An Angelic mission

The loving work of Corrie van Maanen and the ICEJ Homecare program

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23 Jun 2011
An Angelic mission

Away from the hail of rockets and endless political protests, Israelis are actually simple, quiet people. They are largely overlooked by the incessant media coverage of the conflict over the land. Among these ordinary Israelis are some folks who are truly ignored, even within their own society – namely the elderly and handicapped.

From its earliest years, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem has reached out to these unseen citizens with special needs through our Homecare program. For the past decade, this department has been headed by experienced Dutch nurse Corrie van Maanen. She recently took us for a closer look into the homes and daily lives of her patients.

Corrie spends most of her week crisscrossing Jerusalem to visit with a long roster of elderly and disadvantaged patients.

This includes Tanya and Jashe, who have been living in Israel since making aliyah in 1998. They came here following in the footsteps of their son, who a few years earlier decided to return to the Land of Israel and to the Jewish faith. Tanya and Jashe retired from their jobs and made the move soon after.

Tanya’s father was only six years old when he witnessed his own father being fatally beaten in the local market square in a brutal act of anti-Semitism in early Soviet Russia. The incident marked the end of all Jewish identity and traditions within the family. Many decades later, Tanya’s son came to Israel through the Jewish Agency’s youth aliyah program. He also became an observant Jew, a move which changed all of their lives.

Yet sadly, this did not bring the happy ending they all expected. A few years ago, Tanya found out she had cancer. Going through an operation and chemotherapy has significantly weakened her body. In the meantime, Jashe has developed a neurological disease which is slowly taking away his mobility. Initially excited about their new lives in Israel, Tanya and Jashe now worry whether they will be able to make it down the stairs each day.

This is where Corrie comes in. Every week, she visits Tanya and Jashe in their home to help with simple things most of us take for granted. She helps Tanya to bathe and wash her hair. She reads the Psalms to both of them, since Jashe cannot attend synagogue anymore. It is never easy. They often feel weary and discouraged by their crippling conditions. Yet Corrie is not giving up on them, and they depend on her greatly.

During the recent Passover season, Corrie was able to bring Tanya and Jashe a new set of plates and cutlery so that they could have a traditional Pessach Seder meal at their home. They were both speechless when they saw the beautiful white plates, and Tanya’s eyes quickly filled with tears.

“Corrie’s an angel”, Tanya said in her native Ukrainian. “She helps us so much! She’s such a good friend.”

In many ways, Corrie’s visits keep them going. They look forward to her coming each week by preparing special lunches.

Some days Tanya and Jashe wake up wondering if it is even worth getting up to face the day. They live in constant pain and discomfort. On the day of our visit, Tanya said she felt miserable and did not want to get out of bed. But after Corrie called, her whole mood changed. She was excited to host some guests and prepared more food than usual.

Corrie visits many such patients every week. She helps them shower, exercise and perform daily routines. Sometimes, she brings a friend along with her, to simply spend time with them, to talk and distract them from their anguish and distress. Many have a hard time adjusting to Israel, yet this is now the only home they know. There is nowhere to go back to, no turning around.

Ludmila, or “Luda” as her friends call her, is from the Ukraine and lives with her aging father Yaakov, who faithfully takes care of the household on a daily basis. She is only a little over forty, but she is confined to a wheelchair and cannot live on her own. She has been suffering from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) since she was only sixteen years of age. Soviet doctors could do little to help her, since there is no known medical cure for MS.

In the early 1990s, Luda found an article in a newspaper about Israeli doctors conducting successful tests with MS. Together with her father, she decided to make aliyah. The move was not easy, but it infused her with hope. As new immigrants, they received some assistance in the beginning, but it was never enough. Luda’s condition required extra care, and ICEJ Homecare stepped in to provide it.

Already some years ago, the Embassy’s nursing team provided both helping hands and financial support to improve their situation. Thanks to a private donor, Luda was blessed with an electric wheelchair through the ICEJ.

Corrie now visits Luda every week to help with her rehab therapy. Luda performs exercises that are very difficult for her and equally strenuous for Corrie, who has to help lift and move her limbs around. But Luda does not lose her wit.

“Corrie and I are training for the Olympics, you know”, she says with a smile. “Maybe this year we’ll win.”

Both start laughing. Despite her condition, Luda likes to show that she is so much more than her physical handicap. Her spirit is still young and strong.

Back in the Ukraine, Luda wanted to become a doctor. Those dreams never materialized, but she never gave up on expanding her knowledge. She speaks several languages and her little apartment is filled with books.

“Deep in my heart I know God is helping me”, Luda acknowledges.

The faith they once lost, due to decades of atheist indoctrination under Soviet communism, now is being slowly restored. They live in a free country and experience love from those they once feared – the Christians. Luda and her father are now regular guests at the ICEJ’s annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration, where they joyfully celebrate together with those who love and care for them.

Please support the ICEJ Homecare program by donating today at http://int.icej.org/

 

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