I just received a newsletter from the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. This newsletter follows the same format of all fundraising communications: They showcase their most successful ministries, include pictures of beautiful children smiling and playing, and give you little vignettes of how the multiple programs of the Diocese have changed people’s lives. As far as newsletters go, this one is very successful. It tells a compelling story that happens to be absolutely true and praiseworthy. I have a dear friend who is very familiar with the Diocese. He tells me the newsletter’s entries are actually well-known ministries with which he is familiar.
On the front page of the newsletter, you see 12 beautiful faces of Palestinian children, most wearing uniforms, in what appears to be a classroom setting. The story on this page highlights the work of the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf (HLID.) The small school cares for 100+ deaf or deaf-blind children in grades K through 6 in the town of Salt, Jordan. “Founded in 1964, HLID was the first school for the deaf in Jordan and remains the leading institute for deaf education in the Middle East.” The Rev. Wadie Far, director of the boarding program states, “It’s part of our duty to walk in Jesus’ footsteps. And to walk in Jesus’ footsteps we need to walk with other people, especially the needy, people with disabilities, and those who are marginalized by their society and community.”
In 2020, The Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza provided “medical care to over 387 children in their underweight clinic, 172 women were screened for breast cancer, and 355 children who have suffered trauma have received psychosocial support.” The Diocese is in the process of funding new construction at the hospital which will double its capacity in 2021. In the town of Nablus, St. Luke’s Hospital just received a new ambulance through a Diocesan grant. And, high on the Mount of Olives, the Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre operates both an internationally-accredited rehabilitation center for children with disabilities and an inclusive Kindergarten through Grade 12 school. The term inclusive in this case means that 40% of the children have a recognized developmental disability. It also means that girls have the same rights to participate as boys. One of the children states, “In some communities not all women have their rights, so maybe it is different from one culture to another.” At her school, however, “there is no difference between boys and girls. We all have the same rights to speak up in class.”
Several additional pages showcase Diocesan sustainable development grants for mothers and children across Palestine and The Schneller School in Markka, Jordan, which serves 270 refugee children and provides a boarding program for 90 students orphaned by violence in the area. These are just a few of the ministries highlighted on this edition of the newsletter, but the website for the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem has additional information on dozens of ministries the Diocese supports or operates.
To end this post, let my highlight one of my favorite ministries of the Diocese. The Episcopal Technological and Vocational Training Center in the West Bank city of Ramallah was founded in the year 2000. This is the school I mentioned in church last Sunday. The work of this school has been credited with reducing unemployment among youth who would have otherwise been easy targets of radicalized groups. A few years back, the school created a strong 2-year training program in information technology, culinary arts, and hospitality for high school juniors and seniors. Giovanni Anbar, the founder and director of the school states, “Hospitality is a growing field in Ramallah. Adults need to make a living for their families, so this is an attractive program because it guarantees employment after completion.” Three years ago, the school received an offer from the local courts it could not pass up. “Extend your culinary program to low-level offenders to reduce incarceration for minor crimes.” The school gladly accepted, and it has already trained a number of young men, who would otherwise have ended up in jails where they are often radicalized into terrorist groups.
The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem is changing lives and I am very excited to partner with them this Lent. We are in the process of collecting funds for them as part of our “Good Friday Offering,” which we began on the third Week of Lent. To donate, just log on to our website and press the “Good Friday Offering for the Diocese of Jerusalem.” You can also mail or drop off a check at the office. Please make it to “Saint Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, MEMO: Diocese of Jerusalem.” Lastly, you can bring your donation to the Good Friday Service on April 2, 2021 at 12:00 Noon.
In an age of religious cynicism and front page news that are not very favorable to churches and religious causes, it is good to know the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem is doing so much to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in one of the most difficult mission fields in the world. Please join me in praying for their success and protection.
Blessings to all,