Syria Appeal/Refugee Crisis - March 2016 Update
Located just 20 miles due east of Beirut, the Bekaa Valley stretches for 75 miles and lays claim to the richest agricultural land in the country where wheat, corn, cotton and an array of vegetables flourish. Its vineyards have given rise to a wine industry that is now world renowned. The Bekaa is also now home to over 370,000 of the 1.1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, many of whom have been living in tents in dismal camps for years – and most of them are children. In a country of only four million, the Lebanese public schools are able to accommodate only a fraction of these Syrian refugee children.
In late 2015, the National Evangelical [Presbyterian] Synod of Syria and Lebanon came up with a vision: open a school for 200 of these children and offer them the Syrian curriculum so that they could both build upon their previous education as well as be prepared to return to their “normal schools” once the war was over. The Synod, by the way, was not a novice in the field of education, as they have operated schools in Lebanon for over 100 years. They spent several months searching for a building that was suitable as well as accessible to the camps but kept running into closed doors. After much prayer and discernment, God revealed a new plan: to open four smaller schools, each hosting 50-60 children, and locate them closer to the children whose families are spread out into other parts of Lebanon. Two schools are now operating in the Bekaa, a third will soon open north of Beirut in Minyara and a fourth will be located south of the capital in Tyre. All of these schools will be under the direct supervision and guidance of a local Presbyterian church.
Dr. Mary Mikhael, retired President of the Near East School of Theology in Beirut, has taken a deep interest in these schools and is on the front line of assisting the Synod with their startup and running. She recently visited the Bekaa schools and wrote me, “What a great day to see one hundred camp children in two schools! I could not hold my tears. So clean, so joyful, so lovely.” She was particularly touched by a nine-year-old girl whom Mary had asked if she had been in school in Syria before her family fled to Lebanon. “Her last grade completed was kindergarten.” When asked what they would like to be when they grow up, many of them said “teachers.” Mary, who is herself an elder from the Presbyterian Church in Syria, wondered aloud if they would like to go back to Syria one day. With one voice, they shouted “YES!”
All of these children come from Muslim families, by the way, and they will be surrounded by Christ’s love as embodied in the presence of their teachers and caretakers in the schools. May our resurrected Lord bring these little ones – and their families – a revelation of his hope…his joy…his peace.
Associate Director for Partnership Development
The news coverage of the largely Middle Eastern refugee crisis which continues to unfold in Europe has brought shocking images, inescapably, into our homes. The unsettling reality of this situation is that most of the refugees have not made it out of the Middle East and have become the humanitarian burden of nearby countries. When you compound the crisis with 3.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq and 7.6 million IDPs in Syria, you will appreciate why The Outreach Foundation has chosen to focus our efforts on finding resources for our church partners in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan as they care for neighbors – Christian, Muslim and Yazidis – who have had to flee to a safer area in their own country or found a safe haven across a nearby border. In all these places and through all these efforts, Christ is glorified and his name made known. 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 words, “do not grow weary in well doing.” We invite you to continue with us on this journey of accompaniment. Gifts for the Refugee/IDP Appeal or for the Syria Appeal may be made by clicking HERE or by mailing a check to our Franklin office.