Fr. Firas Khoury Diab and his Melkite congregation in the upper West Bank village of Zababdeh have had a very busy couple of years! Abuna’s passionate concern for “the Living Stones” of Zababdeh led him to expand his church’s activities beyond just meeting spiritual needs to create a Kindergarten and a new Community Park.
Pilgrims of Ibillin has been a partner of St. George’s Church since 2008, providing annual peace-making grants to help create jobs, build a new kindergarten building, and most recently, prepare for a new park for youth and families.
The new kindergarten (in its brand new building next to the church) serves Muslim and Christian children, age 1 month to 5 years. Two college graduates are employed as teachers. Enrollment numbers have been low in the first year, but Abuna expects more children to enroll when another school year opens. Very low tuition makes the kindergarten affordable but only covers part of the cost. Donations from international friends help, but kindergarten expenses are also supported by the sale of olive oil soap and olive wood products made by St. George’s church members. Note: if your church or group is interested in selling soap or olive-wood carvings to help with kindergarten expenses, contact Joan Deming for information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Abuna’s newest venture, Mar Elias Community Park, fulfills another dream of a safe place for parents to send their children when school’s out. Since Zababdeh has no public parks or recreation centers, the playground next to the church fills a community-wide need, especially for teens. Separate basketball and volleyball courts located in front of the church offer recreation options for teens, both boys and girls. And indoors, a ping pong table and weight-lifting equipment are in almost constant use by neighboring youth.
Mar Elias Community Park will also be the location of a summer camp for about 100 youth in August 2012. Abuna Firas and community leaders are working overtime this summer to plan activities and supervision so that the first ever summer camp for children and youth at St. George’s Melkite Church will be a rousing success.
For more information visit http://stgeorgeinzababdeh.com.