Hope for Syrian Students in Syria and Lebanon - November 2017 Update

Syria and Lebanon

This project was formerly known as “Schools for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon.”

At the Top of the Hill: Hope

When I was anticipating knee replacement surgery, I once counted the steps: 106 of them leading up a steep hill to an old school building in Kab Elias owned by the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon in western Lebanon. Into this small country, about the size of Connecticut and with a population of only four million, Syrian refugees had been streaming (over one million now registered, 60% of those being school-aged children). Our Presbyterian family there (the Synod) discerned fairly quickly what God was calling them to do in this crisis – educate those children, many of whom had been out of school for several years because of the war or had never had the chance to even begin their schooling. This “re-purposed” school overlooking the Beqaa Valley, where a sea of white refugee tents is visible, would be joined by four others: Tripoli, Tyre, Minyara and Rayak. All five (with a sixth planned) are under the oversight of their local Presbyterian church with many of the teachers coming from those churches. More than 350 little lives are being embraced by this demonstration of Christ’s love and imparted with Christian values that are impacting their families, as well. 

Just a few weeks ago, I revisited the school at Kab Elias and spent some time with Ramak Abboud, the principal. Her husband, Tony, is the pastor of the Presbyterian Church down the road in Khirbet Kanafer. Since I was here in July, Ramak has had to add two more classes as her student body has increased to 102. More children are awaiting admission, if only there was space for them! As in all five of these schools, a Syrian curriculum is being used in the hope that, when they go back, they might more easily fit back into the “normal system.” Math, Science, Arabic Language and Ethics are the four main areas of the Syrian curriculum. The Synod schools have also added English to their studies. Age is not the determinant of what grade you will enter in these special schools, but rather the last level achieved before your schooling was abruptly ended by the war. 

Ramak told a tender story of a mother who brought her teenage daughter, eager for her to learn. Ramak discovered, after testing, that she could barely read or write. Ramak talked with the girl and asked if she were brave enough to join the second-grade group even though she was many years older. She was eager to learn, “swallowed her pride,” and is now flourishing there.

Ramak also shared an experience about the impact of the Christian values which they impart. One of the young boys had been told by his father to steal walnuts from the trees at a nearby house. Having been taught that stealing was wrong, he refused to do this and his father struck him. When Ramak learned of this, she went to meet with the family and gently challenged them. The father, recognizing that Ramak and the school have set a “better course” for his son than had he, apologized and thanked Ramak for the positive influence of the school. 

Dr. Mary Mikhael, retired president of the Near East School of Theology, now volunteers with the Synod to liaison with partners like The Outreach Foundation on behalf of the ministries of the Synod. Recently, she asked the five principals to reflect upon the ministry being done in Christ’s name. Ramak shared this: As a servant of the church, working with refugee children was a blessed opportunity. My church and I got involved socially, educationally and spiritually with the children and their families. The Church has to be open for the marginalized and the needy, no matter whom. The Gospel is for all. Thanks be to God! Dr. Mikhael, who is herself a Presbyterian elder from Syria, sums up the call of her Church in this way: It is a fact that the Church feels, at its depth, the pain of the refugees, and does its best to reach out and provide whatever it can to ease the suffering and human pain…Indeed, the church is commanded to preach the good news of Jesus, and to teach all Jesus had taught and is sent to the world with this great commission by the Risen Lord. If the Church is to carry out its Great Commission after the example of Christ, its life has to be that of a servant in the world.

Marilyn Borst, Associate Director of Partnership Development

Through this and many other efforts of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, Christ is glorified and his name made known. We invite you to continue with us on this journey of accompaniment. Gifts for Hope for Syrian Students may be made HERE or by sending a check to our office. In addition to supporting these refugee schools the Synod, with our permission, may use some of our gifts for Syrian refugee children who with financial assistance can attend the regular Synod schools in Lebanon; a small portion sometimes assists Presbyterian university students in Syria who require help with transportation and housing.