Categories: Rector's Corner

by John Ross

The Episcopal News Service recently published an online feature about how St. John’s Norwood led the charge in raising funds to buy an ambulance for St. Luke’s in the West Bank city of Nablus. Both Sari and our deacon, Anne Derse, were quoted.

Ever since our first Holy Land pilgrimage in 2014, St. John’s has taken a keen interest in supporting the charity hospital St. Luke’s, which ministers to a largely destitute population, crippled by closed borders and a poor health system. For the past three years, St. John’s has supported half the salary of a nurse, a vital support necessary to keep the hospital running. Last year’s pilgrimage visited St. Luke’s to learn more about the hospital’s work. In coming years, St. John’s Holy Land Committee aims to support a full nurse’s salary.

An emergency arose late last year which demanded our attention: the hospital’s 15-year-old ambulance, which makes 2,000 emergency trips a year broke down for good. Deprived of its only ambulance, the hospital could not reach the most vulnerable members of their community. To make matters worse, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said that at least one working ambulance was required to maintain the hospital’s accreditation. The Ministry of Health gave the hospital a February 2019 deadline to come up with a new ambulance. The situation looked hopeless as the sticker price for the vehicle, equipment, insurance, and permits was $110,000.

The American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, or AFEDJ, put out a desperate call for donations. And that’s where St. John’s came in. You may remember Sari’s stirring story of the ambulance in a November issue of Crossroads. He didn’t ask for contributions, but our parishioners generously rose to the occasion with $40,000 in donations. And our work didn’t stop there.

Inspired by our parishioners’ generosity, Sari obtained a list of DC-area religious institutions of all denominations that had given to AFEDJ in the past. He sent out personalized emails to solicit their help. The response was strong, including a $10,000 pledge by the Washington National Cathedral and $13,000 from Grace Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Virginia. One little boy scraped up $35 from his allowance and sent it in!

All told, St. John’s has raised $78,000 for the ambulance effort! With an additional $27,000 from the U.K.-based Anglican Communion Fund, AFEDJ has nearly met its goal for the ambulance campaign.

For Sari, the exciting part wasn’t so much about the money, but the enthusiastic response to the hospital’s need. Anne Derse agreed. “People are hungry to do good work like this.”
It is a truly a Christmas miracle story. Kudos to the leadership of Sari and Anne, and a special thanks to St. John’s parishioners. Our good works will have a real and lasting impact on the lives of Palestinians.

You can read the article by clicking here.

If you want to learn more, contact Sari, Anne, or the co-chairs of the Holy Land Committee, Nancy Adams and Kirk Campbell.