Syria Relief - April 2014 Update
What are the things that might keep you away from church on any given Sunday? Perhaps, you were worn out by a long week of work, or maybe a cold or allergies have you feeling punk. Depending on where you live, weather can easily be a determinate; yet one more snowstorm or torrential rains that make getting out just too much work. And, if we are willing to admit it, there are those Sundays when our favorite preaching pastor is out of the pulpit. I, like many of you, have given myself a “pass” on a Sabbath morning, using many of these excuses. But their shadowy “validity” left me feeling a bit sheepish, as they made a review through my head on a Sunday this January when I and our team from The Outreach Foundation sat in worship in the Presbyterian Church in Damascus.
Over 150 filled the small sanctuary this Sunday morning. Like most Sunday mornings over the past several years, the air was punctuated by the not-so-distant rumble of exploding artillery – a mere five kilometers from where we sat. Many members of the congregation had made their way past the concrete blast walls and imposing camouflaged tanks which guarded the old “Saint Thomas Gate,” an entrance into the Christian Quarter, a short stroll from the church. Apparently, these rather frightening realities were not enough to keep away the congregation. I was humbled to be surrounded by their exuberant singing, their enacted prayers, their enthusiastic welcome and the joyful hospitality which followed worship.
Rev. Boutros Zaour, the pastor, had graciously given up the pulpit to The Outreach Foundation’s trustee, Dr. Mark Mueller, from First Presbyterian Church of Huntsville, AL. With experience in being present to the Church in places like Iraq and Uganda, Mark’s message of hope, drawn from John 1, struck a chord:
In our text, one of the most often read passages of the Bible, John writes that in Jesus, John found hope. The Hope was like a light that burst forth into the darkness. Strangely, I thought I would come from the United States and bring hope, but as I have come to Lebanon and Syria, I have discovered that hope is already here. I have seen hope in the profound way the people of this church and the Synod of Syria and Lebanon have persevered in this dark time. Through mortars, bombs, guns and suicide attackers, you are the faithful remnant that the Apostle Paul wrote about in Romans. We give thanks to God for you have stood firm in the faith. I feel privileged to humbly pull alongside of you, to learn from you and to support you as you remind me that hope has not left this place or its people. Hope is still here.
Peter Benenson, founder of Amnesty International, and President John F. Kennedy have both been associated with the proverb, “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” As is the case with the Presbyterian Church in Syria, there is no need to look for a match. The Light has remained lit and is burning brightly in his brave and persevering Church there. May we learn from and be inspired by their lives of faith and faithfulness!
Marilyn Borst, Associate Director for Partnership Development
Your generous gifts for the "Syria Appeal" have raised over $250,000. You may send an additional gift to our office or make an online gift HERE. Please designate your gift for the “Syria Appeal.”
The National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, the extension of our Presbyterian family in the region, is based in Beirut. For more than three years, the Synod has worked diligently to address the crisis faced by its churches in Syria, whose members have been displaced by the war. This visit of solidarity provides opportunity for congregations and individuals who have supported the Syria Relief Appeal through The Outreach Foundation to experience the situation first-hand, learn of the relief initiatives of the Synod and meet with pastors from Syria.
We will visit the churches and ministries of the Synod in Lebanon, and, if the situation permits, we will visit Syria as well. The estimated land cost is $1,800 and does not include Syrian visa, if needed, or international air fare. The trip application deadline is August 1, 2014, and you will also be required to book your flights at this time. Land costs are due to The Outreach Foundation by September 20, 2014. For more information, please contact Lisa Dill at (615) 778-8881 or firstname.lastname@example.org.