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George and Venice Khoury.

Photo courtesy of Nina Khoury.

Khoury, George (1934–2018) and Venice (1934–2007)

By Farid El Khoury, and Melanie Riches Wixwat


Farid El Khoury, M.A. in religion and archeology (La Sierra University, California, USA), M.Sci. in information and library studies (University of Wales, Aberystwyth, UK), Ph.D. researcher in archaeology (Lebanese University), is assistant professor of cultural studies and ancient civilizations at Middle East University, Beirut, Lebanon, and director of the university library. In 2008 Khoury founded and continues to direct the Heritage & Culture Center at Middle East University, which organizes and sponsors cultural and heritage activities. He has been a guest instructor at Rafik Hariri University, Lebanon since 2009. Farid has participated in various local and international archaeological excavations, organized seminars and youth activities, field trips and sponsored several student clubs. He was the research assistant for the book History of the Lebanese Worldwide Presence: The Phoenician Epoch authored by Antoine Khoury Harb. 

Melanie Riches Wixwat, B.B.A. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan), currently lives in Beirut, Lebanon with her husband Michael, the treasurer for Middle East and North Africa Union (MENAU). She is administrative assistant to the president and the executive secretary of MENAU in addition to working as assistant to the regional editor for the ESDA project. One of her hobbies is studying Arabic and this has led her to be involved with one of the local Arabic Adventist Churches in Beirut.

First Published: August 26, 2021

George Farid Khoury was a pastor, church administrator, leading evangelist, Bible teacher at Middle East College, and missionary, serving the Adventist Church in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and the United States. Venice Semaan Khoury faithfully worked alongside her husband for 48 years as she assisted him in his ministry.

Aramoun (El-Gharb)

The name “Aramoun” is derived from Aramaic, meaning “tell” or “high hill.” It refers to the location of the site “Al-Qobbah” (dome). The site is around four hundred fifty meters high overlooking the Mediterranean coast above the town of Khalde, where ancient vestiges and a major Roman-Byzantine settlement once existed. Within the vicinity of Aramoun is the corral of “Martagon,” which means “Lady (Mart) of Paradise” and “Ḥabanjar,” where ruins of ancient buildings and rock-cut tombs dating to the pre-Christian era are found. It is also believed to be the place where King Herod’s sons, Alexander and Aristobulus, were charged with treason and summoned before Augustus.1

In 759, the Tanukh Emirs settled in Aramoun and made it their headquarters. The fortress became famous during the Crusaders and Mamluk periods. Under the Fatimid Caliphate (11th century) most of them adopted the “Unitarian” movement (al-Muwaḥḥidun—Druze). During the Fourteenth century, the Ma'ans chose for their seat the Chouf District. The Shihabs succeeded the Ma’ans in 1697 to rule Mount Lebanon and the Chouf.

After Lebanon got its independence in 1943, Aramoun witnessed significant advances at various levels, with new building and construction projects, new roads and telecommunication networks that connected the town directly with modern Beirut.

Family Roots

The “Khoury” is one of the branches of the Abdul-Karim family.2 The family’s ancestor was a knight banneret under Bashir Shihab I (1697-1705) named Yousef Abdul-Karim.3 He was a descendant of the Ghassanid Arab Christian tribe that settled in Shahba4 in the Hauran region in southern Syria. At some point following the mid-7th-century Muslim conquest of Syria, the Banu Shihab tribe (الشهابيون) settled in Hauran. In 1172 Prince Monqidh Shihab allied himself with Saladin and migrated with ten Emirs and fifteen thousand tribesmen, including the Abdul-Karim tribe, to Wadi al-Taym, a plain at the foot of Mount Hermon, Lebanon.5

In 1665 Yousef Abdul-Karim settled in Aramoun El-Gharb.6 Sometime, during the reign of Bashir I, he was assassinated in his own town by members of the opposing party.7 Abdul-Karim had four sons (Georges, Elias, Darwish, and Tannous). Two of them, Georges and Elias, joined the clergy of the Greek Orthodox Church. Eventually the name “Khoury” meaning “priest” in Arabic was bestowed upon the family, for there was a tendency among its members toward spirituality and service. Over the centuries many members followed in their footsteps and became clergymen among the Orthodox, Catholic, protestant, and evangelical churches. Among them Bishop ALEXIS Abdul-Karim of Homs (1969--1999) and Rev. Moufid Abdul-Karim (1877-1947) were the first to preside over the Supreme Council of the Evangelical churches in Syria and Lebanon since its establishment in 1920/22 until his death in 1947.8

