Refugee/Internally Displaced Persons Appeal - August 2016 Update
In the midst of multiple crises unfolding in the Middle East, The Outreach Foundation has used your generous gifts to strengthen the hand of Christian partners in the region who are the face of Christ to those who have lost everything…
Hope Reconstituted, One Stitch at a Time
In a small, aluminum prefab classroom, baking under the relentless summer sun that nurtures the lush vegetable crops for which the nearby Beqaa Valley in Lebanon is famous, hope is being incubated. 40 young Syrian Muslim women, mostly refugees from Aleppo and some of them mothers and widows, are learning to sew. Izdihar Kassis, a local pastor’s wife and a dynamo for Christ’s Kingdom, has run several faith-based non-profits and has now created Together for the Family to address the refugee crisis. She could not ignore the desperate situation of the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees whose tents she could easily see from her hilltop home in Zahle. Particularly moved by the women who received barely enough relief assistance to survive (not to mention their families) and for whom the struggling Lebanese economy held few opportunities, she began to pray about how to equip them to earn a living and still be able to care for their young children.
About that time, Izdihar met a Christian refugee from Damascus who had found her way to the nearby Baptist church. Shafiya [Sha FEE yah] had taught sewing in Syria and had run a thriving sewing business. Depressed by her own circumstances and used to an active, professional life, Shafiya wondered what she could do. Soon, Izdihar and Shafiya opened the small school – and found it necessary to run two shifts of students for the six-month course due to the high demand. A second school is about to open adjacent to another camp. Some of the students shared their dreams with us.
Mariam always dreamed of being a seamstress back in Syria. She is eager to be free of working in the fields where she is often verbally abused by the men. Alia is only 13 and had only completed the third grade before she fled the war. Her greatest desire is to be able to make clothing for her mother. Sajida envisions making wedding dresses, which are so in demand that a line forms of the women eager for her creations. Izdihar prays with the women and shares the Good News with them. Shafiya assured us that “Jesus and the Holy Spirit are at work in this place. It is clear the Hope has a name here.”
Later in the day outside that same prefab classroom, a circle of red plastic chairs has been set up. For more than a year, Izdihar has been running a “well baby” ministry for women in the camps. As a mother herself, she had been touched by how many of the women she met in the camps or on the streets of the city had sickly babies, largely because they were unable to get the necessary nutrition for these infants when their own precarious health led to inadequate nursing. She has now enrolled 40 mothers in a program where they can receive formula, diapers and medicines for one year. As she and her volunteers visit the women in their homes, she is often drawn into their larger needs and advocates for them with local doctors and hospitals so that they get severely reduced or free medical services as needed. She had just secured a heart operation for one child and was monitoring a baby boy who had a severe laceration on his tiny head after falling off of a table where his mother had placed him when a snake entered their tent. Most of these women come from a Kurdish background and have little more than a cultural association with Islam – they are open to the Gospel, and Izdihar is not shy to share it.
Associate Director for Partnership Development
The Continuing Need
Even as the Middle Eastern refugee crisis continues, the unsettling reality of this situation is that most of these 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 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 to care for their neighbors – Christian and Muslim – who have had to flee to a safer area in their own country or find a haven across a nearby border. In all these places and through all these efforts, Christ is glorified and his name made known. 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 Refugee/IDP Appeal may be made by sending a check to our main office or by clicking HERE.