Syrian Christians Need Our Help
STAND WITH ASSYRIAN CHRISTIANS IN EASTERN SYRIA WHO ARE...
...hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed...
On Tuesday, February 23, ISIS attacked 35 Assyrian Christian villages on the Khabur River in the Hasakeh province, northeast Syria. Christians were killed defending their own villages. At least 373 were kidnapped. More than 200 are still missing. Churches were destroyed. And 3,000 Assyrian Christians fled from their villages. They are now in homes and shelters in the cities of Hasakeh and Qamishli.
The National Evangelical [Presbyterian] Synod of Syria and Lebanon has a church in both cities and is reaching out to their fellow Christians in need. The Outreach Foundation staff has had a significant relationship with the Synod for 20 years and is preparing a wire of immediate funds to assist the Presbyterian Church in eastern Syria in its relief efforts for the Orthodox and Catholic families.
But, considerably more help is needed. We urge you to both pray for and give to this critical outreach ministry. Make an online gift by clicking HERE or checks can be marked “Syria Appeal” and sent to The Outreach Foundation, 381 Riverside Dr, Suite 110, Franklin, TN 37064.
Syria Relief Update
This past November, The Outreach Foundation led another mission-vision trip to the Middle East. Twelve pastors, elders and mission leaders from Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Georgia and California spent a week in Lebanon learning of the work and witness of fellow-Presbyterians there (through the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon). Seven of those travelers continued on into Syria where they worshipped, wept and celebrated God’s faithfulness in five Presbyterian churches there (Homs, Fairouzeh, Amr Hosn, Yazdia and Lattakia). Julie Burgess and her husband, Steve, members of West Hills [Presbyterian] Church in Omaha – a generous supporting congregation for The Outreach Foundation’s Syria Appeal – were on that team. What follows here are excerpts from Julie’s poignant blog…
… Two of those nights in Syria we spent in the company of Rev. Michel Boughos and his wife, Huda. Steve and I spent those nights in their home, a home they had shared for 37 years. Michel graduated from the Near East School of Theology in 1977, married Huda (who was from Lattakia) and was assigned to be the pastor of the National Evangelical [Presbyterian] Church of Yazdia, a small Christian village in western Syria. When they moved into their home, it was small and quite primitive, and, as I understand it, the house was just a tiny appendage of the then-tiny church. The two buildings are still attached, but both parts are much larger now after 37 years of ministerial work by Michel and Huda.
Michel reminded me of a little elf, with a quick smile and twinkle in his eye. Huda was his counterpart in smiles, and it was obvious she was a real worker bee; everyone flocked to be with her and to share their needs. She listened to every person and every story. These two were just meant to be together, ministering together: two gifted saints, who would serve amazingly as individuals, but when the two were joined, synergy was created. God sure had a plan there!
After we arrived, we spent some time at Michel and Huda’s home having coffee and tea and planning a worship service for later that afternoon. Steve was volunteered to read Psalms 46: “God is our refuge and strength, a present help in times of trouble…” and there would be a Power Point by Huda about the displaced families they serve in the area and the ways they serve.
We were introduced to Bassam, a veterinarian by profession. He was a Christian refugee from Qusayr, near the Lebanon border, a place that had experienced tremendous loss at the hands of ISIS. Bassam and his family were now an integral part of this congregation at Yazdia, serving in many capacities.
I need to tell you about Bassam. You can Google “Qusayr” and find lots of stories about the fighting there. I had read these stories about Qusayr, so when I heard that Bassam came from there I had to ask:
“Did you lose family members?”
Twenty-two men in his extended family had been murdered by ISIS! He told us the story of one uncle who was missing for several days. When one of the family asked where their uncle was, his thumb was returned.
This beloved uncle was returned over several days in 200 separate pieces. Butchered.
And here was Bassam, loading the pictures up for Huda to share at the worship service. A man who heals animals for a living, now a refugee in a place not his own, but serving his neighbors in the ways that he can. And so we went to service and saw the pictures, one by one, as Bassam changed them for Huda on the screen.
Here was how they put the food baskets together.
Here was how they did crafts and games with the children at Christmastime.
Here were the blankets they could obtain and share with families for the winter.
Here were refugees needing desperate medical help, and this is what we could do to help them.
On and on. Picture after picture of families in need who had left their own homes to find life in another place.
Comic relief was provided by a black cat who wandered into the church during this service. (Huda feeds eight cats every day at her back porch.) His name was Simony, and he just kept rubbing up against her legs, Michel’s legs, my legs, Steve’s legs any place he could find his comfort. Priceless!
And after the service was over, we went down to the fellowship hall to see the items gathered for the next food parcel delivery. Huda works very hard to collect supplies, organize them and store them until they are ready for delivery. It was enough food for 300 families, but it would be made into parcels to serve 600 families, so more would receive. There are 1,700 displaced families in their area that this small church reaches out to and tries to serve. The need is overwhelming, but they do not stop serving.
Many of the families came down from the worship service with us, and we heard more stories of pain and loss and death. One family wanted to share a video and pulled out their phone…I simply could not do it, but there was my Steve, offering the strength of his heart to share in their pain. He watched the whole video on the phone, and I watched his face as he watched it. There was a language barrier, but he knew that one of those poor souls whose head was being cut off was the family member of the family – that was very obvious. I don’t know how he keeps that image out of his head when he sleeps, but this was his gift for the people that he had come to be with.
And so I tell you the story. When you see the news and hear stories of what is happening in Syria I want you to pause and think of this. These are real people – veterinarians, engineers, teachers, pastors, students – who look and live lives just like we do. They laugh, they cry, they learn, they love, they worship, they work. And an unspeakable evil is in their midst pushing them out of their homes and cities and countries and committing crimes against humanity that are unfathomable.
Think of them. Pray for them. And if you can, please help them.
Your generous gifts for the Presbyterian Church in Syria, at this critical time, have totaled well over $400,000. These funds have been used by the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon and their partners to provide direct aid, such as food and clothing, housing and educational support for children. Some resources have been used to strengthen the Synod’s pastoral and psychological care to those who have been displaced and to assist in the theological education of those preparing to lead the church in the years ahead. More resources are needed as the fighting is now marking its fourth year. You may send gifts to our office or make an online gift by clicking HERE. Please designate your gift for the “Syria Appeal.” You can find a downloadable bulletin insert on our website along with earlier updates.
Faithful Women on the Road
Consider joining a group of women from Presbyterian churches around the U.S. on a unique mission vision journey to learn from and build personal relationships with women from Presbyterian churches in Syria and Lebanon. Led by Marilyn Borst, The Outreach Foundation’s Associate Director for Partnership Development, departure will be on July 24 with return on August 2. The $1,760 land cost includes lodging (double occupancy), meals, sightseeing and transportation. It does not include round trip airfare. Click HERE for more information.