by Barbara Boehm
I stood at the top of the tall stairs, off to one side, looking down as the students climbed from the playground and garden up to the dining room. In the press of the crowd, one boy had to work very hard—he had braces on each leg, and he grabbed the handrail as he pulled himself up, step by step. It wasn’t his struggle that caught my eye; rather it was his raw determination, athletic yes, even balletic! An older student stayed by his side, protecting, encouraging. This was a most remarkable pas de deux.
In a gentle whisper, the man next to me recounted how this boy had been found during a field visit to the local community. He had been in a wheelchair, utterly unable to stand. His family had no hope of help until an offer was extended for him to come to the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf. Within months of his arrival, this remarkable boy was climbing a flight of stairs, helped by a proud and loyal friend.
Sometimes the gospel readings about Jesus’ healing ministry have sounded to me like tall tales from long ago. Not anymore. The story is still being written, every day, in the work of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.
Barbara Boehm is an AFEDJ trustee from Montclair, New Jersey.
by Lisa Sams
As a relatively new member of the AFEDJ Board, the October Board trip to Jordan, Palestine, and Israel was the first time I had seen many of the schools, hospitals and centers for the disabled run by the Episcopal Church in the Holy Land.
I was most struck by the beautiful care given to extremely disabled children. For example, I watched as teachers tenderly instructed deaf-blind students at the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf, and then as other students carefully escorted those same students to lunch, signing the mealtime prayers with them. At the Saviour’s School in Zarka, a blind student made her way to class independently; another blind student said that his favorite part of school was being with all of his friends.
The Princess Basma center in Jerusalem was inspirational. There was a special room for helping autistic students adapt to stimuli and individual instruction for mothers in caring for their handicapped children.
We also visited three institutions with sheltered workshops where the disabled, including some mentally disabled adults, learn skills such as furniture-making, weaving, sewing, paper making, ceramics and embroidery. The workshop at the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf prepared whimsical furniture in primary colors for the renovated Kindergarten rooms at the Saviour’s School.
by Endicott Peabody
A day following my return home to Arizona from Jerusalem, I am pretty jet-lagged and very tired but I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to visit so many schools and hospitals in Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Every humanitarian institution in the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem is different in its scope and services. Every institution serves a broad, diverse population. Wh
at they have in common is their mission: To serve all people of the Holy Land regardless of their creed or their ethnicity. When they repeat Jesus’ words “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” they mean it, and they live it over and over every day.
What particularly struck me on last week’s visit by AFEDJ trustees to some 12 organizations their leaders’ ability to cheerfully make do with what few tools and resources are available to them. I visited classrooms in Salt and Zarqa in Jordan and Ramallah, on the West Bank. They are all crowded, but they are also filled with cheery pictures and decorations and, most importantly, happy and enthusiastic students and teachers.
We visited hospital emergency and operating rooms in Nablus and Gaza. The facilities might seem to us sparse and outdated, but they are very clean and staffed with devoted and caring doctors and nurses. We also visited institutions for the deaf and disabled in East Jerusalem and in Amman and Jofeh, Jordan. We met those sainted people who work in these institutions. Again and again we were told what a privilege it is for them to work there. Not once did we hear a complaint or a curse, not once did we hear a plea for anything more than our prayers.
I am so grateful to be able to support these organizations, these people and their work, and for the privilege to meet them in person.
And I am especially grateful for the many generous and loyal donors who support AFEDJ and this work. Truly, the financial support we receive from so many caring and committed donors allows us to give these organizations and the thousands of people that they serve one HUGE gift: the gift of hope and the assurance that they are not alone, that there is a light way in the distance. Our donors offer tangible proof to our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land that many people genuinely care about them in a world that often seems to be filled with people who don’t.
Cotty Peabody is a member of AFEDJ Board of Trustees and Chair of the Development Committee. He lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.