About twice a year, believers in Haifa get together at Beit Eliyahu Messianic congregation to give blood.
It may sound like a strange reason to gather, but this has become a semi-annual outing for some families that make it a point to attend the blood drive. The event is often paired with either a handmade crafts sale at the seniors’ home nearby or the sale of secondhand clothes to support a ministry that works with women freed from prostitution.
Those who donate blood during these drives are mostly believers from the Haifa area, but not just from Beit Eliyahu.
For over a decade now, every six months or so or during times of conflict, Beit Eliyahu gets a call from Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s emergency service. They then begin spreading the news verbally and electronically sending an announcement to other local congregations, creating a Facebook event and posting a notice on their website.
Since 2005, the congregation has organized blood drives for anyone who is interested to give approximately a half liter of blood to a stranger somewhere in dire need. At the most recent drive 40 people donated, with the average number of donations standing at 37 and the record at 52.
The idea first came to Heidi Litle when she was volunteering as an emergency medical technician (EMT) with MDA from 2004 to 2006.
“It was an easy connection,” she told Kehila News. “The Blood Bank is always looking for places to hold drives closer to where people are and in communities that are varied, so that it’s ‘easy’ to give and they can reach people that might not otherwise give blood. They are almost always in need of more units.”
And so, Beit Eliyahu became a logical place to hold regular blood drives due to its location in downtown Haifa, a densely populated neighborhood of one of Israel’s most intercultural cities. Other believers have since also started volunteering with MDA and see this as a great way to be a light in the community.
In preparation for a blood drive, the main hall is cleared of its rows of chairs and in their stead are erected tables for donors to fill out declaration forms; a station with hot beverages, water, juice and cookies to make sure everyone is well-hydrated and well-sugared before and after donating; a nook for one of the crew to review declaration forms and screen donors for adequate blood pressure and hemoglobin; and of course four to six comfy beds on which one lies during the procedure.
Since it takes about 15 minutes for the blood receptacle to fill up, many of those who come to donate use the opportunity to connect with the Blood Bank crew. They are not only giving of themselves physically to someone who might need the blood (victims of terrorism or life-threatening accidents, cancer patients and others), but they also share with the MDA workers about why they give and what Beit Eliyahu is about, opening the door for potentially deeper conversations about our faith.
According to Litle, the Blood Bank crew has come to enjoy these drives so much that they compete about who will get the shift.
“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Hebrews 13:16