As Spring swelters into Summer throughout the nation of Israel, we bring you news about the COVID-19 situation and its effect on our operations and ministry here in Nazareth. While there are many positives upon which to reflect, the situation remains fluid and your prayers and support are greatly needed.
You may have read that over the past month the Israeli government has slowly been easing lockdown restrictions, with schools and parks reopening, as well as certain businesses, such as restaurants. The decision to proceed in this manner was taken after a drop in new cases of COVID-19 and deaths related to the illness. However, increased activity around the country has brought with it a new spike in infections, causing the government to review lockdown restrictions. We anticipate a more cautious approach until the infection rate again plateaus and declines.
For the Nazareth Hospital, where regular activities have begun to resume over the past month, these recent developments have our staff on high alert. We remain ready and able to support our local community as the designated COVID-19 hospital for the area.
While the outlook is that this difficult period, during which our income stream at the hospital is being restricted, will continue, we must continue to invest in our future. Plans are in place to complete the much-needed renovation of the Maternity Ward later this year and begin renovating the Labour Rooms. Aside from this, a key focus has been to connect with the newly formed government and its Ministries of Health and Finance to ensure that we retain crucial support at state level. Please pray over these matters at the hospital.
Amid the uncertainty that we face, our pastoral care team (pictured above) remains a consistent blessing as they continue to serve the spiritual needs of staff and patients alike who welcome them. The positive impact of their ministry strengthens and encourages us as an organisation. We hope that you, our supporters, take heart from their stories once more:
On one recent prayer walk through the hospital, our team were recognised and welcomed by two workers. “Thanks to God we are doing well and we have become more relaxed because of your visits,” one of them remarked. On previous visits, these workers had shared about their struggles with an increased workload due to COVID-19. The team were encouraged that something as small as a short visit and prayer had had an impact
Throughout the hospital, those to whom our team minister might not always share the same faith, but the value of prayer is understood, its impact felt and seen. The team were recently greeted warmly in a part of the hospital where the week prior they were told of several challenges faced by the department’s staff. “Our prayers from last week were partially answered already,” one worker declared. It was clear to the team that being able to share this news was a great joy for these staff members.
For some, the prayers of our pastoral care team build upon an active life of faith, while for others it is helping to reignite tinders that had perhaps begun to fade: “We haven’t done this for a long time,” admitted a member of the hospital staff. “This is what we need. Thank you.” In other parts of the hospital, staff are talking about the sustained impact of the consistent prayer around them. One staff member recollected the recent Easter season: “It was different this year – I was not focused on the show but on the prayers. I prayed for the first time from the heart. I think it is because of the corona virus.”
Still, many continue to endure a prolonged period of being stretched physically, emotionally and spiritually. “During this corona virus I have had no time to pray and read the Bible, because we are so busy,” explained one of our staff members during the team’s weekly visit to her department. “I even had to decide to stop doing youth ministry in my church, because I can’t give what I do not have.” After she shared her burdens, the team prayed and read scripture with her. We trust that in time her prayers will be answered, as has already happened for others.
As an organisation, we continue to seek out God’s message for us during this time of uncertainty and hardship. While our list of prayer requests seems to grow each week, there is much for which we are grateful. Our Director of the School of Nursing, Dr Amal Khazin, admits that running lectures remotely has had its challenges, but remains thankful that her staff and students are safe: “We feel we are blessed all the time, but I specially thank God that not one student or teacher got infected.”
Elsewhere in the hospital, our Head of Pharmacy, Marlene Hakim, is grateful that supply-line disruptions have not impacted her stock: “We are getting our medications. We have received [the] help that we needed.” Marlene is also thankful for the presence of the pastoral care team. Speaking to one of our team members, she said, “Through your coming, I’ve thought that maybe God is watching us and He could see the difficulties that I was in, because many people were absent who used to work with me… I’m sure He sent you to us.”
The feeling that God is working through this situation, particularly through the pastoral care team, is echoed by our Head of Nursing for ER, Wael Shomer. “The ER is a very difficult place to work… We are feeling the support from you and from the Lord,” he said to one of our team members. Wael emphasizes as well the importance of educating staff about what is happening: “In the beginning, all the staff, there was a high level of fear, but we have regained our trust in the Lord and our strength.” Together, with the help of the Lord, we are finding our way forward.
Thank you for taking the time to stay up to date with our work in Nazareth. Without your prayers and support, none of this would be possible. Please continue to pray over all areas of our work, including the Nazareth Hospital, the School of Nursing, our SERVE volunteer programme and the Nazareth Village.
Lastly, we would like to express our thanks once again for the invaluable life of Dr. Runa Mackay, who recently passed away. Our thoughts and prayers are with her loved ones. As a doctor in paediatrics and obstetrics at the Nazareth Hospital, Runa gave so much to the community of Nazareth over two decades and was a blessing in the lives of many more in need throughout the course of her life. A deeper reflection on Runa’s life’s work in Nazareth and beyond can be found on our website.
Chief Executive Officer