Update for the Iraq Appeal: Solidarity with Christians in Iraq May 2015

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

In March, I was in Northern Iraq with a small team from The Outreach Foundation – Staci Graham, Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta; Rev. Mark Mueller, First Presbyterian Church Huntsville, AL; Ben McCaleb, First Presbyterian Church San Antonio. We had traveled there to visit partners, especially the Presbyterian Church in Kirkuk, who have been receiving funds from The Outreach Foundation for their ministry with fellow Iraqis displaced by ISIS from Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh Plain.

It was a glorious Sabbath in Kirkuk, which is about a 70 minute drive from Erbil where we were staying. It is also where the Presbyterian Church, led by Rev. Haitham Jazrawi, and his congregation of about 150 are doing incredible ministry with hundreds displaced by ISIS last summer. I am so proud that because of your gifts, Outreach is able to support this ministry. These are the families who were a part of the jarring headlines we read this past August:

Iraq Christians flee as Islamic State takes Qaraqosh

Uprooted Qaraqosh: ‘The Biggest Island of Christianity in the Islamic Ocean’

1,500 Iraqi Civilians Were Slaughtered Yesterday by ISIS

Christians Flee ISIS Rule in Northern Iraq Amid Persecution

Sixteen families (72 people) from the Christian village of Qaraqosh are now living in the church's facilities. Sunday School rooms and offices have become tiny apartments, and a temporary shower/WC has been set up in the courtyard. Soon, a new sewage system will need to be installed to accommodate the never-expected-stress upon the plumbing system. One classroom has become a community kitchen for these families. We spent some quality time with two of these families. You will see Staci and me with the women of one family to the right – we are standing with the mother and the daughter, Noor, who is a junior in high school and wants to study nursing. Seated below us are the mother-in-law and sister-in-law who was deaf – until the church got her fitted with a device that has opened up her hearing completely. As we were leaving their apartment, the mom, Sahiba, dressed in sunny yellow could see that Ben was quite moved and had tears in his eyes. She told him, "Do not cry for us. We have may have lost everything, but we still have Jesus."

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

Another family there is a mom and dad with six beautiful children, all (gratefully) living in one room about the size of one of our guest bedrooms. This photo of Rev. Haitham was taken with their youngest, Philip, whose sweet little smile quite captivated all of us. His father was a guard at one of the churches in Qaraqosh (a Christian village in Nineveh province) when they were forced to flee with only the clothes they were wearing. ALL of them radiated joy and grace as we sat with them. It was holy ground.

The five o'clock worship service was chock-full of singing and prayers and chock-full of those displaced families. Outreach trustee Mark Mueller brought the message using several texts including some verses from Hebrews 11. This heroes of faith passage gave him cause to tell the congregation of Kirkuk and their displaced guests that THEY are OUR heroes of faith. At one point I turned around to take a photo of the congregation…and there was Philip’s dad (in the light colored shirt). When you have lost everything and the future is extremely uncertain, worship seems to be the place where you go to be reminded that all that you need is what you still have.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

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.

Marilyn Borst, Associate Director for Partnership Development