Syria Relief Update
Dear Friends in Christ’s Mission,
On May 21, the nine-member Outreach Foundation mission-vision team (from GA, TX, CA, AL, NY, VA and NE) also found ourselves overlooking a valley…the legendary Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, dotted with fertile fields and small villages, snow still topping the mountains which frame it, and Mt. Hermon looming majestically over it all at 10,000 feet. Like Ezekiel, we had come to see whether some “old bones” could live again….well, old buildings, truth be told, for the Rev. Ramzi Abou Assali, the Presbyterian pastor from nearby Zahle, had brought us to the nearby community called Kab Elias to see the renovations which the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon were about to complete on this 100-year old Synod school. A brand new school, not far away, had replaced this old building several years earlier. Now these “old bones” were being restored to house families displaced by the war raging in Syria, just over the mountains upon which we were gazing.
To see it we had to wind our way, up and up, through this hillside town counting, as we climbed, the 106 stairs to get to these “rooms with a view.” We were rewarded by a spectacular vista of the Bekaa Valley below. Elder Ferah, from the Zahle Church, awaited us with a big smile - it is his duty to oversee the renovation of the school, turning classrooms into bedrooms, exchanging well-worn chalkboards with storage cabinets, moving out creaky desks and moving in comfy beds, expanding and updating its bathrooms and kitchen, so as to create welcoming spaces to receive upwards of 40 persons who were being displaced by the war next door. For fellow-Presbyterians in Syria (who will be given first priority for an apartment here) the close-to-three-year war has meant the loss of four of their 20 churches. And with homes destroyed, schools closed and livelihoods lost in several cities, hundreds have made their way to Lebanon….at least for the near-term.
To date, your generous response to the Syria Appeal has brought in over $178,000 for the ministry of the Synod during this difficult time, making The Outreach Foundation the single largest supporter of these life-and hope giving efforts for our extended Presbyterian family. Our presence in Lebanon in May on this journey of solidarity in the midst of the troubles - and representing the united efforts of our Outreach family of partner churches and individuals from across the country - reinforced the message that, with God’s help, “we will not neglect to do good…especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
If we look back at Ezekiel 37, we find that God answers his own rhetorical question (“can these bones live?”) a little later on in chapter 37:14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live… Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD. We witnessed God’s Spirit at work in Lebanon through these efforts of the National Evangelical Synod. Know that your partnership with us, on behalf of the Synod churches in Syria, is vital.
Thank you for praying for our brothers and sisters in Syria,
Associate Director for Partnership Development