Syria Appeal/Refugee Crisis - January 2016 Update
Even as Syria remains plagued by war and violence, the Church remains…and with hope and confidence prepares new leaders for its future – for God’s future. Your gifts to the Syria Appeal have helped to provide scholarships for some outstanding young adults who have answered a call to ministry….
Studying at Near East School of Theology (NEST) in Beirut
Talar, pictured here with NEST President Dr. George Sabra, is a Syrian Armenian young woman who was working in the Evangelical Bethel Church in Aleppo in the Christian Education Department. As the fighting in Aleppo got worse, she and her family had to flee for safety to another town in northern Syria – Kessab. When the village of Kessab was overrun by Islamist extremists, she and her family had to flee again with nothing but what they could carry. They went first to Latakia (in western Syria), then to Anjar in Lebanon. NEST accepted her in the Master of Divinity program in October 2013 and provided her with a full scholarship, room and board. Talar has done very well in her studies despite the heavy pressure she was under.
Rev. Yacoub, pictured with his wife Grace, is already a Presbyterian pastor with the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. Until recently, he was serving a Presbyterian church in a city in northeastern Syria. The civil war forced him and his whole congregation to leave that town. He was appointed pastor of a church near Homs, Syria in Fairouzeh, where he is serving now. Yacoub was kidnapped by an extremist Islamist militia several years ago but, thank God, he was released unharmed. Despite all the troubles in his homeland and the difficult living situation, Yacoub is eager to continue his theological education. He was accepted into the Master of Sacred Theology program this year. He commutes from Homs to Beirut once a week to pursue his studies at NEST where he has been granted a full scholarship.
Adon, left, is 28 years old and from the Latakia Presbyterian Church. His father died when he was very young. He has two sisters and a brother. He studied computer science at the university and worked for some years. He has always been active in the church, working with youth groups and assisting in other spiritual activities. He gave up his job to dedicate himself totally to serving in the church. He has been influenced by some of his pastors in Latakia. He was simply not content with work that is not directly related to church ministry, but he also says that the war in Syria has raised all kinds of questions about religion and God. Adon served for a while in his church’s relief efforts, and this also moved him to want to serve more in the church.
This young woman belongs to an independent Presbyterian Church in the town of Bloudan, not far from Damascus. Her church is not able to support her financially. In fact, it is now a church without a pastor, and the town of Bloudan is deserted by many of its inhabitants due to fighting in the region. Noura is a very bright girl; she just completed her high school education in Syria and scored very high on the government exams: 92.8/100! According to the Syrian educational system, her grades entitle her to choose any university field of study, but she has chosen to do a Bachelor of Theology at NEST. Dr. Sabra met her at a church youth conference and was impressed by her character and commitment. She was mature, balanced and aware of what she was doing. When asked why she wanted to study theology, she replied that she wants her faith in Christ to be the center of her life and work and not simply an aspect of her life and work in some other domain. She is a promising young woman who has a commitment to serve the church of Christ in Syria, despite all that is going on, or rather because of it.
Yusef, right, also from Latakia is 25 years old and belongs to the Presbyterian church. His father is a retired army officer; his mother is an English teacher. He has two sisters still living in Latakia. He also studied computer science and graduated in 2015. He has been active in the church, working with youth groups and initiating other activities with the pastor of the church. He is eager to serve God through the church. He realizes the shortage of pastors and ministers in the Presbyterian church and is motivated to dedicate his life to God’s service.
Studying at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC)
At 41, Saleem, right with Associate Director Marilyn Borst, is a second-career student, having trained and worked as a lawyer. He was ordained as an elder in the Presbyterian church in Bloudan and served there on the spiritual life committee as well as the finance committee. When the pastor left, he became the lay pastor for his congregation. It was during that time that he began to feel a call to full-time ministry. When the war hit, that sense of call became even more intense as he was keenly aware of how many pastors were leaving and knew that the future of the church in Syria would require a new generation of pastors to come forward and lead. Saleem’s younger brother, Feras, also did his seminary training at ETSC and currently serves as the pastor to three Presbyterian churches in eastern Syria.
Your generous gifts for the "Syria Appeal," which encourage the Presbyterians in Syria at this critical time, have supported individual families, the eight pastors and the mission and ministries of the nineteen Presbyterian churches. Their work – and their needs – continue. You may send an additional gift to our office or make an online gift by clicking HERE.