When Service Is Your Life
Meet a General Conference employee whose service to the church extends way beyond an office building.
If you were to cross paths with Anees Abdelnour in the hallways or cafeteria of the worldwide headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, you would encounter a soft-spoken man with kind eyes. But at first glance you would likely have no clue as to the role he holds in the organizational structure of the General Conference, nor would you fully understand the deep passion this man has for simply helping others.
You see, for most of the year Abdelnour is a mortgage finance man for the General Conference investment office of its Treasury Department. In this role, which he has held for the past 27 years, he manages the GC mortgage portfolio and handles all accounting associated with it. “Our office serves as a bank/lender and provides home loans to incoming employees in this building who wish to purchase homes provided they meet established eligibility criteria,” he says. His work sees him assisting a largely international clientele of incoming missionaries from overseas. “Working with incoming missionaries has, with the help of God, reinspired my perspective and passion on missions,” Abdelnour adds. A detail that makes total sense when you learn about what he likes to devote his off time to.
“You know, I am a man in the finance area,” says Abdelnour. “But I love community service and outreach. I think I inherited this from my mother. She was a homemaker, but was always involved in community service; I grew up in this spirit.” Several conversations with Homer Trecartin, president of the Middle East and North Africa Union Mission, led to an opportunity to do something in that region. Abdelnour’s roots are in Palestine, though he was born in Amman, Jordan. For that reason he told Trecartin he had an interest in working on a project in Jordan and so was connected with the East Mediterranean field, which encompasses Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq.
There was no widely advertised large-scale service-oriented trip going from the United States, no collaboration with well-known humanitarian agencies. It was just a man wondering if there was something he could do to help—on his own dime, and on his own time, which also happens to be precious earned vacation time.
“The field officers connected me with a youth pastor in Jordan. I figured let’s do something based on community service—you know, help distribute food to the poorer neighborhoods in four towns in Jordan,” Abdelnour recalls. From there he became part of a small group of locals who visited a center for the physically challenged. They distributed blankets and other daily needed items to children, such as school backpacks. They even provided computer-training classes for the communities they went to—even though it was Ramadan.
Backpacks: Backpacks were given to children at Amman Adventist School in Jordan.
Meeting Needs: With local youth, ready to distribute food in the city of Zarqa.
Ending Hunger: Group participants distribute food supplies in the city of Irbid.
Giving What They Could: The group visited a center for physically and mentally challenged individuals and passed out blankets and other needed goods.
Mission Accomplished: At the Zarqa Adventist Church, pictured left to right, Ron Vozar, Levon Maksoudian, Anees Abdelnour, and Fadi Haddad.
Because they were Adventists serving in a Muslim country, caution had to be used. But good deeds and the love behind them often prevail. At the center for physically and mentally challenged individuals, the director was grateful just for the moral support that came with Abdelnour’s visit. “ ‘Thank you for what you did, what you are doing for us,’ ” Abdelnour remembers him saying. “ ‘Please don’t forget about us; we need your help, if not for financial help, for the moral support.’ They knew we were coming from the Adventist Church in Jordan, and this person was Muslim, but we never encountered any problems. People were open to us.”
It was more of the same in the poorer neighborhoods Abdelnour and the group reached out to. On visits to various homes they would go just to give a small gift and offer prayer without “overdoing” it, often reminding their hosts that they were there just because they cared and nothing more. “We had a bus, but we did a lot of walking in these neighborhoods. They knew we came from a church, and we prayed for them. That really lifted their spirits,” he says.
Outreach and community service is a great contact to the church,” Abdelnour believes. “Doing evangelistic meetings is very good, but here we are attending to the daily needs of the people. And you know what? It’s about building relationships. We had very good relationships with the people. They welcomed us, and when we go again, they will welcome us not just because we gave them something, but because of what we did.”
As an added bonus to the trip, Abdelnour had the opportunity to help with a youth camp in Jordan, supervising, motivating, and leading participants in prayer. Between 65 and 70 youth attended the meeting from several Jordanian towns. Though he was there for only two days before having to depart for home, the experience at the tail end of the service opportunities was such a blessing to Abdelnour. “While we were there, we networked with the people, who were so excited.” The camp featured discussion groups, prayer sessions, and devotions, all based on the theme “Growing in Christ.”
Why It Matters
Prior to this particular trip Abdelnour’s only experience with overseas outreach was serving in Jordan from Andrews University in the late 1970s. But his life has always been peppered with acts of outreach and service to others—especially in his personal life. Abdelnour took care of his ailing mother for 30 years here in America before she passed away in 2010. “Helping care for older people is a special ministry,” he says.
As Abdelnour seldom takes vacations, these breaks from work life are opportunities for him to do more for others in the world. And yes, he is certainly planning on doing more trips like this in the future. “I’d like to use my vacation time, once a year, to plan a trip and help,” he says. “In order to focus and build on what we did, there should be no gaps.” Involvement with youth in the communities he wants to serve in is very important as well. During this most recent trip Abdelnour says there were about 25 to 30 young people throughout the different towns they served in that helped lead the way. They knew the homes to visit and the communities at large. On subsequent trips Abdelnour hopes to expand on the ways they can serve. “I would like to have a daily health clinic. People like that, and sometimes they don’t have the money to go. So if we expand it every year and add one more thing than the previous year, I think it will be really good,” he says.
Though mortgage finance and humanitarian work seem to be on opposite ends of the service spectrum, Abdelnour recognizes a strong link between the two. “The trip was focused on community service, outreach, and attending to people’s immediate needs. My work here is meaningful as I help many who come here from the mission field as they adjust to their new living environment and a completely different system. Serving them in this transition is very rewarding and is a ministry. I just greatly enjoy service and outreach in my life.”