Tuesday, 17 August 2010

House of Grace

Sunday, after church service at St Luke’s Anglican church in Haifa (and the inevitable lunch thereafter), we went to the business district where, surrounded by tower-blocks, government offices and roadworks, stands the House of Grace.

Just walking into the compound, one feels a sense of peace. The old church was once the Greek Catholic cathedral, but has now been restored to a most beautiful and serene sanctuary. One of the ikons was gifted by a drug addict who inherited it from his mother, but was terrified he would sell it to feed his habit, so gave it to the church! And that is maybe a clue to what else goes on here, for the house was set up 28 years ago by Agnes Shehade and her late husband Kamil as a half way house for prisoners, released from prison but with nowhere to go. This rehabilitation work continues to today, with the prisoners, Jew and Arab, living with the family in the house. The centre has had various emphases over the years, and today supports over 400 needy families and works to empower young people at risk. It also inspires the youths to volunteer in other projects.

The house is usually closed on a Sunday, but we were welcomed into Agnes’ living room, given juice and fruit and Arabic coffee and were just so overwhelmed by the hospitality and grace shown by this remarkable woman. Her four sons and one daughter were brought up in the house with the prisoners and the needy and amazingly all of them are still involved, giving of their skills. I was tremendously touched by what I had seen – it truly is a house full of grace.

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