Loving and Serving with Open Arms

December 12, 2018- Posted in Disabilities, Education, Gaza, Healthcare, People, Pilgrim Stories, Pilgrimage, West Bank

by Elizabeth Keesee Henry

A young chef works in the kitchen of an AFEDJ Institution.

In October, during an AFEDJ Board visit to a number of the Diocese of Jerusalem institutions, I was moved to see that a common thread among them was the living out of our baptismal vow “to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself.” All people are served, no matter their ethnicity, religion, ability or disability, or economic means. All are given treatment, advice, or education, and more importantly, each person is treated with dignity, respect, and open arms offering the love of Christ to all people.

That respect and sensitivity were evident at the medical institutions in their programs to empower people to become part of their own or their children’s education, healing, and therapy. At Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, a nutritionist works with the parents of more than 200 underweight children to devise the most nutritious meal plan possible within the family’s budget, and women are taught to do self-exams for early detection of breast cancer. At the Princess Basma Center in Jerusalem mothers learn to perform physical and other therapies to help their children with disabilities.

The medical institutions also serve families by helping them with the transportation challenges of the region. St. Luke’s Hospital in Nablus and the Jofeh Community Center near the Dead Sea offer satellite or mobile treatment options so people may benefit from medical tests, therapy, and obstetric care when it is impossible to travel far from home.

The educational leaders show similar love and respect for their students, and we saw the Christian and Muslim students model friendship and respect for each other. We heard poised, articulate teens talk about their classes and their hopes for the future; elementary students performed a play for us about healthy eating; and preschoolers displayed their English skills in a song. Three diocesan schools in Jordan hosted a customized, three-month Kindergarten program for Syrian refugee children, and we heard the universal language of children’s laughter on school playgrounds. 

At the Episcopal Technological and Vocational Training Center in Ramallah, we enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared and served professionally by the students in the hospitality program, and, at Schneller School in Marka, we met student-chefs learning that profession. 

People everywhere share the desire to be healthy, to live productive, joyful lives, and to feel confidant in a bright future for their children. The institutions of the Diocese of Jerusalem do so very much to help people in the Holy Land fulfill those universal hopes, and those who donate to this work help make it possible.

Elizabeth Keesee Henry is an AFEDJ trustee from Hendersonville, North Carolina.