SERVE Nazareth

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"It’s great to see this small blink of God confirming that you’re in the right place"

Rozemarij in Nazareth

Meet Rozemarij (24), SERVE volunteer. Originally from the Netherlands, she lives in Belgium with her husband, David, where she studies theology. She decided to join the SERVE programme for two months as part of her internship and is contributing her time and efforts to the Nazareth Village and the pastoral care team. Rozemarij spends most of her free time reading, singing, worshipping and going on trips when the opportunity arises.

How did you learn about SERVE Nazareth?

Lourens and Rebecca served here before. I didn’t know them personally, but Lourens studied at my university in Leuven, the Evangelical Theological Faculty. He told them about this placement opportunity with the pastoral care team in Nazareth, and they added it to the list of internship opportunities abroad. That’s how I found out about it.

What made you choose this specific opportunity?

It stood out for me. First, because I could join a pastoral care team, and that’s what I want to do later. Also, it’s in Israel, and I love travelling and exploring new cultures. My mum has always told me I should visit Israel because being in the land where Jesus lived is great. Alongside my theology studies, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to gain experience about the land and the culture.

SERVE Nazareth volunteer Rozemarij eating ice-cream with Nazareth Village employees.

You studied medicine, and after, you switched to theology. What inspired this career change?

I wanted to become a doctor my whole life, so I studied medicine for three years and finished my bachelor’s. During my studies, I was a bit confused, doubting if the life of a doctor really suited me. I loved being in contact with patients and caring for them. But making the diagnosis and considering treatments didn’t satisfy me much compared to talking to them. You usually have ten minutes with a patient, so there’s not enough time to get to know the person behind the patient.

After, I took a year off and went to Bible school. Only then I could find room and space in my mind to think of something else. I decided to quit medicine during a class. I wasn’t getting anything out of the lectures and asked God: “What is this? Why do I not understand anything? It doesn’t speak to me”. I had to read three verses out loud for the class, and in all of them God said to someone: “Go”. At the end of the day, someone asked me how my day was, and I suddenly realised that I had decided to quit medicine because of those verses. I was ready to go but didn’t know where.

Theology had been in my mind before. I did some googling and found the job of a pastoral caregiver in rehabilitation care. I read some articles about it and realised this is how I want to care for people.

SERVE Nazareth volunteer Rozemarij at the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth with other volunteers.

What does a typical day as a pastoral care team volunteer look like?

I’m there two days a week, mainly shadowing Christine. I usually start at 9:30 am. I discuss with Christine what we’re going to do, and sometimes we talk about something I read or reflected about. Then, we go to the hospital wards to do rounds. We go into the rooms, talk to the patients, and ask how they’re doing. Sometimes, we pray for them. The conversation might seem superficial, but it’s a way of being present for the patients. Once a week, we go to the psychiatric ward in a different part of the city to have a group discussion with the patients there. In the afternoon, we visit a different ward or do something else, such as watching a webinar about pastoral care and discussing it afterwards. I am learning so much. I have also prepared devotions and will prepare a sermon at some point.

Can you tell us about your interaction with the patients?

I have actually not had the chance to talk to patients yet. I speak very little Arabic: I only know some phrases like “good morning” or “congratulations”. One patient spoke English, but that was on my very first day, so I didn’t engage in the conversation. I was exploring and seeing everything for the first time, but I hope there will also be opportunities to talk in English to patients. I was concerned about it before coming to Nazareth: I wasn’t sure if I would learn enough. Despite not knowing Arabic, I decided to go anyway because I think the whole experience of being in Israel and spending time with the pastoral care team in a mainly Muslim environment will be a great learning opportunity, learning how to deal with different religions as a Christian.

What do your days at the Nazareth Village look like?

I work at the Village three days a week: I guide tours in Dutch and English, but if there are not many tourists, I am a villager or help in the kitchen.

I usually start at 9 am. I do a maximum of three daily tours, each lasting one hour and 15 minutes. We usually eat lunch with the other SERVE volunteers or other people working at the Village. It’s great to get to know them and see how people living in the area live their faith. I normally have time to chat with the volunteers in the evenings, worship, and play games. It’s really relaxed.

What do you enjoy the most from working at the Village?

I find it very cool to be able to share my faith and challenge the visitors with some questions. I’ve only started guiding tours on my own a few days ago. On my first day, I noticed people were dead silent after the synagogue, which is at the end of the tour. I wondered: “Did they like it? Did they not like it? What’s going on?”. But afterwards, I heard them say it was very touching. I guess I learned something from the storytelling training! It’s great to see how God works that. I’m sure not every word is my own…

SERVE Nazareth volunteer Rozemarij leading a tour at the Nazareth Village.

How is SERVE Nazareth contributing to your personal and spiritual growth?

I think it’s giving me more understanding of other cultures. At the Village, I am growing a lot in self-confidence, talking in front of groups and building stories. I really enjoyed it and didn’t know that side of myself. For my faith, the time at the Village is also very beneficial because I’m sharing my faith openly and I do it three times a day at least. In my daily life back in Belgium, I don’t do that so often and so openly. At the chaplaincy team, It’s just confirming my next step of wanting to become a pastoral caregiver. I’ve only been with them four days so far, but judging from the conversations and what we do, I know this is where I want to go. It’s really great to experience that, to have that confirmation.

Have you encountered any challenges during your time in Nazareth?

I experienced some challenges beforehand because I wasn’t sure if this experience would really fit my studies. But after talking about it with Majdoleen and Christine and praying about it, I realised my doubts were based on fears, and I didn’t want fear to overrule, so I decided to come.

Can you tell us about your experience living in the Doctor’s House?

It’s really nice. I have lived in communities before, so I know what sharing your living space with other people is like, but I love it. I love having people to chat with and experience different people’s lives. Sometimes, we have disagreements because people from different cultures have different ways of making plans and communicating. Still, you learn a lot through that, and the connection is amazing because everyone is Christian. The second evening I was here, we were already worshipping together, which was great. It’s really beautiful to live as Christians together.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Actually, today, I experienced something great. Christine was sharing about the retreat they had with the staff yesterday. She shared something that had caught her attention, and it was the same topic my staff devotion is going to be about tomorrow. I thought it was such a great coincidence, but actually, it wasn’t a coincidence: I think God is leading that and it’s great to see this small blink of God confirming that you’re in the right place. He is working on the very small details, and it’s cool to experience that.