Early Life and Education

George Khoury was born as Jirji son of Farid son of Najm son of Yousef son of Najm son of Georges son of Yousef Abdul-Karim.9 He was born on June 18, 1934, in this same town of Aramoun El-Gharb. He was the middle child of Farid and Nabeeha Saʽid Abdul-Karim, with two older sisters, Elizabeth and Nadia, and two younger siblings, Julie and Najm.10

George’s family was well off financially in property and land, owning several olive and fruit tree farms in addition to a store and bakery in the town. In his unpublished autobiography, “My Journey,” George Khoury remembers how his mother used to take him with her from a very early age to the fields where they gathered the crops of olives and fruit. Unfortunately, in 1941 when he was just a small boy of seven, she passed away from pneumonia just three months after giving birth to his youngest brother, Najm. His eldest sister quit school in order to take care of the family. As Khoury grew older, he would accompany his father to plant and harvest the grains and other vegetables.

In the meantime, a widow by the name of Nabeeha Nowfel Khoury became a Seventh-day Adventist in Aramoun. Her brother, Pastor Shukri Nowfel, was the first Lebanese Seventh-day Adventist ordained minister in Lebanon. She loved children and often invited them to her home to sing songs and learn Bible verses. As interest began to develop among the children, Pastor Nowfel encouraged the Adventist Church that was already established in Aramoun to open a school. Under R. H. Hartwell’s administration, an elementary school was established in the mid-1940s.11 Many children began to attend it, and George was one of them.

Classes were five days a week, Monday through Friday, and on Saturday morning there was a Sabbath School and worship service. Khoury writes: “As a result of my studies in the school, for a number of years I have learned more about God, His love, and the truth in His Word.”

When Khoury was 16 years old and in grade seven, he began to go with his father to plant and harvest the grain in their fields. His practice was to keep the Sabbath day, and his father did not mind him doing so during the school year. However, one Sabbath morning in June 1950, his father informed him that during the summer he would not be allowed to attend church as his help was needed in the fields. Furthermore, if he insisted on going, he would no longer be welcome at home and would be disowned with no inheritance. That same Sabbath Khoury made the decision to attend church despite his father’s warning. Upon returning home that night he found the door to the house locked. Confused, shocked, and heartbroken, Khoury heard his father from within the house informing him that he could find another place to live. Returning to Nabeeha’s house, he spent the night there, and the following day was placed in the care of pastor Shukri Nowfel and Mr. Salim Noujaim, director of the Voice of Prophecy. It was not until his last year of study at college, the relationship between his father and him was reestablished.

Khoury spent the rest of the summer living and working at Middle East College (MEC) doing outdoor jobs around the campus. In the autumn of 1950 he was accepted to attend grade 10 at Middle East Secondary School (MESS), which was located on the same campus as the college. A few months later, on March 31, 1951, Khoury was baptized at the Mouseitbeh Adventist Church. It was also on this campus that he met his 17-year-old future wife, Venice Semaan (born October 29, 1934), from the Bishmezzine Church (north Lebanon). Khoury observed her for seven years, but it was not before his college graduation in 1957 that he let her know of his feelings.

Khoury graduated from grade 12 in June of 1953 and enrolled at MEC to major in theology. He spent his summers doing colporteur work in the villages of the Lebanese mountains, some of them being famous resort towns. In 1956, prior to his senior year from college, he was invited to be the lead colporteur in Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Part of his responsibilities was to train six new Jordanian colporteurs.

Career, Ministry, and Marriage

Before his graduation from MEC, Khoury received a letter from the Middle East Union president inviting him to work in the three countries of Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon.12 The plan was for him to pastor the Al Husn Church in northern Jordan for four months, followed by the church in Kirkuk, Iraq, for four months, and the last four months of the year as assistant publishing secretary director for the East Mediterranean Union (EMU) in Beirut, Lebanon.13 Khoury began his official ministry at the age of 23.

