Update for the Iraq Appeal: Solidarity with Christians in Iraq

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you  and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.   Jeremiah 29:11

 Rev. Fouad Antoun, after worship in Marjayoun, with a UN peacekeeper from Indonesia

Rev. Fouad Antoun, after worship in Marjayoun, with a UN peacekeeper from Indonesia

Lebanon is not a very large country. Its land mass is about the size of Connecticut, in fact. The narrow southern strip, which borders Israel, has experienced a lot of conflict over the years. With a highly visible presence of both Hezbollah and the Lebanese Army, it is also home to five communities of Presbyterians – all of them pastored by the Rev. Fouad Antoun, who grew up there. Some of those communities have fully functioning churches, like the large one in Marjayoun. Others have only a handful of Presbyterian families remaining who are visited, periodically, by Rev. Antoun and come together to worship in their small, historic churches on a rotating basis. With over 10,000 UN peacekeeping forces in the area from over 30 countries, the cities and towns have a decidedly international flavor. And now the Iraqis have arrived – mostly Christians driven from Mosul during ISIS’ summer reign of terror. Most of this group had initially fled to Beirut, but when the churches in the capital city reached capacity to minster to the overwhelming needs of this broken and desperate refugee community, they sent them to South Lebanon to be cared for by a coalition of churches there – Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant – our Presbyterians of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon.

 The journey from Iraq was especially arduous for the handicapped and the elderly.

The journey from Iraq was especially arduous for the handicapped and the elderly.

The first 40 families arrived this fall. By Christmas they numbered 53; there are now 60 families with more expected. There are over 100 children under the age of 15 – and six babies have been born since their families reached this safe haven. Almost all of these refugees were from the middle class. Their collective story is daunting – fleeing their homes under cover of darkness and making their way, over 380 miles, to Erbil in the Kurdish controlled area, by whatever means they could find…a car, a donkey, their own feet. Some were able to fly on to Beirut; others, who had left home without a passport, had to transition through Turkey to await documents. Each family has their own painful story to tell, like the one whose father was a double amputee and had to be carried for 15 hours. 

Where housing can be found, they crowd together – three families of 20 persons sharing one common room for sleeping and living, with a tiny kitchen and bath. Rev. Antoun reports that with a bitterly cold and snowy winter upon them, heating fuel and warm clothing are of immediate need, as well as food and milk for the younger children. Small Christmas gifts for the little ones helped to take the edge off of the incomprehensible experiences of their short lives.

 An ecumenical effort in South Lebanon allows for a central distribution site.

An ecumenical effort in South Lebanon allows for a central distribution site.

Your gifts to The Outreach Foundation have not only empowered the Presbyterian Church in Lebanon to reach out into these traumatized lives but have also brought about a renewed commitment to ecumenical ministry. This service, in Christ’s name, to these Iraqi refugees will require the prayers, efforts and sacrificial gifts of the entire Church. With immediate needs addressed, the longer term challenges of jobs and adequate housing still loom large as our Iraqi family-of-faith rebuilds their lives in a new land. Thanks be to God for the presence of the Church in South Lebanon who can remind these broken-hearted ones of the providential care of a God who promises – especially for them – “… a hope and a future….” 

Marilyn Borst 
Associate Director for Partnership Development

$311,292 DISBURSED TO DATE FROM THE IRAQ APPEAL

Kirkuk Presbyterian Church        $142,096
Baghdad Presbyterian Church   $  72,096
Our Lady Dispensary (Beirut)    $  27,500
Qamishli (Syria) Presbyterian Church  $14,600
     (well for Yazidi refugees)      
Marjayoun (Lebanon) Presbyterian Church  $10,000
     (Iraqi refugees relocated from Beirut to South Lebanon)                        
Near East School of Theology (Beirut)  $25,000
     (conference on pastoral care during time of war and suffering – for pastors and church                  leaders from Iraq and Syria)
Bethlehem Bible College  $20,000
     (student refugee relief mission to Jordan)

The Outreach Foundation will continue to receive gifts in support of our major Iraqi partner – the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Iraq – as well as several other Christian partners in the region. Checks should be noted “Iraq Relief” and mailed to The Outreach Foundation, 381 Riverside Drive Suite 110, Franklin, TN 37064. Or make an online gift by clicking HERE and selecting "Iraq Appeal" under Designation.