Syria Appeal - September 2015 Update

For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you. Psalm 71: 5-6

It certainly isn’t any coverage of Syria which you would see on CNN or read even in the New York Times. Bad news seems to garner viewers and readers – and there is certainly plenty of that to go around where Syria is concerned. But we Christians should seek an additional narrative, namely, what is happening with Christ’s Church in that place. And that has been the story which we at The Outreach Foundation have consistently and joyfully told over the past three years, ever since we wired, in March 2012, a first gift of $13,000 to the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon to assist Presbyterian families (and others) who had been affected by the war. Those initial funds came as a result of dozens of churches and individuals responding to our Syria Appeal. We now praise God for hundreds of donors, and over $700,000 – extravagantly and joyfully given to support the Church and its partners in the region at this difficult time. These gifts have supported (and continue to support) families, providing resources for food, medicine, heating fuel and shelter. Sometimes these funds have been dispensed with urgency, as when we received news of the sudden displacement by ISIS of large groups of people. These funds have provided periodic “encouragement gifts” to supplement the modest salaries of the nine Presbyterian pastors who have remained to serve in a place where a war-time economy has devalued the currency by half and quintupled the cost of normal consumer goods, if they can even be found in the marketplace. And these funds have also been used for empowering the Church to “equip the saints for works of ministry, to build up the body of Christ.” And these latter efforts have been especially vibrant when they have focused on young people (like those seen above and at right) – the Church’s future….

For instance in late August 70 university students from the Presbyterian churches gathered in the small, relatively safe Syrian town of Mashta Helou, once a summer vacation site in the mountains close to the Lebanese border. Led by some of the younger pastors in the Synod, it was organized by the Rev. Josef Kassab (seen below), the Synod’s Executive for Ecclesial and Spiritual Affairs, around the subject of “Spirituality” with its theme drawn from Galatians 5:25: “If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk.”

Reflecting upon the choice of this theme, Rev. Josef writes: 

Spirituality has to do with our human identity. Yet for Christians, it is also a way of daily life and a channel for Christian growth. Obviously, the Syrian crisis has added to the challenges that Christian young people are facing in their present and future pressures. Many spiritual and faith questions have been raised during the difficult circumstances through which university students are passing... The young people needed to know and learn how to touch the Spirit of God in the midst of the mess and chaos which surround them.

Bible studies centered on the themes of stewardship, fasting and prayer. Other sessions developed around Reformed Spirituality, Word and Sacrament, Social Media and its Affects and Spirituality in Difficult Times. Small group discussions allowed the young adults to relate the topics to their own experiences. Rev. Josef went on to say:

Morning worship services and singing were the bread of every day in the camp. The young people were able to see each other once again, sing, pray, meditate, discuss and learn together about the crucified Christ and our hope for an assured resurrection.

Marilyn Borst

Associate Director for Partnership Development

Syria Appeal September 2015 group at table.jpg

The Church in Syria 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 Syria Appeal may be made by clicking HERE or by sending a check to our main office.