In the meantime, Venice received a two-year associate degree from MEC and began work for the Voice of Prophecy. She held various responsibilities within the welfare societies, among them the Adventist Dorcus of Lebanon, called “Tabitha.” She was also very active in the prison ministry, and later she taught art, religion, and other classes at Bouchrieh Adventist Secondary School.14

After completing the required time in Jordan and Iraq, Khoury returned to Beirut. He and Venice got engaged on December 4, 1958, and one year later on January 4, 1959, they were married in the Middle East College Park Church by Pastors R. H. Hartwell and Anees Haddad.15 In addition to being the assistant publishing secretary director for the EMU, he was also the Publishing Department secretary for the Lebanon Section.16 On April 11, 1960, their first daughter, Nina, was born. She was followed in 1961 by Victoria and then in 1964 by Ruby.

In 1962 Khoury decided to pursue a graduate degree at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. He finished his degree in the spring of 1963 and upon returning with his family after his graduation in June, was appointed as president of the Lebanon Section, making him the youngest president at the age of twenty-nine.17 In November of 1963, Khoury was ordained at the Mouseitbeh Church with R. S. Watts (vice president of the General Conference) and A. F. Tarr (a General Conference associate secretary), in attendance.18

Khoury served as president of the Lebanon Section for four years.19 Under his care there were six churches, five schools, a Voice of Prophecy center, and health center. The headquarters office was located on the second floor of the Mouseitbeh Church. In addition to his job as president, he was also the pastor of the Mouseitbeh Church.20

In 1967 Khoury was appointed to be the associate evangelist for the Middle East Division (MED).21 His role was to assist Salim Japas, who was called to be division evangelist. Japas had Syrian heritage but lived in Argentina; so, he did not speak Arabic fluently. George was to assist him in translation and preaching. Together they formed the Middle East Division Evangelistic TEAM. The first evangelistic effort was held in the mountain town of Aley, Lebanon, just east of Beirut. Immediately following the six-day War of June 1967, the two evangelists worked with the relief program for refugees in Jordan. The first revival series in Jordan was conducted in Al Husn and Irbid from December 1-17, with attendance well over one hundred fifty at both locations.22 Over the next three years, many meetings and baptisms were held all over the division in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Jordan, and Turkey.23

In 1970 Khoury was asked by the MED committee to further his studies at Andrews University.24 He returned to Berrien Springs with his family and in June of 1971 graduated with an MDiv degree.25 After graduation they returned to Beirut where he continued in ministry until September 1972 when he was asked to take up duties as secretary of the Lay Activities, Radio-T.V. and Stewardship Departments of the Middle East Union.26 In May 1973 Khoury joined the Middle East College faculty on a regular basis as the head of the Biblical Languages Department.27

The Lebanese Civil War began in 1975, making the situation dangerous for the families living there. Since the college was on the verge of closing, the Middle East Union moved their headquarters to Nicosia, Cyprus, and asked him to be the union evangelist.28

Ministry in the United States

During the last week of September 1976, George and his family took a vacation to California. They had a stop-over in Cleveland, Ohio, for a few days to visit with relatives there. On Saturday they attended the Lakewood Church and learned that the neighboring SDA church in Elyria had no pastor. Later that evening he called the president of the Ohio Conference, Elder Reynolds, and said, “I learned today that the Elyria Church does not have a pastor, and I am a pastor without a church.”

One thing led to another, and in November of 1976 Khoury received a call from the Ohio Conference to pastor three churches; Elyria, Lorain, and LaGrange.29 In 1984 he moved to the Hicksville/Defiance district and pastored for one year before receiving a call in 1985 to the Southern California Conference to be pastor of the Sylmar Church.

