A Day for Weeping
Ed. Note: Outreach sent a team of 10 to Lebanon earlier this week. They will remain in Lebanon for several days, then travel to Syria. We will post their trip updates as possible. In the meantime, we ask for your prayers for the team as they travel and meet with members of the Presbyterian Church of Lebanon and Syria. Pray that they would be an encouragement to our friends there.
For the Team, Ron Gatzke
John 11:35 – Jesus wept.
I wept today as I listened to the stories of three Iraqi Christian women who shed numerous tears while describing their journey from a normal life in and around Mosul to a life of insecurity, fear, pain, suffering and depression as refugees in Lebanon. They are victims of the evil that is ISIS. Wafa described her journey as “incomprehensible,” but it could apply to all of them. These women and their families had to flee their homes suddenly in the middle of the night with nothing other than the clothes on their back and pocket change. They had no water or food as they walked 60 miles to Erbil. Churches took them in, but the accommodations were less than ideal. Hala’s family stayed in a church’s open air courtyard for months; these proud, hard-working Christians now needed to depend on the limited resources that these churches could provide. Her 15-year-old daughter soon contracted a nasty skin disease due to unsanitary water.
Eventually they found their way to the Achrafieh district in Beirut – an enclave populated by many other poor Christian families. Accommodations are scarce and rents are high for what they get. In Ramzeh’s case, they had to share an apartment room with three other families. Although they are able to register as refugees with the UN, there are few benefits to doing so, so their families looked for ways to survive. Legally refugees cannot work in Lebanon. Imagine having to pay $400 per month in rent and not having a job. Imagine the depression, anger and frustration they felt just trying to find ways to survive. In Ramzeh’s case, her husband soon passed away because he could not get his cancer treated leaving her a widow with two teenagers in a strange country with no family support. She has not even been able to get her children to school. They all asked, “God, if you love us why are you putting us through this?”
I could leave you at this point of hopelessness, but there was reason for me to weep again, only this time with joy in my heart. In the midst of their brokenness they found their way to Our Lady Dispensary (OLD), an Outreach Foundation partner, run by Grace Boustani. Our Lord has surely gifted this woman with an abundance of grace as she ministers to refugees (primarily Christian) in this district. OLD provides a variety of social and medical support services, helps with cash assistance and provides monthly food distributions.
Most recently OLD started a trauma healing ministry for women. Rola Al Kattar, a volunteer, has led these three women and others through a curriculum designed to help them forgive and give themselves over to Jesus. These women learn to forgive, express their feelings in a safe environment, cope with their situations and help their families deal with their trauma. Hala shared that she was able to forgive her brother-in-law for betrayal and recognize and replace the curse of superstition with the blessing of scripture. All of them are emotionally transformed which allows them to minister to their families.
I could go on but I’d be up all night. Jesus wept for Lazarus – not that he was dead – but for the pain and death that comes from sin in the world. I also believe He wept with joy because He knew the plan for new life His Father had for those whom He loves. Hala, Ramzes and Wafa’s journeys are not over, but they will not return to Iraq. Join with us and pray for these women and others like them that He will continue to support them and give them hope. Pray for Grace, Rola and the rest of the OLD staff that God will provide for them physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially as they continue to serve our great Lord. Let His blessings flow! Amen! \
West Hills Church, Omaha, Nebraska