Merrill Kitchen arrived home from work one day to be greeted by her smiling husband Paul (who was in on the secret) and a very official looking Government letter addressed in cursive script and gold leaf. Unbeknown to Merrill, she had been nominated for an Order of Australia and this was an official notification.
Responding to the crisis
In 1973 Merrill was in charge of the histopathology laboratory (the microscopic study of tissues) at the Royal Women’s Hospital and Paul was a general surgical Registrar at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Before heading off for postgraduate experience in the UK, they responded to a world-wide call for doctors in the Middle East, urgently required during the Yom Kippur (Arab-Israeli) War.
Dropping everything and expecting to be away for only a few months, they ended up at the Nazareth Hospital in Northern Galilee and a short-term assignment at a hospital in Gaza. In a land revered by three great world religions, the Nazareth Hospital has endured since 1861 as a genuine demonstration of Christians, Muslims, and Jews working together. As they worked and lived with Jews and Muslims, their commitment and love for the Middle East grew. Merrill and Paul’s association with the hospital over the years has increased. Paul is still doing teaching stints from time to time, with the support of St. Vincent’s Hospital. Merrill’s involvement has blossomed into other areas.
Contributing to understanding
They have since spent many years back and forth between Australia and the Middle East, one of their children was born in Israel. With a keen interest in languages, Merrill is now moderately competent in French, Hebrew and Arabic, and teaches Ancient Greek. She has become involved in various other projects associated with the hospital including the Nazareth Village (www.nazarethvillage.com). The project is a re-creation of a working first-century village and farm and is a collective effort of archaeologists, scholars, and volunteers that brings together Jews, Christians and Muslims to learn about each others’ faiths and societies. Former US president, Jimmy Carter is the project’s patron.
For many years Merrill has researched the Bible from a Middle Eastern perspective, discovering how it is understood by the various cultures. With a desire to help bring understanding between the Middle Eastern cultures, together with her love for languages, she is now participating in a project run by some well known Arab identities that explains the Bible and the Christian faith to Muslims. Merrill has contributed to books exploring the common roots of Islam and Christianity and is currently writing about women in the Bible that Muslims will be able to identify with.
Now living in Melbourne, Merrill is the Principal of the Church of Christ Theological College and has been the President of the Melbourne College of Divinity (MCD - www.mcd.unimelb.edu.au) since 2005. In this role, she has been instrumental (she does emphasise the team effort) in enabling the MCD to attain Self Accrediting University status giving it the same academic recognition as Australia’s more widely known private universities. The significance of this accreditation means that MCD students are now able to receive FEE-HELP and other Government study benefits, having previously needed to completely self-fund their studies.
Achievement with humility
Merrill and Paul are long standing Saward Dawson clients utilising our business advisory, financial planning and superannuation services. We are very pleased to learn of their accomplishments. Listening to Merrill, you hear an amazing story of passion, sacrifice and achievement. Her love for the Middle East is tangible. She sums up her formal recognition as a surprise, “I still don’t understand it, I was only doing what I do.”