Oakdale Sanitorium

by Betty Brandt Passick, Guest Writer

Photo: Oakdale, Iowa Sanitorium in the 1900s,


Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31 KJV


A portion of Emma Bierkoff’s letter to her rural family in Iowa after undergoing treatment for tuberculosis at Oakdale Sanitorium, from the chapter “Even the Sparrows,” Gangster in our Midst (2017), Betty Brandt Passick,


“I am writing with such wonderful news—I am coming home! Though plans have yet to be finalized. I will write again in a few days to let you know when you should arrive at the sanatorium to collect me. Isn’t it all so wonderful? I am well—finally well enough to come home! Several month ago, when I desperately wondered if this day would ever arrive, I got on my knees and prayed, prayed more fervently than any time before in my life, and I asked God for a sign—a sign that confirmed He was real; that He knew I existed; and that He was hearing my pleas to rejoin you and be back in my home caring for you in the way I have done in the past. I reminded God of His promise in Matthew 10:29-31. I asked God to give me proof that He heard my prayers: I didn’t need beautiful doves—just send me lowly sparrows, I pleaded. Then feeling bolder, I asked Him to send me a whole flock! Almost before the last words had pass from my lips, outside the window next to my bed, a single sparrow soon appeared, landing on the sill, and turned its head to seemingly stare into my eyes. I did not write of this before because I feared what I had experiences might have been a delusion. I waited to see if the promise would come to fruition—and just yesterday, Dr. Sparrow pronounced me well enough to return home. So it is true, once and for all: God is real, my beloveds! God hears our prayers! We are not alone! And—isn’t it strange that my doctor is Dr. Sparrow?”


Creator God, life can so overwhelm us that we can become unsure of the path before us; even of Your very existence. In those moments, we call out for proof that You hear us in our darkest hours. I can confirm that when I cried out to You from the depths of my sorrow, You not only heard me…but answered. Amen


Contact Betty Passack and find out more about her books at  

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