Oswald Chambers and Children

Kathleen children

Photo courtesy Wheaton College Special Collections

Oswald Chambers loved children.

Even as an itinerant preacher traveling about the British Isles on behalf of the League of Prayer, he was known for his fondness and wish to have the children come unto him.

During those years, he traveled by train from city to city teaching on spiritual issues and lodged with League supporters in their homes.

(He was not paid for this work. He lived on the gifts of others–and never asked for money. His father didn’t much care for this method of living.)

Oswald enjoyed the personal contact that came from staying in private homes.

He spent many of his evenings telling stories to the household’s children, romping, observing and sometimes making suggestions to their parents that changed their lives.

Telling stories

According to daughter Kathleen Chambers, one evening while staying with devout friends, Oswald volunteered to watch their ailing children so the parents could attend an evening church service.

When the parents returned, they asked the children, “Did Uncle Oswald tell you some lovely Bible stories and teach you some lovely hymns?”


He had taught them a silly poem which they happily recited:

“Little Willie in belts and sashes

fell in the grate and was burn to ashes.

Presently the room grew chilly,

But nobody cared to poke poor Willie.”

No word on whether Oswald was ever asked to babysit again.

Kathleen noted her father was excellent at imitating animals as well.

Kathleen children

Good at imitating animals and romping with children. [Photo courtesy Wheaton College Special Collections]

Romping and Observing

Young Dorothy Docking lived in Blackpool and “Uncle Oswald” stayed with her family every year for a week as he preached. She thought him as handsome as a fairy prince, and didn’t realize he was even old enough to get married until he showed up with Biddy when she was 9 years old.

“I don’t think I ever knew he was a minister,” she remembered years later.

“He never talked about religion to me; I thought he was just a friend, a kind playmate.

He seemed my age when he visited, and always was willing to talk about whatever we [Dorothy and her brothers] wanted to talk about.”

Dorothy remembered Oswald coming into the parlor while she was writing a poem about Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace.

When he asked about it, the eight year-old handed over the poem and waited while he read it.

They talked about the books she liked to read and why.

The conversation changed her life.

Oswald went to her mother with an observation and some advice:

“You must see Dorothy goes to University and that she takes honors English literature, because she’s going to make her life in literature.”

The Docking family took Oswald’s opinion seriously. Dorothy ultimately took two degrees in English Literature and became an English professor.

Dorothy Docking taught English Literature at Santa Barbara’s Westmont College for twenty years. Among her many stories was a claim that she suggested a name for a new automobile line produced by her automaker brother: the Jaguar.



Delighting in his own child. [Photo courtesy Wheaton College Special Collections]

No child, of course, was as well loved as his daughter Kathleen.

They called her “their flower from God,” and Oswald doted on his only child.

He played with her in the garden of their home in Clapham Common, he let her sit on his lap during meals at the Bible Training College, and chuckled with the rest when she participated in hymn sings at night, advising, “all wise,” when it was time to stand up.

She was only four years old when he died, but the photos of the two together show him focused on her and enjoying their times together.

Would a doting father have suggested his wife bring a toddler to live in a YMCA camp in Egypt during a war?

Only one who loved his child and trusted his God as much as Oswald Chambers.


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