The Sylmar church building was very large but had few members. Over the next five years, he and Venice grew the church by visiting the members and holding various health and Revelation seminars. In 1987 Venice started and directed a very successful daycare called the “Wee Care Center.”30

In 1990 the conference asked him to be pastor of the Glendora and El Monte churches. Khoury’s nephew, Farid Khoury, remembers that when he arrived in California from Lebanon on September 20, 1990, the Sabbath of September 21 was George’s first in Glendora. The entire attendance was about forty people, half of whom were Khoury’s relatives. By the time Farid left three years later in August of 1993, the weekly Sabbath attendance was close to two hundred.31

During the four years he pastored there, Khoury held many seminars resulting in baptisms every month. The church established a Community Center that distributed food every week to more than eighty people. Khoury also began an Arabic Sabbath School class and initiated a fellowship and volleyball outreach program held on the first Sunday of each month.32

After a combined 18 years of service in the Ohio and Southern California Conferences, Khoury accepted a call in 1994 from Elder Maurice Battle, secretary of the General Conference, to return to Middle East Union to be the evangelistic director for two years.33 Since their girls were grown up and married, they decided to take up the challenge. Immediately upon arriving in Beirut, he and Venice printed 5,000 sets of the Bible lessons. Their first visit was to Baghdad, Iraq. During the next two years, evangelistic series were held all over Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt.34 During this time he was elected president of the SDA Legal Association in Lebanon. Khoury returned to the United States in 1996 to retire after 38 years of service and made their home next to their daughter, Vicky, in Paradise, California.

Later Life

The year 2005 was difficult for the family. After a battle with illness, Venice passed away on May 11, 2007. As a faithful mother and pastor’s wife, her life mission was to witness and give Bible studies. Venice worked as a volunteer for the Arabic language Voice of Prophecy Bible School for over 30 years, leading many souls to the Lord. Her endeavors were numerous. In her earlier years, she was a teacher in both elementary and high school and wrote numerous textbooks including a set of character-building books suitable for Christian and Muslim children to be used in both elementary and high schools in the Middle East.35

In her later years she wrote, illustrated, and raised all the funds to cover the cost of publishing a set of thirteen Bible lessons in Arabic entitled “بشرى الخلاص” (Good News of Salvation). In an interview, Farid (who lived with them for three years as he studied for his MA degree at La Sierra University) recalls how he would witness her working into the wee hours of the morning as she typed, prepared, and illustrated these pamphlets for publishing.36 At the time of her death, ten thousand sets had been printed and distributed to the Arabic communities in the USA and the Middle East. In the last days before her illness, Venice also wrote and illustrated a set of Bible lessons in the Kurdish language based on the Gospel of Luke, even though she did not know the Kurdish language.37

After a time of healing and in the year 2008, Khoury was invited by Pastor Samir Berbawi, president of the Egypt Field, to come to Egypt for two months to visit the churches and hold workers meetings. He included a visit to Beirut where the Lebanon Section of the SDA Church held, on Saturday, October 18, 2008, an honorary ceremony recognizing his 50 years of service.38

Upon returning to the United States, Khoury sold his house and moved to live in Loma Linda where he began work as a volunteer chaplain at the Loma Linda Medical Center.39 While there he was introduced to a lady by the name of Jeanne. They married shortly after on October 4, 2009, at the Santa Monica Church.

Khoury spent the latter part of his years involved with both the Middle East Union Al Waad Media Center and the Loma Linda (LL) Broadcasting Network. In 2010 he was invited to return to Beirut, Lebanon, to present a series of sermons for the Al Waad Media Center. He preached six to seven sermons every day over a two-week period, which was approximately thirty to forty episodes.40

In 2011 the LL Broadcasting Network began an Arabic Broadcasting program. Live one-hour programs were held every Friday from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Khoury was appointed to be one of the speakers. However, three years later he suffered another heartbreak when Jeanne passed away from illness on New Year’s evening of 2014.41

In 2016 the LL Broadcasting Network sponsored an Arabic project by Hope Channel. Khoury was asked by Pastor Amir Ghali, then director of Al Waad Media Center in the Middle East and North Africa Union, to record 12 messages for them.42 On November 15, 2017, his house in Loma Linda caught on fire, whereupon he moved to northern California where his three daughters resided. Pastor Khoury passed away peacefully in Chico, California on March 5, 2018, delivering his last sermon one week before. His parting words were: “My life is in His hands.”43


Pastor George Khoury is remembered for his legacy as a shining example of humility, wisdom, dedication, and a life of service.


