In this season of resurrection...think Aleppo

by Marilyn Borst

In February, a team from The Outreach Foundation was in Syria, led by our associate director, Marilyn Borst. Outreach traveled at the invitation of our partner, the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL). The Outreach team visited 10 Presbyterian churches over 12 days, including the one in Aleppo, as well as the Armenian Catholic Church there - both were badly damaged in the war.

The guns of war have been largely stilled, and now a resurrection begins, especially for the churches…

In the ruins of the old Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Ibrahim Nseir finds a fragment of the 23rd Psalm which hung behind the pulpit.

Rev. Joseph Kassab, General Secretary of NESSL, who accompanied our team, lays out the vision for the old church site.

Many of you have stood with the Church in Syria through these years of war, supporting and encouraging her through your generous gifts to our Syria Appeal. In a letter recently received from Rev. Kassab, he reminds us that our partnership is still very much needed:
Throughout my trip to Syria last week [with a team from The Outreach Foundation], during which I visited some of our churches, I was impressed by the latter’s vision and pastors. Despite the difficulty of the period, the prevailing feelings of persistence and love brought forward by the pastors and their congregations led to a rise in attendance, participation, and activity of these churches. As a result, a wider circle of afflicted people were covered by the warmth and hospitality of our pastoral efforts. It comes with no doubt that the Syrian war has taken a toll on people’s daily lives, yet one thing remains stronger; their will to live and the love for God they feel through God’s people. It is worth mentioning that throughout the past year, a decreasing level of war, violence, and victims has been observed as a result of the National Army’s regain of authority over a large part of the Syrian territory. Although the cooling of guns reflects positively on physical safety, the daily lives of our brothers and sisters still remain blurred by poverty and misery. Shortage of money, lack of job opportunities, and the ongoing deterioration of the Syrian Pound are pressuring almost every Syrian family [in 2010 (1$=48 S.P), today in 2019 (1$=520 S.P)]. 

The Syrian people’s daily lives carry hourly struggles that take the form of shortages of milk, electricity, water, medication, medical services in addition to car fuel, cooking gas and other necessary living conditions which they lack due to the difficulty of the situation. Despite it all, the people remain resilient as they face their hardships with patience and scarcity. In the light of the above, we acknowledge that Syrian Christians are left with churches as their only source of hope and help in order to meet their basic necessities and retain their human dignity as they remain in their country. It is worth noting that many of the Syrian people look enviously at their fellow citizens and relatives who succeeded in departing Syria to a neighboring country or the West without weighing the dangers of the transition. Our goal today is to keep the Syrian people in their country and around their churches while meeting their basic human needs.
Throughout my recent conversations with many of you who walked the journey with us during the crisis, I shared my fear concerning the current situation since only little donation has been received for our relief program in Syria. As we aspire to raise USD 750,000 for 2019, only USD 70,000 has been reached so far which brings me here writing to you and updating you about the severity of the situation and the necessary aid from your end. 
As I wrap up, I would like to shed light on two main ideas that stand at the core of our current mission regarding the situation in Syria. First, the slowdown of violence and killing does not eliminate the poverty and misery that are still dominant over people’s daily lives. This calls us to remain present by people’s side. Second, our additional goal to keep people in their homeland while meeting their basic needs adds extra weight on our relief program, rendering it more crucial than before.

Our hope today lies in a quick recovery of Syria which will lead to increased job opportunities, improved money flow and lifted sanctions.

Until then, the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon relies on God and partners in Christ’s mission to sustain our ministry and services among the afflicted.  
You are invited to continue to stand with that faithful Church in Syria and Lebanon.

In the ruins of the Armenian Catholic Cathedral (Outreach will make a small gift to help it rebuild) Outreach’s Executive Director, Rob Weingartner, standing next to Archbishop Boutros Marayati, lifts a prayer of thanks and intercession for the Christian community in Syria.

In the new Presbyterian Church, rebuilt at a different location, worship reveals a faithful congregation that was “hard pressed, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…”