This year, the Advent season of hope comes at a time of great hopelessness. Disturbances and turbulences add to our adversity as we experience the worst economic, political, and social times within our modern history. But as is the duality of life, in all things there are also blessings. Covid-19 has allowed respite from ‘business-as-usual’ for families and communities to reconnect.
This spring, my daughter, son, and I went to plant trees. There, we were met by the welcoming presence of my brother. We dug holes in the ground, taking full advantage of the quarantine to reconnect with our earth. After hours of work, I grew tired and had to rest, while my brother continued digging, despite his lungs being damaged by years of heavy smoking. A while later, that same brother fell sick with Covid-19, and was placed in an induced coma.
For days, we wrestled with deep feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Finally, we reached the peak of despair when the doctors told us we had only two hours to say goodbye. Two days prior to this, my nephew had gathered us in prayer. He said he had despaired and cried beside his comatose father, and in his grief had heard a voice. The voice whispered, “My son, why do you cry, when you know I am with you?”
It was sunny and hot, but we were being pelted with storms of shock and powerlessness. Yet hope persisted. Within moments, we replaced fear with prayer. We assembled a prayer task force with each member in the family, and friends of all faiths and denominations from around the world.
We prayed together in Bethlehem as a family, and with our friends from across the world, in our different languages. Nuns, priests, brothers, bishops, and ‘lay’ people united with us in prayer. Two hours passed and my brother was still with us! These two hours led to a week and then, after being in a coma for 50 days, my brother came back, filled with life. Smiles radiated across our faces, praises were uttered, and gratitude was given to God.
It is difficult to discern and understand what happened, but one thing is clear: it was not because of us, but because of God. We put our faith in God, and relieved our burdens and feelings of hope in prayer. News of deteriorating health was accompanied with visions and feelings of comfort and love. And best of all, GOD was and is with us!
Zoughbi lives in Bethlehem and is a Christian leader who has spent his life working in conflict resolution in the Israeli/Palestinian context. He works closely with the Methodist Liaison Office in Jerusalem, a partnership of the World Methodist Council, the Methodist Church of Britain and The United Methodist Church.