And then there is Brother Andrew, a brother from the Order of the Holy Cross, who lives in Salt, Jordan and works at the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf (http://www.allah-kariem.org), a center for the education and training of deaf, deaf/blind and hard-of-hearing children. I met Br. Andrew at the Diocese of Jerusalem's annual synod. He is originally from Holland, so we had an instint kinship, being of Dutch origins myself. In his younger days, while traveling in the Middle East, he stumbled upon the brotherhood of the Holy Cross. While not actually seeking to be a monk, Br. Andrew felt that joining the brotherhood was the right answer for him and he has never looked back since. Like Sr. Najah, he is the only one from his Order in the Middle East. It appears the world over that the call to the religious life is becoming a harder call to answer.
My blog would not be complete without featuring Sister Najah, who oversees the Evangelical Home at the school - a home for childen from broken families or in other trying situations. Sr. Najah came to the home when she herself was three years old after her mother passed away. While studying at Bible College in Swansea UK, Sr. Najah discerned that God was calling her back to Ramallah to serve the children in the Home. Shortly thereafter, the founders of the school re-dedicated their lives to God and formed a religious order, the Emmanuel Sisters to which Sr. Najah belongs. While initially they wore habits, the sisters decided it was nicer for the children to see colourful clothes and so they reverted back to 'street clothes'. The only outward symbol of their dedication to God is a small cross pin that Sr. Najah wears daily without fail. From providing me with a cell phone when I discovered my mobile does not work here to lending me a thicker winter jacket when the weather turned, she has been a saving grace for me, always looking out for me. And she has an incredible love and care for the children - even when we are out and about, enjoying a treat at the local ice-cream parlour, she will suddenly think of one of the children and place a call. She is a second mother to many of the kids and my time here would not have been the same without her. Words and pictures can not properly capture the amazing essence of her personhood!
A candlelight vigil/walk was held in downtown Ramallah tonight for those Israelis/Gazans who have lost their lives in this recent fighting and for hope to an end to the conflict. I attended with the children of the home. Three of them - Reenan, Loreena and Rena - are seen holding their candles. The walk took over the streets and the crowd grew as many joined the procession that weaved its way through the downtown core.
WARNING: This blog entry might only be of interest to Anglican-ites
The Majma (Arabic for assembly/gathering) was a great experience. Having previously attended synods with the Diocese of Toronto, it was interesting to see how it worked in the Middle East. It began with a Holy Communion Service at the Cathedral followed by a dinner, where I got to meet and chat with some priests from other parishes in the Diocese. The following day opened with speeches including one by Bishop John Chapman from the Diocese of Ottawa. I believe they counted 64 members of the Majma and at one point, I counted 6 Canadians in the room - I think we outnumbered the Americans! They introduced everyone in the room (which would never happen at a Toronto Synod due to its large member size) and I loved how they reconvened after a break: singing a few hymns to draw the people back into the room. The very gracious Canon John Organ delivered a presentation of the Diocese's worldwide Financial Campaign to raise 50 million dollars for the Diocese of Jerusalem - if there's one thing they are not in short supply of, it's ambition!
The final day consisted of presenting various reports and electing/voting on positions, such as the Vice-President and Treasurer. So far, I have only mentioned the business matters of Majma, but what would Majma be without some fun? There was a cocktail party hosted by the Bishop and his wife at their house and people enjoyed themselves on the terrace with a drink or around the piano singing some tunes. And the Jordanian contigent had a quick, but beautiful tour that went from Jerusalem - Jaffa - Haifa - Akko before crossing back into Jordan. While I have no other Majma to which to compare this year's Majma, it was well executed, productive and I think enjoyed by all. If I might be so bold, it may even beat Toronto's Synods.
I have had the privledge of getting to know Rana, a quiet Art Major who happens to live across the hall from me. Rana originates from Beit Sahour, a town next to Bethlehem. She will finish her College Diploma this spring and hopes to enter University in the fall to obtain her BA. Rana is a talented, but shy artist. It took much coaxing to obtain this photo of her working! But she is happy to share her work with others, which I posted in the photo gallery. If anyone is interested in owning a piece of work from an emerging Palestinian artist, make an offer via email and I can bring it back to Canada with me.