September 2022: From Witchcraft to Worker for Christ

Editor’s Note: Each month, we mail an article with our contribution statements to the previous month’s donors. Click here to download a PDF version.

Written by Sarah Corson, SIFAT Co-founder

In 1994, SIFAT began training Christian workers at El Renuevo in Venezuela. Several years later, we had to close it because of terrorists in nearby Colombia, who had begun coming into Venezuela and kidnaping Americans for ransom.

This summer, Yurima Alvarez, one of our El Renuevo graduates, came to SIFAT to teach youth during our Learn & Serve Summer Experience and to learn more technologies to help her people during this difficult time in Venezuela. She brought us news from a number of SIFAT’s graduates from those years we worked in Venezuela. Yurima encouraged us, telling us that the SIFAT training was still going on in different areas of Venezuela, as our graduates with whom we had lost contact were still training others using the skills and knowledge that they learned more than 25 years ago.  One especially caught my attention.

“Remember Oscar?” she asked. We could never forget Oscar! He was from the Yanomami, deep in the jungles bordering the Orinoco River. His tribe still dressed in the ancient loin cloth, but he got clothes like we wear to come to the SIFAT training sessions. They were still hunter-gatherers and did not know how to farm. Their tribe was in danger of dying out because their hunting and fishing territory was becoming smaller and smaller as homesteaders were pushing into the area. The Orinoco River was becoming polluted from the oil drilling companies.

Sarah and Oscar spend time together at El Renuevo in Venezuela many years ago.


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August 2022: Lifelong Lessons from Summers at Learn & Serve

Editor’s Note: Each month, we mail an article with our contribution statements to the previous month’s donors. This month, we are sharing two articles written by youth leaders that brought their groups to SIFAT this summer. One has attended Learn & Serve for years, while the other had her first experience alongside her students. Both believe in this program and its valuable lessons for youth and adults. Thank you for supporting SIFAT and our programs both here in Alabama and internationally! Click here to download a PDF version.

Written by Clinton Wheeler, Youth Minister, Cookeville FUMC (Tenn.)

SIFAT has been a part of my life for a long time. I came to my first Learn & Serve Summer Experience when I was in middle school. I remember walking across the bridge one morning and saying to myself, “I don’t ever want this feeling to end.” For the first time, I heard God’s voice telling me that I was called to youth ministry and that this is what he has in store for me. The next night, I accepted Christ as my savior and have been involved with youth and SIFAT ever since.

Each day during our L&S Summer Experience, participants have small group discussions and time with their youth groups to talk about their experiences and explore the week’s theme.


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May 2022: SIFAT Graduates Overcome Obstacles

Editor’s Note: Each month, we mail an article with our contribution statements to the previous month’s donors. Click here to download a PDF version.

In Nigeria, our SIFAT graduates Pastor Blossom and Aina are building a fence around their mission school, an action required by the government for all schools because of the terrorists who are kidnapping schoolchildren. Through our approved graduates’ projects program, SIFAT sent a grant to help with the fence to enable this Christian school to continue operating. But an anti-Christian group did not want a Christian school in their village. They invented a false story that the land the fence was on was not the school’s property. They sued Pastor Blossom, which stopped the fence building for several weeks until the court ruled it was a falsehood. The attackers got what they wanted—construction was delayed and materials ruined. Without extra funds, Pastor Blossom and Aina could not continue.

We believe in self-sufficiency, in working and making a living by doing so. But, there are so many different problems our graduates face before they can succeed.  We are constantly amazed that these graduates, who have many obstacles to overcome, have so much determination and perseverance. They often say, “With man it is not possible, but with God all things are possible!” Though it may take longer than originally planned, still it happens! Our graduates keep trying, and with God’s help, they overcome!


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April 2022: Happy Easter!

Editor’s Note: Each month, we mail an article with our contribution statements to the previous month’s donors. Click here to download our Easter 2022 letter.

Recently, students in a one-room school on the way to Quesimpuco, high in the Andes of Bolivia, listened intently as the teacher explained the lesson. The school is near a small river, so that they could have water. Their parents had made the mud bricks and built this school. Because they had a building, the government sent a teacher. What joy they had felt when the teacher walked into their village the first time to start classes! Many children in this isolated district lived too far away to walk to school, and this handful of 35 students felt blessed, indeed, to be able to have the opportunity to attend. The teacher and students were all proud of their school!

It is the rainy season in Bolivia, and flash floods are not uncommon. On this day, the students tell us that lightning struck the mountain peak nearby, and deep thunder followed. The light in the room darkened as dark clouds rolled in. The wind began to roar past. The teacher told the children, “A bad rainstorm is coming. You must go home quickly! The river could flood our school!” The children lost no time, as they ran home as fast as they could.


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March 2022: Spring Learn & Serve Retreats at SIFAT

Editor’s Note: Each month, we mail an article with our contribution statements to the previous month’s donors. Click here to download a PDF version.

Written by Marie Lanier, Promotions and Marketing Coordinator

During March, our SIFAT calendar is beginning to remind of us pre-COVID-19 days. We are seeing lots of green—the color designated for Learn & Serve events on our staff calendar—on the large dry erase boards in the office hallway. While working, our office staff hears shouts and cheers drifting across campus, and we see groups of students walking past our windows on their way to the cafeteria for lunch. These simple things lift our spirits and make us realize that we have been missing the hub of activity that spring brings to our campus more than we realized!

Our Learn & Serve programming can be customized for different types of groups and various ages. Already this year, we have hosted an Around the World field trip and multi-day retreat for middle school classes, Global Health Days for college nursing students, a tour for youth leaders making plans to bring a group later this year and a retreat with work projects and programming for a mission team unable to travel internationally. At the end of the month, we will have three youth groups on campus for spring break retreats. For our small campus staff, the days are long, but the rewards are great!

 

We are enjoying our spring Learn & Serve retreat groups at SIFAT!


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