Interfaith Insight - 2022

Permanent link for "Purpose and faith in face of tragedy" by Doug Kindschi on December 20, 2022

A successful attorney and real estate investor fell on hard times after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Horatio Spafford and his family had planned a trip to Europe, but his business interests required him to stay for a bit longer so he had his wife and four daughters go ahead and he would join them later. While they travelled on the SS Ville du Havre another ship collided with theirs, causing serious damage and the ship quickly capsized. Over 200 lives were lost, including the four daughters of Horatio and Anna Spafford. 

Anna was rescued while nearly unconscious and floating on a piece of wood. When she finally arrived on land in Wales, she telegrammed her husband with the words, “Saved alone. What shall I do?”

Horatio Spafford booked passage to join her, and at one point on the way the captain called him to the bridge as they passed over the area where the SS Ville du Havre had sunk. On a piece of Chicago hotel stationery Spafford penned the poem “It Is Well with My Soul.” It was later put to music by hymn writer Philip Bliss, who titled the tune Ville du Havre, after the sunken vessel.

According to the digital records in the Library of Congress, placed there by the Spafford family, Horatio and Anna had additional children and moved to Jerusalem to establish an American center to serve those in need. Their purpose wasn’t to proselytize but to serve. All persons in need were welcome regardless of nationality or creed.

When a few years later Horatio died, Anna and their daughter Bertha continued the work. During World War I they established a hospital for wounded soldiers from both sides of the conflict as well as a soup kitchen for those in need during the war.  Their efforts continued by establishing an orphanage in East Jerusalem and a children’s center supporting the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities. 

The Spafford Children’s Center still exists, serving all in need regardless of race, religion, or cultural background. Several great-grandchildren of Horatio and Anna Spafford continue serving on the center’s Board of Trustees. The staff is also diverse with persons from different faiths working together to help children and families in need.

A few years ago, for their Christmas concert, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir featured the Spafford story and the hymn that Horatio wrote. The narrator for the dramatic depiction is Hugh Bonneville, who became well-known for his role as Lord Grantham in the Downton Abbey series.  

In the telling of this inspiring story, Bonneville concludes that the “work of giving, of loving, serving and rescuing is ours if we choose to make it so.” 

Watch the inspiring story and choral presentation at:

As we enter this period of Hanukkah and Christmas, let renew our commitment to serving others who are in need and respecting all regardless of nationality, race, or creed.  

Posted on Permanent link for "Purpose and faith in face of tragedy" by Doug Kindschi on December 20, 2022.

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