Honoring One of Our Staff - Janet Musleh
With eyes filled with tears, and a heart filled with beautiful memories, our cook Janet Musleh, better known as “Em Raja”, meaning “mother of Raja” in Arabic, is retiring and leaving the college after thirty-five years of serving the Lord and the community at BBC.
Bethlehem Bible College started in 1979 at Hope School in Beit Jala. Before moving to the location we are presently at, the College moved to a smaller campus. Em Raja started working as the cook in the second location of the College. She recalls, “My sister was a student at the College; that’s how I heard about it from the beginning. I applied for the job, and started working there as the cook.”
Dr. Bishara, the founder of the college, his wife Salwa, brother Rev. Dr. Alex Awad, and his wife Brenda were the closest to Em Raja. She states, “They built the college, step by step, stone over another, with love and humility. Our lives were gathered around BBC.”
In 1990, BBC moved to our current location. Em Raja transitioned with the staff as well. “We started to grow bigger, and the College started to develop. We built the public library and the mass media department. I remember telling Dr. Bishara all the time how I long to see more buildings and more departments established and being built, and he used to tell me to wait upon the Lord, because He will provide everything we need. And that’s what I’m seeing now!”
Through the Generations
Em Raja stated the following when asked about the generations she’s served,
“When the college grows, it feels like my own home is growing. And when I see one of our graduates successful in life, taking good positions, and serving the Lord in organizations in the community, I feel proud, so proud! And I’ve seen a lot of them going places in life…”
For example, Rev. Dr. Jack Sara, current president of BBC, was a student at the College while Em Raja was there. From first entering the College as a student, later as a teacher, and finally the president of BBC, Em Raja was there for it all. She was even there when he got engaged to Madeline.
“They made a perfect couple, and I fell in love with his beautiful bride the moment I saw her. Can you imagine that I saw them getting married, having kids, and now I cook for their grown-up children?”
Rev. Dani Awad was also a student at BBC, and is now pastoring at the Presbyterian Church. Em Raja reflected, “I saw them all when they were little kids, and I feel so proud when I see them now leading churches and serving the Lord in their country, and doing their best to make a change. And now when I meet one of them, it feels like I’m meeting one of my own children who was apart from me. Oh, how much I love seeing them after a while!”
What Makes BBC Special?
“Love is what makes BBC special. I never knew this kind of love before BBC, and it changed my life a lot, especially my spiritual life! Imagine hearing the word of God every morning continuously for thirty-five years! The College is my oxygen, it is me and I am it! It is my first home, not the second. I never felt that I’m working during my long years of employment. It feels like home, and all the staff, faculty and leadership are my own family and kids.”
And those of us at the College couldn’t agree more; she even tells us to call her “Yamma,” a short word in Arabic for “I am your mother.”
When asked about how she feels about leaving, she stated, “It feels like preventing oxygen from getting to my lungs!” On one hand, Em Raja is happy with what the College has accomplished through the years, and she prays that it will continue to achieve more and more. On the other hand, she can’t imagine herself giving away the key to the kitchen and leaving those she worked with. “We lived together for better and worse, good and bad, but I do know that this has come to an end. My heart and soul will always remain with the College. I hope that I took good care of it, and I pray that I was faithful up to my last day. Now it is your turn to take care of my very own BBC. I leave you with a heart full of love, sadness and beautiful memories.”
At BBC, we encounter new beginnings and start new endeavors, but we also experience things coming to an end as well. Regardless, we are sure that it is all good! With love and gratitude, we say goodbye to our special cook, Em Raja. We thank her for her hard work and loyalty to BBC, and as much as she learned from BBC, she also taught every one of us how to love and be loyal to our College. Thank you, Em Raja!
Amira is the Communications Coordinator of Bethlehem Bible College. She is a committed Palestinian Christian who has a passion for writing about the intersection of faith and seeking justice for her fellow countrymen. To read more of her writings sign up for Bethlehem Bible College’s monthly newsletter.