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Where to Meet Christ in the Village
Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D

"If your brother is suffering, suffer with him; so that you might be counted worthy to hear from the Lord on the Day
of Judgment: 'As ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to Me."
[Matthew 25:40]

It amazes me that a very lovely independent filmmaker come to Palestine especially to do a documentary about Christians in the Holy Land but had no interest in our Christian day to day activities but just how we get along with Muslims was the only thing on her mind. She said she wanted to follow me for a day but it did not work out. Aside from my regular responsibilities of helping the family business by giving Taybeh Beer Tours and my volunteer work to the community, I suggested that the film crew accompany me to “Beit Efraim,” (House of Ephraim) the nursing home for the elderly and the handicapped where it has become my favorite pastime the last few years to check on the residents and simply say good morning. The elderly here are suffering from not having their loved ones near.

I can hardly meet any of their needs unless they are as simple as getting books to read, candies, or a newspaper. Maybe sometimes, yarn, since one lovely resident enjoys knitting. I usually take holy bread with me after Sunday Liturgy but that is only when I don’t have to rush home and cook lunch for twenty people like those fancy ambassadors who constantly visit my husband, the mayor.

What was really stunning to me is when the producer said “Well, that is not a place of interest for me…I would not like the way they smell…” Ok. How true. The elderly don’t always smell so nice and sometimes they don’t always look so pleasant either since their hair might be sticking up or their clothes might be out of shape. Their toilet might have poop everywhere and their lunch might be on their lap. So, for sure, no wonder they are the other “forgotten faithful.” And why do I say “forgotten faithful” because many of them are simply lonely but express deep faith and continue to focus on Christ.

Do I see Christ in the other? My favorite resident from Birzeit, a fifty percent Christian town next to our village of Taybeh, always responds with the sign of the cross no matter what question I ask her. How are you today auntie? I came to say good morning and run off to work. No matter what I say, she always does the sign of the cross and always says in Arabic “Glory be to God for all things.” I have a great comfortable feeling when I see her. It is right here at the elderly home that I feel I am meeting Christ. But I must be patient with the smells and the environment.

Most of the elderly give me their blessing by saying good thoughtful and kind wishes. Growing up in a strict old fashion Greek home, I understood that it’s such a worthy blessing to have from an elderly person. I grew up believing such a blessing counts and I must respect others who are older. I really hope parents can continue to put in a good word for any older neighbor teaching our children to see Christ in the other even if it is simply by wishing them good morning.

The same great comfortable feeling exists when I see the other nice elderly man from Zababadeh, another 50% Christian town in Palestine who is always saying “glory be to God” while most times I find him in the wheel chair. Some of the handicapped residents do not speak at all so you simply smile in their presence because it is being in the presence of God.

My other most favorite resident from Jerusalem has Alzheimer’s but she still remembers she is an Orthodox Christian and her father was the leader of the Christian community in the Old City called “mouhtar,” literally translated “chief,” attributed to elite families. So she is always reminding me about her father while inviting me to have lunch. But most of all, she is reminding me of the strange culture I belong too where a woman is always identified by her father, brother, husband, uncle, grandfather and any male member of her extended family. And here I come along trying to challenge that by being identified as a servant of God.

Some families run busy lives so the twenty-nine residents don’t always have visitors but most are grateful to the Lord. So when I am stuck in the village, I do find Christ at the elderly home that was built in 2000 by Fr. Raed Sahlieh as a Roman Catholic project to boost the economy and give work to the few who take care of the elderly. In a village with 50% unemployment, behind a separation wall and under military occupation, any project is an example of good works. And, I simply rejoice I can see Christ in the other.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)












Dr. Maria Khoury

Dr. Maria Khoury

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