Aswad, Ibrāhīm. Kitāb Dhakhāʼir Lubnān. Baʻabdā, Lubnān: al-Maṭbaʻah al-ʻUthmānīyah, 1896.

Beach, W. R. “From Home Base to Front Line.” ARH, August 22, 1963.

Chappell, D. L. “Teamwork Wins Souls in the Middle East.” ARH, January 9, 1964.

“East Mediterranean Union.” Middle East Messenger, Second Quarter, 1960.

“George Khoury Ordained in Beirut.” Middle East Messenger, January to February 1964.

Harris, Nina to Farid Khoury. February 28, 2019. Unpublished autobiography of George Khoury entitled “My Journey.” In the possession of Khoury’s three daughters.

Harris, William W. Lebanon: A History, 600-2011. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Josephus. “Antiquities of the Jews, 16.357.” Lexundria (Online). Accessed November 5, 2021.

Khoury, George. “Jordan Effort Wins 8 Baptisms.” Middle East Messenger, January-February 1969.

Martin, Wayne. “On the Move.” Columbia Union Visitor, November 4, 1976.

Middle East Division Committee minutes, General Conference Archives. Accessed September 29, 2021. and

Middle East Union Committee minutes, May 2, 1973 and August 2, 1993. Middle East and North Africa Union Archives, Beirut, Lebanon.

Mills, Charles. “There is no I in the word TEAM.” Middle East Messenger, March-April 1969.

Nazirian, Manoug H. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Lebanon: 1897-1997. Beirut, Lebanon: East Mediterranean Field of SDAs, 1999.

Pine Echoes. Middle East College yearbook, 1974.

“Silhouette.” Afro Mid-east Impact, September 1972.

Shidyāq, Ṭannūs ibn Yūsuf, and Fuʼād Afrām Bustānī. Kitāb akhbār al-aʻyān fī Jabal Lubnān. 1970.

“Shihab dynasty.” Wikipedia, accessed October 11, 2021.

“Three Licensed Ministers Were Married in Lebanon.” Middle East Messenger, First Quarter 1959.

Al-Ra’I Fī Khaṭawat Sayideh: Sirat ḥayat al-ṭayeb al-dhiker wal saīd al-athar al-qas Moufīd Abdul-Karim. Beyrout, Jouseph Salim Sayqali Press. No publishing date. (الراعي في خطوات سيده سيرة حياة الطيب الذكر والسعيد الأثر القس مفيد عبد الكريم - بيروت مطابع جوزف سليم صيقلي [د. ت.]).


  1. Josephus, “Antiquities of the Jews, 16.357,” Lexundria, accessed November 5, 2021,

  2. “آل عبد الكريم,” YABEYROUTH, YABEYROUTH.COM, © 2004 – 2021, accessed November 15, 2021, see here.

  3. Zubeida Abdul-Karim, interview by Farid Khoury, Loma Linda, CA, 1992. Zubeida was a family historian, and has kept the Family Tree Parchment and the “Spear Pommel” (تفاحة البيرق) of Yousef Abdul-Karim. Unfortunately, they were lost after the Christian quarter of the town was sacked and raised to the ground during the Mountain War of 1983.

  4. Known in Late Antiquity as Philippopolis (in Arabia), the native hamlet of the Roman emperor Philip the Arab. The city was a seat of a Bishopric. “Hauran.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 8 September 2021,

  5. Ṭannūs ibn Yūsuf Shidyāq and Fuʼād Afrām Bustānī, Kitāb akhbār al-aʻyān fī Jabal Lubnān. 1970, 35-38, 311-312. Ibrāhīm Aswad, Kitāb Dhakhāʼir Lubnān. Baʻabdā, Lubnān: al-Maṭbaʻah al-ʻUthmānīyah, 1896, 242-254. “Shihab dynasty,” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 11 October 2021,

  6. Zubeida Abdul-Karim, interview by Farid Khoury, Loma Linda, CA, 1992.

  7. Ibid. Zubeida tells that Yousef was on an assignment visiting the homes of the opposition. He was first offered a poisoned cup of juice, he declined it, he was then, at another house offered a poisoned piece of watermelon, he, again declined. When poisoning him failed, one of the ladies called upon the men gathered around to finish the job, shouting to the mob: give me all your fezzes and take my scarf, criticizing their cowardness. Immediately after he was attacked and killed. Bashir I captured the killers and sentenced them to death at the palace court in Deir al-Qamar. Shortly after, in 1705, Emir Bashir died from a poisoned piece of cake.

