Lebanon/Syria #10: Struck Down but Not Destroyed

by Steve Burgess, for the team

Today has been another full day. In the morning we met with the Archbishop of the Armenian Catholic Church in Aleppo, His Grace Butros Mreyatee, who shared with us the many trials of the church in recent years. But his was a message of hope despite the damage to cathedral and the emigration of over half of his members.

Despite all of the losses, there has been a strengthening of faith with a renewed sense of dependence on God, the goodness of God, the renewal of hope, and a reminder that our God is the God of light and of love.

We also spent time learning of what our Presbyterian church family has been doing to serve the community of Aleppo, a hard place for over seven long years of this crisis. Not only have they served their church, but they have moved beyond the walls of the church to the community beyond, serving all the people regardless of faith or circumstance.

We visited Aleppo College for Boys (which serves grades 7-12), one of the schools of the Synod of Syria and Lebanon, whose student population of 1000 boys is 99.9% Muslim. This school was closed for one year of the war but reopened the next with a student body of 60. Muslim parents line up to enroll their children here because of the ethics of human relationships that are taught and modeled. Through all of the hardships, God’s greatness and love has shown all the brighter.

All who told these stories, who had much to be proud of and applauded for, were quick to deflect all the praise to God. Again, in these circumstances, I was reminded of Paul’s description of how God’s glory often shines the greatest when we are at our weakest. In 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 he says: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our mortal body.”

So it is with the churches in Syria. Their constant refrain: We will rebuild! From the badly damaged Armenian Catholic cathedral to the communities of believers, they are rebuilding. But it is not us doing this or giving us strength, but rather it is the Lord. And the Lord takes the long view: as long as there is a faithful remnant, God will be glorified, and he will use these fragile jars of clay to do so.

Steve Burgess, West Hills Church, Omaha, Nebraska