A Christmas letter

A Christmas letter
Esther Smith Esther is senior pastoral administrator of Caring For Life (CFL), Leeds, providing for vulnerable people.
01 December, 2014 4 min read

As Christmas approaches, some children write a letter to Father Christmas, ensuring he knows their wish list!

At a Caring For Life (CFL) Supporters’ Day in September, one young lady who is supported by CFL read out a letter of a very different sort.

Karen was referred to CFL by her parents when she was 16, struggling with Asperger’s Syndrome and her behaviour out of control. Karen was angry with everyone and everything.

Having no structured routine she slept all day, and stayed awake all night listening to loud music and making her parents’ life impossible.


A local newspaper ran a story about a ‘nimby’ (‘not in my back yard’) protest against a supported home due to be opened by a Christian organisation in their area. The organisation was CFL and the outcome of the newspaper coverage was that the first referral for the home came from Karen’s parents, just around the corner.

The protests died away and Wendy Margaret Home was opened. Karen was the first young lady to move in.

For over a year prior to this, Karen had attended the therapeutic daytime activity projects at CFL’s home, Crag House Farm, on the outskirts of Leeds. This was not without its problems! Karen struggled to touch anything she felt might be dirty, so as a result she would have to wash her hands endlessly.

Each day, in fact throughout each day, there were huge blow-ups as Karen reacted to the slightest change in routine, to a comment, or, it seemed, to whichever way the wind blew!

As she attended the CFL projects every weekday, she began to sleep well at night. She still had continual explosive and abusive verbal outbursts, but she wanted to change and every outburst would end up in floods of tearful remorse.

Then ‘grace’ — God’s wonderful grace — happened, as Karen began to ask questions about Jesus. She was drawn to Christ; her eyes were opened and she became a Christian.

Baptised and a church member, Karen now prays every day for the persecuted church.

The change in her has been remarkable, so much so, that a senior educational psychologist, who now works for CFL as its Pastoral Director, said she had never before seen such a remarkable change in a person with Asperger’s Syndrome.


Karen still struggles to cope with change or with tensions, but she is a new creation in Christ. Just before Supporters’ Day, Karen was trying to write a prayer.

She did not know what to say, but she said, ‘I write letters to my friends every day, so I’m just going to write a letter to God’. Her letter follows, exactly as written — and we know the Lord understands every word:

‘To my Heavenly Farther (sic),

Thank you for giving Jesus and thank you that you gave him up to die for my sins. You are the most important thing in my life, words don’t express what you mean to me. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here because you are the one that made me in your image and you know how many hairs on my head, and you know me better than I know myself.

Your son Jesus is amazing that he died for my sins, and he is my best friend. I can’t wait to meet him in heaven and I can say thank you to him myself.

From your child


Karen is just one person whose life we have seen wonderfully transformed by the love of Jesus. Every day, our staff and volunteers care for several hundred vulnerable men and women, through our supported homes, our ‘Being There’ housing support team, and the 16 therapeutic daytime projects.


Many of those for whom we care belong to those who have never had their mental health issues or learning disability recognised, and who often have suffered deeply abusive experiences. So often, some end up homeless, caught up in crime or suffering chronic illness through a lack of good food and nurture.

Karen came to CFL from loving parents, who very much needed our help simply to cope. Others are not referred by parents — some, because they don’t know who their parents are; while others have simply been abandoned by theirs.

Excluded from society, these people are in every sense lost and, as Ephesians 2:12 describes their spiritual experience, ‘separate from Christ … without hope and without God in the world’.

Not so now for Karen, and not so now for several hundred more who over the years have come to Christ and found in him their everything.

Karen will need CFL for the rest of her life, as will hundreds more of those we currently care for, because the world can be a dangerous place for people who are ‘different’.

Peter Parkinson, co-founder of CFL, has been working with an architect to draw up plans for a Caring For Life Village, a place where vulnerable people can live in a home of their own, but with support right at hand, close by or nearby.


In his vision for the homes, Peter states: ‘This must be a home where, as they grow older, people can almost get a sight and taste of heaven simply through the kindness and love experienced in the home.

‘A home with no walls, where all are welcome and where all find peace and rest. A home where laughter rings and echoes around every room, from every wall.

‘This must be a home with gardens and trees, with flowers and birds and pets, and above all a home just overflowing with the love and fragrance of Jesus.

‘A beautiful home, a comfortable home; a home which provides an almost perfect environment to enjoy life to the full, and a home which provides an almost perfect environment to enjoy the last days of life, before sleeping in Jesus’.

Every day we plead with our heavenly Father to open the windows of heaven, enabling us to gather suffering people into a safe home … and, as their life, their story, gradually changes, we will tell them the stories of Jesus, the Saviour of the world.

Esther Smith

If you would like to know more about Caring For Life’s ministry, ring 0113 2303600, write to Caring For Life, Crag House Farm, Cookridge, Otley Old Road, Leeds LS16 7NH, or log into

Esther is senior pastoral administrator of Caring For Life (CFL), Leeds, providing for vulnerable people.
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