The Christian community of the Western Isles, inspired by an urgent need it could not ignore, has followed the example of Christ in reaching out to help the sick.
Bethesda was first thought of in 1985 when it became apparent just how many ill and elderly infirm there were in our islands, and how inadequate the existing facilities were. The Free Church of Scotland's Lewis Presbytery set up the non-denominational Bethesda Nursing Home Trust to tackle the problem.
The challenge seemed impossible, but believing that the project was of God, plans went ahead. Our community rose to the challenge. The necessary 1.1 million was raised and a beautiful purpose-built unit was opened by HRH Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, in 1992. The unit comprises of 21 Nursing Home beds for heavily dependent elderly, a 9 bedded Respite Unit and 4 single Hospice rooms where specialist care is given free of charge to anyone with an incurable disease at any stage of their illness.
"Bethesda" means "House of Mercy" and the Hospice is exactly that for all who need its care, regardless of race, creed or ability to pay. Our first matron, Miss Christina Maclean, was awarded MBE in the 1997 Honours List in recognition of her contribution to cancer care in the Western Isles.
The late Rev A. M. Macleod was Chairman of the Bethesda Management Committee for the first nine years, and was later appointed its Honorary President. He summed up the Biblical position adopted by Bethesda:
"We consider the Lord Jesus Christ as the one by whose death we can have peace with God and by whose resurrection we can have victory over death and the grave through faith. To him alone we must look for healing in body and soul, for time and eternity. At the same time, patients are not subjected to any indoctrination or even unwanted conversation. What is aimed at in Bethesda is Christian treatment for all."