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.

Last month, I was part of a SIFAT mission team to Ecuador. Louise Cox, affectionately called Mama Luisa by our Latin American friends, also went on this trip. Over the years, Mama Luisa has gone to almost every one of SIFAT’s projects. She is now 83 years old. In the last four years, she has suffered the loss of her younger sister, her mother, her husband and two of her grown sons. Though we are older, we both wanted to go back again to see the people we have loved so much through the years.

One of the dear Christian families in the indigenous village of Caliata where we had lived some 18 years ago had written to me that his youngest daughter, who was in her last weeks before graduating from the university, was killed in a bus accident. All her family were grieving for their little sister…the pride and joy of the family. We grieved, too, as we remembered the vivacious little girl we knew so long ago. Mama Luisa and I felt that we had to return to Caliata, even though it was a long way up in the mountains to see this precious family. Our Ecuadorian SIFAT staff made it possible for us to go.

SIFAT Executive Director Tom Corson in Caliata in the mid-90s with Custodio’s daughter, who passed away earlier this year.

We wanted to hug them, to cry with them, to pray with them. We were hurting with them. When we arrived at their home, Mama Luisa told them about her great losses recently, too. The mother clasped her hands and groaned. “I can hardly live because I lost one child,” she said. “And you lost two in one year?” They all began to weep for Mama Luisa. There—in the midst of their guinea pig shelter where they were still raising these animals from the original stock Mama Luisa had given them 18 years ago—they all wept and hugged. And our brother Custodio said quietly, “Mama Luisa, pray for us all!” The words poured from her lips, from her heart. In a tight-knit circle of pain and loss, everyone grasped the hope that is in Christ Jesus…the resurrection. The fellowship of suffering was replaced with a shared quiet joy as we all felt the presence of Jesus there among the guinea pigs.

And I remembered that night 56 years ago in Cuba when I first learned to deal with suffering by sharing with others who also were in pain. How wonderful it is to be part of the human family reaching out to help each other…for there in our midst Christ will be found!
Thank you all for your support with your prayers and your gifts this month! May you all have a wonderful Christ-filled Christmas!

In His love,
Sarah Corson


Mama Luisa with one of the ladies she met in Ecuador this year.

P.S. We felt the whole trip to Ecuador was one of God channeling his healing power through people who loved Him. Our medical team gave a lot of spiritual comfort, as well as physical, and Mama Luisa kept comforting others, like this lonely widow who had lost her husband the week before. And as we came home, she said, “I feel that the sadness over my lost loved ones has been released into God’s hands. I feel now I can really celebrate Christmas with the joy I used to feel!” We cannot help others without being helped ourselves!