Syria Relief - July 2014 Update
…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age…
This familiar closing to the “Great Commission” of Jesus has taken on a deeply personal meeting to the Rev. Mofid Karajili, pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Homs. Arriving as the new pastor for 140 families, following the 37-year tenure of its previous shepherd, the Rev. Samuel Hanna, the war was beginning to make itself felt, intermittently at first, in this large city. Within a few months, the city was besieged, half of the families had fled as their homes and businesses were destroyed, and in May 2012, heavy shelling in the area brought down large sections of the sanctuary roof, knocked out all the utilities and blew apart most of the pews.
Soon, half the congregation would be in diaspora, and Rev. Karajili would take to the dangerous roads, visiting them and conducting worship services in the three different villages where they had sought shelter. Those who remained in Homs came together on Sundays in the chapel of the Home for the Elderly, which is run by the church. Thirty old men and women remained there, with no place to go, and although the building suffered damage and its residents were often without enough food or fuel during the bitter winters, two Catholic nuns helped care for the residents. It was, in Mofid’s words, “a lake of hope in the desert.”
In the same neighborhood – one of the worse war zones – and within sight of the Home for the Elderly, is the school run by the church. With 1,500 students before the war, only 330 remained in 2013. It was not economically feasible to keep the school running with so many expenses and so few families able to pay the full tuition because their jobs were gone, but the church felt called to keep the school open as a sign of hope to the neighborhood and the city.
A similar vision for and commitment to continue with the work and witness of the Church in the midst of the war was directed towards the young people in the congregation, as Mofid explained:
We were very afraid, as the elders of the church, that we may lose our youth during the war, because they were spread all around. In the past, the confirmation classes took 13 hours over 13 weeks. It was impossible to gather the youth in one place for 13 weeks in this crisis, so I, as the pastor, and the elders decided to go to the areas where the youth were living, giving them the classes in their houses. This process took almost two years. And after all that, we got 22 new members – this is the cause of the pride of our National Evangelical Church in Homs during the crisis!
On May 2, 2014, a ceasefire was brokered and a tentative peace has settled upon this ravaged city. Although most of the members have yet to repair or replace their own houses, they returned to the church to begin its clean up…and to worship. Sunlight streamed through the shattered roof, illuminating the bread of communion: My body, broken for you. It was not lost on the congregation, I am sure, that Christ is able to make all things new from that which is broken: His body…Homs Church…the nation of Syria.
Rev. Mofid reflects: I believe that the Christians in Syria are here for two thousand years for a reason and a mission…We must keep working for establishing the Kingdom of God in Syria. This is my hope, and with the power of God, we will make this hope a reality.
Marilyn Borst, Associate Director for Partnership Development
Your generous gifts for the "Syria Appeal," which supports the Presbyterians in Syria at this critical time, have raised over $300,000. 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 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. The team, led by Marilyn Borst and the Rev. Nuhad Tomeh, 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.