A RECONSTITUTED, RENEWED board of directors of the American Friends of the Diocese of Jerusalem at its annual meeting in January set a goal of $200,000 for grants this year to support mission projects in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Jerusalem and areas under the governing Palestinian National Authority.
The money, which will be sought from individuals, parishes and dioceses, will support emergency medical and food programs; aid literacy campaigns, student scholarships, youth ministries and peace programs among children; equip hospitals; and provide medicines.
"We are building an atmosphere of peace and reconciliation in the mist of despair and violence," said the Rev. Charles Cloughen, Jr., of Towson, Md., president and chair of the new 17-member board.
The grants are the first since the Jerusalem 2000 campaign, which raised nearly $1.6 million from Episcopalians over three years as part of $3.5 million from all churches throughout the Anglican Communion.
"Our gifts help to keep the Episcopal Church alive in the Holy Land," said the Rev. Charles Coughlin, president.
The board set a schedule by which grants would be paid as funds are received, based on the urgency indicated by the diocese and taking into account work that often gets overlooked, said the Rev. Canon Nicholas Porter, a board member. Two examples of the latter are a school for developmentally delayed children in Beirut, Lebanon, and a Sudanese support and development program in Damascus, Syria.
Described as "one of the jewels in the crown" of the diocese, the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf in Salt, Jordan, educates 140 deaf children from ages 4 to 20. About 140 of the students are in residence. The school, which will receive $8,000 early in 2004, is one of more than 20 ministries, including schools, vocational and technical training centers, hospitals and youth ministry, that will receive support provided the $200,000 goal is met.
A nonprofit, nonpolitical partnership, the American Friends was founded in 1989 by Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia and then-Bishop Samir Kafity of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. Its efforts support work in two major hospitals, several schools, 29 parishes and 35 service organizations in a diocese that is 121,000 square miles. Since 1996, the American Friends have donated more than $20 million of free medical, school and infant supplies to the Diocese of Jerusalem.
One of many parishes actively participating is St. Michael and All Angels in Dallas, Texas. During the past year, the church donated $25,000 towards the cost of a new boiler for Ahli Hospital in Gaza and collected boxes of schools supplies, pharmaceutical items and baby hats, blankets and booties. They also sent 450 boxes of children's bandages to three hospitals. Parish children dedicat their Lenten mite box money toward tuition at the Arab Evangelical Sc in Ramallah.
"It's easy to despair," said Cloughen, "but through the work of the American Friends, we are creating hope."