Spend a little time with Rev. Suheil Bathish and his wife, Eman, and you will feel warmly welcomed and at home. This gift of caring and compassion is not lost on the staff and patients of Nazareth Hospital, EMMS, where a team of chaplaincy volunteers and a pastoral care committee assist the head chaplain in carrying out the hospital’s ministry to patients.
Rev. Suheil worked for thirteen years as assistant chaplain before becoming head chaplain in 2006. He spends many hours offering a listening ear, friendship, and words of comfort. Eman Bathish is very involved with the annual kids’ camp, which the hospital hosts in conjunction with Child Evangelism Fellowship.
Rev. Suheil’s story:
“I met Jesus while working at Nazareth Hospital. When I was 18 years old, I worked in the maintenance department and part-time at the front desk. One Sunday afternoon at our staff worship service, a minister came and spoke about Jesus as the center of our lives. I realized I needed the Lord, His forgiveness, and the new life that He gives.
I was asked to help as a translator for the daily morning ward services. That was in the 80’s, when the hospital still had multi-bed wards. The chaplain at that time, David Allen, from New Zealand, encouraged me to pursue Christian education at a seminary or Bible college. As a married man with a son and my wife expecting, Bethlehem Bible College was the best possibility. So we moved to Bethlehem.
By the time I graduated and returned with my family to Nazareth in 1993, the hospital had hired Rev. Ibrahim Simaan from Haifa as head chaplain. I joined Rev. Ibrahim as his assistant. We worked together for thirteen years before Rev. Ibrahim retired and I became head chaplain.
In this work, no two days are alike. Each day brings new opportunities. I spend most of my time in the orthopedic and medical departments. ICU patients don’t have much energy to talk, but I go and I sit with their families. Sometimes, family members stay over with their loved ones, and I invite them to the chaplain’s office sitting room to rest. In the afternoons, my wife and I go on home visits for patients as well as staff.
Hospital staff can also come to me for counseling. They share whatever bothers them or upsets them and I am ready to listen. During rounds, I enter each room and speak with those who are awake and able to speak. You need to be wise and to know whether a patient is too tired for a visit. If he or she wants me to stay, I bring a chair and sit next to the patient’s bed. I pray for all the patients, if they agree. If the doctor comes by on rounds while I am praying for a patient, they wait until I have finished my prayer. We are multicultural and have different religions, so we have to be very sensitive. Visitation requires much compassion, a hope and a love for each patient.”
In June 0f 2008, Chaplain Suheil traveled to the US for further training in his field. In Washington DC, he worked with the chaplaincy team at Howard University Hospital, connected by NPI board member, Dr. P. Swamidoss. In New York, Rev. Suheil worked with Chaplain Joe Haines at a Buffalo area retirement community. Rev. Haines served as chaplain at Nazareth Hospital in the 1970’s, when Suheil was a young maintenance man there. For Rev. Suheil’s final week in the States, he visited Ephrata Community Hospital in the Lancaster area, and worked with Rev. Donna Shenk. He also participated in an all-day training course with Rev. Tom Dodge at Hospice of Lancaster.