Syria Appeal - March 2018 Update
Pastries and Pizza, Peace and Possibilities in Homs
The pastor who had served this 162-year-old Presbyterian church for 37 years had just retired. Young Mofid Karjili, the new pastor, was eager and excited to preach for his first time to the 140 families now under his care. His wife, Micheline, and young son, Samir, were looking forward to moving into the spacious pastor’s apartment adjacent to the sanctuary. It was January 29, 2012. Homs. Within a few days, however, fanatical groups moved in and took over the largely-Christian neighborhood. Mortars began to fly and soon nearby churches and homes were in ruins. The roof of the Presbyterian Church was in tatters from shelling; the family’s apartment was destroyed. The formerly bustling streets were emptied of their residents – some 60,000 Christians.
It would be 2 ½ years – May 10, 2014 – until the guns would be silenced and the fanatics driven out. The bishop of the Greek Orthodox church called Rev. Mofid and said it was safe to come back. He was there the next day. On the wall of the church was written “Hey, dogs, ISIS is coming for you.” Mofid would later learn that ISIS had used the facilities to recruit young men for their evil work – and to torture those who resisted.
I visited Homs in November of 2014. A lot of the rubble had been cleared from the streets, but most of the buildings were in ruin – floors had pancaked; where walls still stood, no glass remained in the windows. I remember seeing a five-story apartment building whose outer wall had been cleanly sheared off, given a view into “lives interrupted”: a chandelier still dangling from a ceiling, an elegant Renaissance portrait on a wall, a colander visible in a kitchen cabinet when the door had been blown ajar…
Three and half years later, many families are back in their homes (the ones which were not beyond repair) and many of the “usual ministries” of this active congregation never really stopped, even in the midst of heavy fighting – such as their home for the elderly and a school which offers kindergarten through high school for more than 1,000 students. But the devastation of the war birthed new ways to be the Church: medical outreach to the poor, a reconciliation ministry with teens, and a bakery…
Thanks to your gifts to our Syria Appeal, Micheline and some of the women of her congregation opened the Peace Kitchen, just down the street from the church. It is intended to provide jobs to some women who had lost almost everything during the war, like Sofia. Here is her story, in her own words:
I didn’t know that Sunday June 2, 2012 would be the last day I see my beloved husband. He left that morning, after kissing me on the cheek, promising to come back bringing me a present for my 40th birthday. On that day, he went to our house, which the armed groups forced us to leave, to get some of our possessions. But when my husband entered the house, he was shot in the chest by a sniper and died instantly. Only five minutes prior to his death, he called me and said that all of our possessions were stolen.
Since that day, me and my three children were struck by the negative effects that incident had on our lives, especially my oldest son, who was with his dad when he was shot dead. It also affected my daughters who were in shock for the loss of their dad. I have been doing my best to support my children emotionally since then.
However, I defied the bad circumstances, and I did not give up. I went out to work so I could provide for the house. I worked in many places and restaurants, until Mrs. Micheline told me that she wants to help me have a job in a bakery to provide for my children. And I am so happy to have this job now.
The bakery recently received some special needs kids from the “Mustard Seed Brotherhood” which is related to the Convent of the Jesuit Nuns. The aim of the visit was to teach some of these kids how to bake, in case they did not have someone to provide for them in the future. And so, the Peace Kitchen is also becoming a “mission outpost” to the community.
Many of you are, no doubt, familiar with a “photo” sometimes seen in church Sunday School rooms that shows a long table, laden with food, stretching into infinity and captioned, “The Heavenly Banquet.” I submit to you this new version, coming out of war-torn-but-now recovering Homs, Syria, inspired by the Peace Kitchen – a place of hope and possibility, a place where good food is made with Love and served with Joy – and it all comes with a side of pickles!
Grace and peace…especially, peace,
Associate Director for Partnership Development
We thank God that you continue on this journey with us alongside the faithful, witnessing Church in Syria until peace is restored. You may send a gift to our office or make an online gift HERE by selecting "Syria Relief Appeal" under "Designation."
Read more about the Syria Appeal HERE.