Update for the Iraq Appeal: Solidarity with Christians of Iraq - September 2015 Update

But those who wait on the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

 Marsein with her toddler and the baby born while fleeing ISIS

Marsein with her toddler and the baby born while fleeing ISIS

Most of these Christians fled ISIS last summer with little of their worldly possessions. Most were middle-class. Finding no safe haven in Iraq, they made their way to Lebanon and headed to Beirut where they hoped that the bigger city might hold more options for their survival. With so many displaced Syrians “in line” ahead of them, their situation grew quite grim…but they knew that fellow Christians would help them so they settled into a poor, largely Christian suburb called Sad al-Bouchreih. And there, the Our Lady Dispensary (OLD) came to their aid. Formed in 1983 in the midst of the Lebanese Civil War to provide aid to the poor and to those driven from their homes, the OLD has responded to successive disasters which have hit the region. The Outreach Foundation is meeting some of the needs for about 150 families who are part of this newest wave of refugees – many of whom are in the midst of a very long wait while the UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) works the process of finding them a new home outside of the region.

In late July I took a group of women to Lebanon. We spent some tender time at the OLD and met some of those being lovingly served in Christ’s name like the Sleiwa family. Marsein and her husband, Hani, and their four children fled their village of Batnaya, 14 miles north of Mosul, when Marsein was eight months pregnant. She delivered her fifth child in Kurdistan before traveling on to Lebanon. Her oldest son, now 11, was traumatized by the experience – he was old enough to understand what was happening to the family – so OLD has found counseling for the child. Marsein explained that back in Iraq, she and her husband owned two small stores which sold elecrical applicances. Thankfully Hani has found some low paying work, but it does not even cover their monthy rent of $400. Soon their savings will be depleted. Because of the support of The Outreach Foundation the Sleiwas are able to hold on. In the months ahead, the UNHCR will eventually provide support…but the wait is long…

  ...a time to weep and a time to laugh...

...a time to weep and a time to laugh...

Grace Boustani, who one of our team dubbed “the angel of OLD,” is a trained social worker who has guided the ministry of OLD for almost 30 years. Every time I visit I am struck, anew, by her quiet strength, her firm faith, her joy and her resolve to serve those whose lives have been broken and battered. One of the hardest challenges she faces is when she has to tell someone in need that her resources are depleted. Some of the donor organzations with whom she works put tight restrictions on their gifts, such as saying they could only be used for a certain item (i.e. food, medicine, fuel oil) and never given out as cash. She is doubly grateful to The Outreach Foundation because we have not “tied her hands” but allowed her to exercise her judgement as to what is most needed…rent help, medications for hypertension and diabetes, clothing, fans for the sweltering summer heat, a voucher to a local grocery store. Knowing that the children of these refugee families have few outlets for fun, the OLD has held several events – game days, sports camp, a meal in a restaurant – to bring a bit of joy to these young ones whose lives have been forever altered. “Thank you, Outreach Foundation, for your continuous help and care,” Grace offered. “Your support helps us to meet the needs of the families we serve. And these acts of generosity are changing lives.”

 Grace Boustani, an angel of God's mercy with an MSW (Master of Social Work)

Grace Boustani, an angel of God's mercy with an MSW (Master of Social Work)

Marilyn Borst
Associate Director for Partnership Development

The news coverage of the largely Middle Eastern refugee crisis unfolding in Europe has brought shocking images into our homes, and many want to help. The unsettling reality of this situation is that most of these refugees have not made it out of the Middle East but have become the humanitarian burden of nearby countries. This is why The Outreach Foundation continues to focus our efforts on finding resources for our church partners in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan to care for neighbors – Christian, Muslim and Yazidis –who have had to flee to a safer area in their own country or find a haven across a nearby border. To date, we have put into the hands of our partners well over a million dollars. The Church in these places is a bright light in darkness and a Word of Hope in the swirl of despair. We hear Paul’s word “do not grow weary in well doing.” We invite you to continue with us on this journey of accompaniment. Gifts for the Iraq or Syria Appeal or combination of both as Refugee/IDP Crisis may be made by clicking HERE or by sending a check to our main office.

Iraq Appeal September 2015 child.jpg