Lebanon/Syria Day 7: A Vision for Tomorrow

Steve Burgess, for the team

I come from the land of too much to the land of limited resources to discover that I am the pauper. For two days I have heard amazing stories of faith from amazing churches in Syria: Yazdieh, Latakia, Fairouzeh, Qamishli, Hasakeh, Malkiyeh and Aleppo. They are stories of needs met and sometimes unmet, stories of courage and vision that have left me awed and overwhelmed. To be sure, I have been uplifted and inspired, but I have also seen the depths of my spiritual poverty. I know this is not a competition, but I find myself wondering how I would deal with the staggering threats and the towering needs.

I come to help and to encourage, but I find that I am the one who needs the help and encouragement. And I have found it in the words and deeds of the churches in Syria. Nowhere have I seen a more vivid realization to Paul’s words: “We are afflicted in every way, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)

I listened to story after story of a church not shrinking from service, not seeking self-preservation, but seeking to reach out beyond its walls. One pastor remarked that “this is what we must do. We cannot become a club of saints meeting once a week to pray and sing. To do that would be to fail Jesus and fail as the church that is called to serve.”

I listened to dreams and plans to expand schools, enrich communities, buy buses, create new programs. Of course there are also needs for blankets, food and hygiene care, but I heard of plans to shift gears as the fighting comes to an end and to engage in a new struggle. The new struggle will not be against the ravages of war, but against ideologies of hate and isolation.

And, I am encouraged that God will not let us rest until this war is won.

Steve Burgess
West Hills Presbyterian Church, Omaha, Nebraska