Horatio and Anna Spafford were dedicated Christians from Chicago. They had faced tragedy in 1873 when they lost their four young daughters in an Atlantic shipwreck and again when an infant son died. It was a severe test of their faith but Horatio wrote the hymn “It is Well with My Soul” to express their continuing belief and trust in God. The hymn was sung by the Three Tenors at a concert in Bath, England in 2003. Djemila Cope, a great granddaughter of Horatio Spafford, is shown in the front row of the concert.
The Spafford Children’s Center’s history began when Bertha Spafford Vester was hurrying home on Christmas Eve 1925 to go with her husband and children to sing carols in Bethlehem. On the way she encountered a Bedouin who had travelled by donkey for six hours with his sick wife and their new born baby. They had found the hospital closed to outpatients because of the Christmas feast. Bertha was greatly moved by their need and later said, “Here before me stood a rustic Madonna and babe, and, similar to Mary’s plight, there was no place for them to stay.” Although the mother received nursing care she died in the night and Bertha was asked to care for the baby.
Today the Center provides women’s empowerment workshops for mothers as well as psycho-social, educational, therapeutic, and cultural programmes for children and youth in East Jerusalem and the Old City.