Update for the Iraq Appeal: Solidarity with Christians in Iraq
Hear my cry, O God; Listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, A strong tower against the foe. Psalm 61
Fun and games with kids in the parking lot is an event often seen at churches. But this is Baghdad, after all, and those kids lined up for the zany competitions – and with unexpected smiles on their young faces – had experienced traumas unknown to all of us. For it was their families who had been driven by ISIS from Mosul and the surrounding Christian villages just a few short months earlier. Inside the church, their parents gathered, grateful that their children could experience a bit of lightness in an otherwise unsettling “new normal.”
Rev. Farouk Hammo and his congregation have been faithfully reaching into the lives of hundreds of these families with much needed gifts of food, medicine, rent subsidies and clothing – thanks, in large part, to your generous support.
Rev. Hammo decided that Valentine’s Day provided the perfect opportunity to do something special for these displaced families. “We arranged a grand celebration for them, together with the body of Christ in our church, to celebrate Valentine’s Day,” he writes. “It was an occasion to teach and practice the love of Christ practically, the true Lover of the world. A blessed day it was, as many hands raised up responding positively to a call to recommit their lives to Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Having a long day together was an opportunity to get these families and their children together with the congregation, as well as spending a day of fun, which served to heal and relieve some of their pain and sense of loss. The day concluded with distributing food baskets and clothing, after having a good meal on the church grounds.”
Over a three month period, what an astounding amount of outreach for a relatively small church:
* 6,500 blankets, 3,600 electric heaters, 3,600 mattresses, 1,500 gallons of heating fuel and 2,500 space carpets for tents were distributed.
* A commercial dough-making machine was delivered to a village to feed 60 displaced families.
* Wooden beds were provided for handicapped people who cannot sleep on the floor.
* Four major surgeries were paid for as well as medicine for 50 people.
But all of the above were just the “tip of the iceberg” for the congregation of the Presbyterian Church in Kirkuk and its pastor the Rev. Haitham Jazrawi. Since July this church has been surrounded by thousands of displaced persons, some of them living on the grounds of the church, others taking refuge in other churches in the city and in the nearby cities of Erbil and Dahouk, as well as the smaller villages in between. Some were given shelter in abandoned buildings, and some have had to be content with tents provided by international relief agencies. All have found their lives turned upside down and with no clear path to a hopeful future. And so the Kirkuk congregation has sought small ways to bring glimmers of joy in the midst of the darkness…with their presence, with their constant assurance of Christ’s love and with thoughtful gifts which go beyond just the necessities.
Consider the 350 “Christmas Action Packs” they assembled for displaced families which contained not only food, towels, shampoo and soap, but chocolate bars, winter hats and gloves, sweaters for children, colored pencils and Bible story books. Rev. Haitham, pictured here with a family, sent 19 young adults of the church to make these deliveries in and around Kirkuk. “It was a highlight of the season for these displaced families,” he writes, “not only that we remembered them at Christmas, but that we brought the joy of the Spirit, too.” The distribution of these material goods has required that a lot of miles be covered – as far north as the Turkish border and as far west as the Iranian one. The ministry is urgent and exhausting and expensive. Throughout all these Christ-centered activities, the congregation has been enormously undergirded by the generous gifts and the accompanying prayers of The Outreach Foundation’s donor churches and individuals.
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.