Syria Appeal - December 2015 Update
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned….
So begins Isaiah’s poetic, prophetic chapter whose words echo in song and in sermon at this time of the year – and which crescendos to a naming of the when and the what and the Who which Handel set so perfectly to music that now very few of us can read it with our eyes without actually hearing it in our ears:
For unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders…
So why, you might ask, does this passage lead me to thoughts of Aleppo? Perhaps, because few places in Syria have been so hard hit for so long, so hammered by violent factions, so deprived of life’s basics, so seemingly stripped of hope and a future – its world-heritage sites decimated, its population significantly reduced…
…but then there is the Church. One year into the Syrian war, the Presbyterian Church in Aleppo was hit by mortars and little was left standing. The congregation was scattered and many fled the ravaged city. Those that remained were shepherded by their pastor, Rev. Ibrahim Nseir, who gathered them in rented places, answered their frightened calls in the midst of the fighting…and encouraged those who remained to stay. Ibrahim not only knew that Light to which Isaiah referred, but modeled what it meant to be that same light for his city which was truly walking in darkness, actually and metaphorically.
Earlier this year, although the fighting has not yet stopped in and around Aleppo, Ibrahim, his congregation and the Synod of Syria and Lebanon made a bold decision: we will rebuild. Over these past months, a new sanctuary has risen from the dust, and as I followed its progress with the pictures which were posted on Facebook (yes, Facebook) I was struck by how many times the image of the cross appears: in the door, in the railing, in the windows, on the roof peak…the building clearly proclaims what it is and Whom it serves. In Syria. Even now.
The Outreach Foundation closes this year with a profound gratitude to all of you who, as churches and as individuals, have so faithfully encouraged and so generously supported our extended Presbyterian family in Syria over these years and in so many ways, assisting with things such as:
- scholarships for Syrian seminary students
- food, fuel and housing assistance for hundreds of families
- repairs for damaged houses
- a conference for university students and young adults
- a church-based water project that serves Yazidis displaced by ISISa kindergarten that serves Christians and Muslims
- transportation for the elderly who are homebound
- a women’s retreat
- Bibles for Kurds who are learning about Christ
- a reconciliation project with Muslim and Christian teens
- a church generator to offset the constant power outages
- stipends for primary, secondary and college educations
- a school to serve Syrian refugees in Lebanon
- repairs to a church roof which was hit by mortars
A few weeks ago, the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon held its General Assembly which had been delayed for several years because of the difficulty for travel of the designated elders and pastors coming from Syria. The Rev. Joseph Kassab was elected as General Secretary and responded to a letter of congratulations sent by The Outreach Foundation:
…The wishes coming from your side are very special to the heart and soul of our Synod. Although Outreach was not physically present in our GA, yet you were in our prayers, thoughts and reports. Our partnership was successfully tested through those dark years. Let me confess that Outreach was the closest to the pain and suffering of our people in Syria, not only in figures but especially through insisting to be present physically in Syria and Lebanon and among our churches. The many groups that took the burden to come and share our agony, brought with them hope and the love of Christ….
Friends, you are The Outreach Foundation and it is through your gifts that, together, we have been present with the Church in Syria, and will continue to be… until peace returns.
In Advent hope,
Marilyn Borst, Associate Director for Partnership Development
The Presbyterian Church in Syria (nine pastors and eighteen congregations) is a bright light in darkness and a Word of Hope in the swirl of despair. We hear Paul’s word, “Do not grow weary in well doing.” We invite you to continue with us on this journey of accompaniment. Gifts for the Syria Appeal may be made by clicking HERE or by sending a check to our main office.