  8. Habib Badr, email message to Farid Khoury, November 8, 2021.

  9. Zubeida Abdul-Karim, interview by Farid Khoury, Loma Linda, CA, 1992. Based on the copy of the family tree she once possessed.

  10. Nina Harris to Farid Khoury, by e-mail February 28, 2019, unpublished autobiography of George Khoury entitled “My Journey,” in the possession of his three daughters. Unless otherwise noted, all subsequent information referring to his early life and education is taken directly from this autobiography.

  11. Manoug H. Nazirian, The Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Lebanon: 1897-1997 (Beirut, Lebanon: East Mediterranean Field of SDAs, 1999), 22.

  12. “My Journey,” 12.

  13. D. L. Chappell, “Teamwork Wins Souls in the Middle East,” ARH, January 9, 1964, 19.

  14. Biographical Sketch, “In Celebration of the Life of Venice S. Khoury,” read at her funeral, May 19, 2007.

  15. “Three Licensed Ministers Were Married in Lebanon,” Middle East Messenger, First Quarter 1959, 4.

  16. Ibid.

  17. W. R. Beach, “From Home Base to Front Line,” ARH, August 22, 1963, 17.

  18. “George Khoury Ordained in Beirut,” Middle East Messenger, January to February 1964, 1.

  19. Nazirian, 73.

  20. “East Mediterranean Union,” Middle East Messenger, Second Quarter, 1960, 6.

  21. Middle East Division Committee, November 13, 1967, 67/262/1498, General Conference Archives, accessed September 29, 2021,

  22. George Khoury, “Jordan Effort Wins 8 Baptisms,” Middle East Messenger, 17 no. 1, January-February, 1969, 8.

  23. Charles Mills, “There is no I in the word TEAM,” Middle East Messenger, March-April 1969, 2.

  24. Middle East Division Committee, November 4, 1969, 69/236/1738, General Conference Archives, accessed September 29, 2021,

  25. “Silhouette,” Afro Mid-east Impact, 2 no 9, September 1972, 10.

  26. Ibid.

  27. Middle East Union Committee, May 2, 1973, 244. Middle East and North Africa Union Archives. Pine Echoes, Middle East College yearbook, 1974.

  28. “My Journey,” 31.

  29. Wayne Martin, “On the Move,” Columbia Union Visitor, November 4, 1976, 10.

  30. “My Journey,” 38.

  31. Farid Khoury, interview by Melanie Wixwat, Middle East University Library, Beirut, Lebanon, September 27, 2021. Farid is the nephew of George Khoury.

  32. Ibid

  33. Middle East Union Committee, August 2, 1993, MEU-93-139, 1. Middle East and North Africa Union Archives.

  34. “My Journey,” 41.

  35. Nina Harris to Farid Khoury, by e-mail February 28, 2019.

  36. Farid Khoury, interview by Melanie Wixwat, Middle East University Library, Beirut, Lebanon, September 30, 2021.

  37. Harris to Khoury.

  38. Farid Khoury, personal knowledge as George Khoury’s nephew.

  39. “My Journey,” 46.

  40. Amir Ghali, interview by Melanie Wixwat, Middle East and North Africa Union office building, Beirut, Lebanon, September 22, 2021.

  41. “My Journey,” 49.

  42. Ghali, interview.

  43. Farid Khoury, personal knowledge from being the nephew of George Khoury.


Khoury, Farid El, Melanie Riches Wixwat. "Khoury, George (1934–2018) and Venice (1934–2007)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. August 26, 2021. Accessed February 20, 2024.

Khoury, Farid El, Melanie Riches Wixwat. "Khoury, George (1934–2018) and Venice (1934–2007)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. August 26, 2021. Date of access February 20, 2024,

Khoury, Farid El, Melanie Riches Wixwat (2021, August 26). Khoury, George (1934–2018) and Venice (1934–2007). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved February 20, 2024,