Lebanon/Syria Day Six: Turning Graveyards into Gardens

by Brian Collins, for the team

Today was the day we visited East Aleppo. We've all seen the pictures of the destruction, but what I didn't appreciate was how widespread it is: a seemingly endless expanse of torn and collapsed buildings. These were homes, places of work and prayer. Each represents disrupted or even extinguished lives. A numbness set in at the monotony of viewing block after block of the same destruction expressing itself in different ways – this building without a front, that one without a roof, the next just rubble.

The people of Aleppo endured much during the fighting. Parts of the city were closed off; food hard to find or sometimes not to be found. Unable to access burial grounds in dangerous parts of the city, the dead were interred in a number of small gardens around the city.

But while turning gardens into graveyards might have been an apt metaphor for Aleppo at war, it does not apply to today's recovering Aleppo. Rather, it is the reverse.

When the Presbyterian Church of Aleppo was finally able to reclaim its school that had been inaccessible for years, it had been looted by the extremists that seized it. Some of the corpses were left on the grounds. Despite financial difficulties and even snipers, the school was restored. Now the school is alive with hundreds of students, the overwhelming majority Muslim. They are learning a curriculum that includes what you would expect, with the addition of art and music programs that are well-known in the city. The leaders of these church schools view the learning going on here as an answer to extremism.

I think that's the metaphor for Aleppo in its recovery: turning graveyards into gardens (or at least kindergartens).

Brian Collins
First Presbyterian Church, Norfolk, Virginia

P.S. We cannot let this day of being with young people close without mentioning the youth group of Aleppo Church. These youth are all university students working in majors like architecture, engineering, pharmacy and other disciplines. They are a major part of the turning graveyards into gardens theme of our blog tonight. They are committed to rebuilding their nation and they do it from a deep faith in Christ with a firm foundation of biblical truth.

Outreach team on the steps of the New Generation School, run by the the Evangelical Church of Aleppo

Outreach team on the steps of the New Generation School, run by the the Evangelical Church of Aleppo