Bishop Mouneer: 'Embrace were interested in us as people, not just in what we were doing at the hospital'



















Bishop  Mouneer is a medical doctor in Egypt. He started working at Harpur Memorial Hospital, part of the Anglican Diocese of Egypt, in 1979 , and he became the hospital’s Director in 1980. In 2000 he left the hospital to become Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, a role from which he will be retiring this year. Our project lead for Egypt recently met up with Bishop Mouneer and asked him to share with us something of his journey with Harpur Memorial Hospital and the difference partnering with Embrace has made to the hospital and the community.

My first encounter with Embrace, formerly Biblelands,  was in 1983, when I was Director of Harpur Memorial Hospital. I was invited to the UK to visit by the Church Mission Society, and it was during this time that I met Bob Clothier, Secretary of Embrace. We talked for so long that I missed my train and Bob had to drive me to another station. Even before I returned to Menouf, Bob contacted me and offered an anaesthesia machine which he was able to get through Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society. At that time, Embrace also helped us to start an obstetrics and gynaecology clinic for the first time.

After this trip, Embrace invited me and my family to the UK for one month and organised a fundraising tour for me to speak to lots of people about the needs at the hospital. They started the 'Care and Share' programme which we used as a benevolent  fund to cover the cost between what the patients could afford to pay and what the actual cost was to the hospital. 

We needed a generator for the hospital because power cuts were very frequent, which would mean we would have to continue surgery using lamps. We managed to secure some funding from a Diocese in the US to help us buy a generator. But when we went to tender   we quickly discovered that generators cost a lot more than we initially thought. On the day, the tenders were revealed I was meant to choose which one the hospital would take – but we didn't have enough money to take any of them.

Just at that moment, while I was deliberating what to do, I had a phone call from Embrace saying that a supporter had left a gift in their will for medical work and could Harpur use this for something? The amount left in the will was the exact amount needed to allow us to buy the generator that we thought was best for our needs. This was a real answer to prayer.

In 1985 I came to the UK to study for a diploma in Tropical Medicine at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I also attended a course in Internal Medicine at Hammersmith Hospital. I came with my family and Embrace knew we would need some extra support during the year. They gave us some financial support, but also invited us regularly to the office and came to visit us. They showed great friendship to us at this time when away from friends and family.

Following this experience, I wanted to give the same opportunity to others. So Embrace supported two doctors from Harpur to visit the UK for further training in surgery and paediatrics. This greatly increased the knowledge of these doctors and helped improve the reputation of the hospital in Menouf. People trusted us because we were well-trained.

My partnership with Embrace was very personal; we often received phone calls from Embrace staff asking us how we were doing. They were concerned with our personal well-being and welfare, not just the paperwork we owed them. At the time phone calls were expensive, so it was a real demonstration of their commitment to us. Embrace were interested in us as people, not just in what we were doing at the hospital.

Partnership means both ends, giving and receiving. It's not just a financial relationship, but also one that provides care, love and warmth. It is more difficult to have a relationship like that these days, when the world is much more fast-paced. Partnership is like two people on a journey together. Jesus sent his disciples two by two, not alone, so that they can support each other. If one is limping they can lean on the other one; two people can learn from each other. There is mutuality and equality.

The best thing about the partnership with Embrace is that it has been a longstanding journey, not a short one-off friendship. Over the years I have learnt that Embrace is a partner I can communicate with when I am in need. I know Embrace will respond and do their best to meet our needs. It is the personal relationship and friendship with the staff that sets Embrace apart.

The  hardest thing that I have achieved with Embrace is fulfilling the dream of developing Harpur to make it a place of healing ministry. This could not have happened without the support of Embrace.

*As told to Programmes and Partnerships manager Lydia Nash*

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