Syria Appeal - September 2018

Bringing a child forward for baptism is always a sacred moment-holy ground-both for the parents and the congregation who, in our Reformed tradition, pledge to assist the family in raising that child to know Christ and to serve him. And there is little Christian Khatouf, pictured above with his two older brothers barely visible behind his mom, awaiting the water, old enough to know what is happening and seemingly “at home” in front of a “full house” in his home church in Nabek, Syria about 50 miles north of Damascus. As Christian looks up at the camera, he is also seeing a “wall of clergy” standing in the chancel, for his baptism had been delayed for just this moment in time – the rededication of his Presbyterian Church home that had been badly damaged by terrorists during the war.

On that Friday, August 10, an impressive delegation of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon had come: (pictured here, left to right) Rev. Jacob Sabbagh (Pastor of Fairouzeh Church), Rev. Hadi Ghantous (Synod Executive of Ecclesial and Spiritual Affairs Committee and Pastor of Minyara Church), Rev. Boutros Zaour (Synod Moderator and Pastor of Damascus Church), Rev. Joseph Kassab (Synod General Secretary) and Rev. Yousef Jabbour (Pastor of Homs Church), as well as local clergy from the Syriac, Melkite and Orthodox communities to celebrate the reopening of the church.

Rev. Joseph Kassab offered this reflection:

Less than three years ago when I came to office, the Kalamoun area (Nabek is a big town in that region) was under attack and later controlled by the rebels. The historic building of the church was hit. The history of mission in that region goes back to the Lutheran Danish Mission. After assessment by the Synod I approached German partners with the project for support. They sent around 22,000 Euro to finish the work. The few Protestant families of Nabek were determined to rebuild the sanctuary to worship and stress the continuity of their Protestant identity in the town, alongside other Christian communities. It was a blessed day. We are grateful to the little Protestant flock in Nabek. They have the faith and zeal to continue to witness for Christ among a majority of the non-Christian environment. They are respected by all communities due to the glorious past of missionary work in the region.

It is easy to forget that Christianity is deeply rooted in this region. Just outside Nabek is an active monastery of the Syriac Catholic Church that dates from the 6th century! Dedicated to St. Moses the Ethiopian, its monks grow their own food and raise livestock while welcoming visitors who are willing to journey along the steep road which begins in the town and then tapers to a footpath. A “reward” for this effort is to view the precious 11th and 12th century mosaics in the main church.

Rev. Kassab shared what is still needed to complete the Nabek renovation and as a trusted partner of The Outreach Foundation, was bold to invite us into the joyful and hope-filled rebirth of this church:

I had a thorough look around the church facilities. The church needs some additional work. The ancient steeple is still there but it received some damage and requires a careful and skillful repair (an old style tells about our old presence). Tiles are needed for the sanctuary floor, in addition to a brick canopy to protect people from both the rain and hot weather in the courtyard. A sum of $17,000 is enough to finish the work that is needed. I want The Outreach Foundation to encourage this little flock. They are young, faithful families who are determined to stay and be a witness. Your support will come to them with the words of Jesus: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom.” Luke 12:32

I thank God that you continue on this journey with us alongside the faithful, witnessing Church in Syria, especially now that peace is being restored. If you would like to designate a gift to the Nabek Church/Syria Appeal or make an additional gift for the general Syria Appeal, you can do so by sending a check to our office at the address below or by making an online gift HERE.

An electronic version of this update, which can be easily downloaded and shared with friends as well as members of your congregation, can be found on our website.

Marilyn Borst, Associate Director for Partnership Development

Read more about the Syria Appeal HERE.