Learn & Serve: 48: A Slum Experience Recap

This January, we once again held an intense slum experience that lasted 48 hours. In this blog post, Learn & Serve Interim Director Becca Griffin shares not only about this event, but also some background and statistics about urban slums to help us better understand how about one billion people in the world live.

Ecuador : Understanding Our Place in the World on MLK Weekend 2015

SIFAT’s eighth annual 48: A Slum Experience was held on January 17-19, 2015. We attempted to befriend around one billion of our brothers and sisters around the world who live in urban slums today. We tried to walk in the shoes of people whose lives are worlds away from our own.

On Jan. 17-19, participants spent 48 hours in SIFAT’s urban slums to gain understanding in how approximately one billion people live their daily lives.

What is an urban slum? It is characterized by three things: overcrowding, improper housing and poor sanitation. These characteristics — when paired with challenges like dirty water, smoke inhalation, malnutrition from both hunger and hidden hunger, and a great swarm of violence for the vulnerable — create a web of perpetuated poverty. Slums are not specific to one part of the world, but for those living in the developing world, one in three will live in this context.


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Hope In Christmas

Thank you for your support this year! We hope you have a wonderful Christmas holiday surrounded by friends and family. Our office will be closed Dec. 24 – 25, and Jan. 1. We will have limited staff available Dec. 22 – Jan. 2. Remember, end-of-year donations must be postmarked by Dec. 31 to receive tax credit for 2014. Our co-founder Sarah Corson shares the following letter to help us all remember those who may be hurting this Christmas and the hope that we have because of Christ’s birth!

Dear Friends,

I will never forget Christmas of 1958. Ken and I were newlyweds and were working in Cuba. We had decided to adopt Isabel, a little girl who needed a home. She had begged us to kill and roast Rosita, our little pet pig, because that was the Christmas custom of Cuban families who could afford it. She was thrilled when we agreed, because she had never had a roast pig at Christmas. I washed and set her hair that afternoon, and she helped me bake Christmas cookies for the traditional Cuban Christmas Eve meal at midnight…the hour they accepted as the birth of Christ.

Sarah with Isabel in Cuba on Christmas Eve of 1958

Then in late afternoon, our world was shattered. Relatives came and took Isabel away, carrying her from our home kicking and screaming. That was the last time we saw her for 32 years. We lost our precious little daughter. Soon afterward, the local baker knocked at the door with helpers bringing back our whole roasted pig. I burst into tears anew. “Keno,” I wailed. “I cannot eat a bite of this lechon! This was for Isabel. I don’t want to even see it! Take it away!”

Ken told the baker to set it down on the table, where the platter filled the biggest part of the table. “Wait, Sarah,” he told me and dashed out the door. Half an hour later, he returned with our car packed with people. He had brought a family with three children, whose father had left them sad and alone this Christmas. Ken went in the local bar and found a lone man trying to drink away his loneliness because his wife had left him. Ken looked for all the hurting people in our little village. As our home filled with hurting people, I had to dry my tears and try to help them have a good Christmas Eve supper. It became one of the happiest evenings we can remember…because all the hurting people tried to help the others who were hurting have a good Christmas. We sang Christmas carols. Ken read the Christmas story from the Bible. We shared and prayed together, and then at midnight, we all ate roast pig. All of us had a very special Christmas Eve, helping each other to overcome the tragedies in our lives.

God has made us so that we can help each other by sharing our pain. Somehow it does not hurt so much if we share it with someone who understands. It is a little of God’s love channeled through one in pain to another.


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#GivingTuesday is Back!

Last year, SIFAT received $108,080 in one day from donors during #GivingTuesday. Of that, $34,050 was matching funds provided by the Global Ministries of United Methodist Church. Overall, Advance projects raised $6.5 million on #GivingTuesday 2013! Thank you, thank you, thank you to all who participated last year!

This year, you have the opportunity to give again on Dec. 2, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. The goal of #GivingTuesday is to give back to nonprofit organizations after all of the shopping that takes place on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Because of matching funds, you can double your gift!

Here are this year’s rules for UMC #GivingTuesday:

  1. Go to SIFAT’s Advance page. When donating online through the Advance, no processing fees will be taken from your gift!
  2. Matching gifts begin at 12 a.m. Dec. 2 (EST). Double check your time zone. You may need to donate on the night of Dec. 1! Global Ministries is matching gifts up to the first $1 million donated online. Last year, the matching gifts were met within the first 30 minutes.
  3. Individual gifts can receive a match of up to $2,500, and SIFAT is eligible to receive up to $25,000 in matching gifts.
  4. Do you want us to send you a personal reminder, or do you have questions? E-mail Marie, lanierm@sifat.org, for more information.

Learn & Serve: Summer Experience 2014 Wrap-Up

This summer, 605 students and individuals — from 31 different churches throughout 9 states — attended our week-long Learn & Serve Summer Experience. They began each week living in our Global Village, picking food from the village garden and cooking foods more common to the 10 countries represented (Liberia, Uganda, Nigeria, India, the Philippines, Nepal, Cote d’Ivoire/The Ivory Coast, Ecuador, Bolivia and Guatemala). 

Students enjoy preparing dinner in Cote d’Ivoire.


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Bolivia: Mt. Bethel UMC Men in Quesimpuco

Our last Bolivian team of the year is in Quesimpuco this week. Each year, Mt. Bethel UMC takes an all men’s team to this remote area high in the Andes Mountains. John Moxley, a former team member, has received a few phone calls from the team and shared with friends and family what the team has been doing. In Quesimpuco, the only communication available is through a satellite phone or one phone at the town hall. There are no current pictures to accompany this post, but John has done a great job adding details from his personal experiences to explain what the team is experiencing. 

SIFAT teams have been helping the people of Quesimpuco for almost two decades. Within this beautiful landscape, daily life is a struggle with harsh obstacles. But, the people are improving their lives with education and opportunity! We are seeing a generation of young adults returning to serve their own people.

Saturday Update

Yesterday went better than expected:  a long drive, an enjoyable picnic beside a lake with flamingos, and most importantly: no problems!  No flats, mechanical issues or overly bad road conditions.  Given what they just drove through, this is an accomplishment. They arrived at about 9:15 p.m., and it is, indeed, a tiring drive.  The last several hours are very off road, plus being in a car for 11+ hours is just no fun. However, the team had enough energy to unpack and have a devotional.  While Carey did the first devo, each team member will have a turn this week.  Additionally, Carey set the team up with a daily scripture to read and focus on. Our team is covered up with God’s word, fellowship among themselves, and prayer from you.  Great things are bound to happen!