Iraq Appeal - November Update
Note: In early October my colleague Rev. Nuhad Tomeh and I brought a small team to Iraq to meet the three Presbyterian congregations there – Basrah, Baghdad and Kirkuk. Rev. Ginny Teitt, Ms. Gretchen Tilly, Mr. Sichan Siv (a former ambassador to the UN) and Rev. Tony Lorenz were an encouraging presence to the Faithful Church there and we were all, in turn, moved and inspired by those who can say with confidence that they, “rejoice in their suffering, because suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Rev. Tony Lorenz shares here his reflection on our time in Kirkuk. Rev. Haitham Jazrawi, the pastor, was away tending to family matters, but we were well cared for by this wonderful congregation!
Marilyn Borst, Associate Director for Partnership Development
“How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity.” Psalm 133:1 Those words kept running through my mind our first night in Kirkuk. As their children laughed and played, we sat in the church yard with members of three families including Nashwan, whose brother had been killed in Mosul by ISIS, and Zena and their two children, who still live here at the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Kirkuk. We listened as they told us about what had happened four years ago when ISIS attacked the Nineveh Plain, home to a number of historically Christian villages including Qaraqosh, where these families had lived. We heard them speak about leaving their homes with only a few moment’s notice and fleeing, first to Erbil and then to Kirkuk. We cried as they told us about knocking on the doors of the Presbyterian Church, hoping to find a place of safety and refuge.
In the months and years that have followed, these faithful Christians, most from the Syriac Catholic Church, have found not only safety and refuge but also a warm welcome and genuine community at the Presbyterian Church. At one time, 15 families lived here. They were in apartments that had been converted from Sunday School rooms, fellowship space, church offices and even the church library. Many of the families have made their way home as safety and stability have returned to this region. But even now, after four years, the church has promised that those who want to stay will have a place here as long as they want or need.
As we enjoyed brightly colored Iraqi ice cream, the families remaining at the church expressed uncertainty about their futures. Most of them plan to stay in Kirkuk for now. They have jobs here and their children have friends. Several of the people living at the church work in the church’s kindergarten, the Good News Kindergarten, which is a joyful place, full of eager young students who are excited to learn. We visited the kindergarten and nursery on Sunday morning and we were blessed by the smiles and enthusiasm of the students. Then we visited the Chaldean Catholic Cathedral and spent some time with two of the priests serving there. In the evening we returned to the Presbyterian Church for worship. One of our group members, the Rev. Ginny Teitt, preached. And after worship we just spent time together, Iraqi Christians, American Christians – the people of Jesus.
As we sat under the stars that first night in Kirkuk, dwelling together, we heard Elder Sameer, our host, talk about the importance of faith and trusting in God, especially under extremely difficult circumstances. “It’s all we have,” he said. It turns out that when you have Jesus, you have enough.” AMEN, Elder Sameer, AMEN!
Rev. Tony Lorenz
Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Carlisle, PA
Gifts marked for the Iraq Appeal, which supports the mission and ministry of the three Presbyterian churches in Iraq along with relief efforts for Iraqis displaced by war, may be sent to our office at the address below or you may make a gift online at www.theoutreachfoundation.org.
Read more about the Iraq Appeal HERE.