their God-given calling was to place orphans into families in China. Their vision was for a million children. But as they stepped off the plane in Hong Qiao International Airport, their first mission was to find somewhere to live – a home for their own six children in a totally new environment, culture and language.

Robert was a Social Worker in the UK who was stirred into action to help the Chinese government place children into families after learning about their overcrowded and under-resourced orphanages. His career had seen him journey with the UK government during its own radical shift away from residential care towards foster care in the 70s and 80s, so he knew the professional challenges that lay ahead. Three prophetic words given to him over several years were clearly pointing him to China. But surely there were other ways to apply your skills while also being obedient to God’s calling, without sacrificing the comfort and security of your family, disrupting your children’s education, or burning the last of your belongings to move 8,000 miles across the world?

I remember the first nugget of wisdom Robert passed on to me when I joined Care for Children in 2003: “the visionary has to be on the ground”, he said. There was no mistaking the weight of reality behind his words: if you want to see change, you must lead by example.

Change was, and is, paramount. For every three months a child lives in an institution, they lose one month of development. Children with disabilities, often a reason for being abandoned, are at an even greater disadvantage. Without the love and a care of a mother’s touch, the weakest and most vulnerable won’t survive beyond childhood.    

Care for Children remains on the pioneering edge of change: working with governments’ child welfare systems to include family-based care for orphans and vulnerable children. We work with some of the world’s leading childcare specialists and international developments experts. We have a dedicated team who are committed to the cause, and which includes families following in the Glover’s footsteps to implement foster care in new countries. In 2018, the national bureau of statistics in China confirmed that one million children were now in families rather than orphanages. In 2020, despite the turmoil, we have launched a new and bold vision statement to ‘see a world of children in families’, and we are digitalising our world-class training programme to enable that vision.

But when it comes down to it, the real heroes of this work are the millions of Mums and Dads across China, and now Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia too, who have caught the flame of change ignited by those mattresses two decades ago, and are opening up their homes to welcome in orphans and vulnerable children to know the love and security of a loving family.  

Following God’s calling and leading by example may involve great sacrifice, and quite often a step into the unknown, but it’s the fire that can set the world alight.

You can give to Care for Children here.

Watch a short video clip about the story behind the Glovers burning their mattresses here. You can learn more about Care for Children’s vision to see ‘a world of children in families’ at: www.careforchildren.com and www.robertmarkglover.com.

Profile image of Hannah Gibney
Written by

Hannah Gibney

Hannah joined the Philanthropy Services Team in 2019 to help reach out to new and emerging philanthropists. Her previous roles have been in the Christian and secular spheres and she is passionate about seeing people released into the fullness that God has for them.

She loves working in a team where its primary aim is to help people experience freedom through generosity.

She lives and worships in Bristol at Christ Church Clifton and is concerned about Justice and Children and Youth.