Iraq Appeal - Good Shepherd School and Nursery - March 2019 Update
The faithful Presbyterian families in Iraq always amaze me. And the extended family of Rev. Farouk Hammo, pastor of the Baghdad Church, is a prime example. Despite decades of hardships, terror, sanctions, and uncertainty, there is a deep commitment in this congregation to “be the Church” in Iraq and beyond. Their numbers may have diminished, but not their zeal to make Christ known. Along with Farouk’s sisters and their families and his niece and her husband, the ministries of the church – for women, youth and kids as well as outreach to those who do not yet “lift high the cross” – go on. But nowhere is the church’s vision to be “salt and light” more evident than in the Good Shepherd Nursery and newly-opened elementary school.
When our Outreach team was there in late 2017, an old house which stood in front of the nursery school was being renovated to become the elementary school. Rev. Farouk and the school’s principal, Ban, who is a member of the church, proudly shared the results of a university study done on the city’s 400 private preschools: the Good Shepherd Nursery School (which now has 108 students) ranked #2! That nursery school now acts as the “feeder” for its elementary school, and Rev. Farouk and the staff are committed to maintaining that level of excellence.
As our October 2018 team (Ginny Teiit, Gretchen Tilly, Tony Lorenz, Sichan Siv, along with my colleague Nuhad Tomeh and I) learned, starting an elementary school has its challenges, some of which are financial, since it will be several years before there are enough students enrolled to cover the actual costs. In the fall they opened the first three grades: there was a “critical mass” of 20 students for grade one because those children were coming directly from the preschool/nursery. Grades two and three had only five students between them because the parents of earlier classes at the nursery had already enrolled their children elsewhere. This spring, the enrollment has climbed to 34 but it will be awhile before there is enough income to cover expenses especially for the salaries of qualified teachers, one who came with 40 years of teaching experience! But Farouk will continue to expand because they must add a grade each year in order to build the program and maintain their accreditation from the government (the Education Ministry is very supportive of these private schools, recognizing that they often offer a level of excellence that the government cannot achieve in its own schools as the country recovers from decades of instability.)
This summer, The Outreach Foundation will make it possible for two staff from the Blessed School in Beirut, which cares for autistic and blind children and young adults, to travel to Baghdad to train the school’s staff, as well as staff from the schools run by the churches in Kirkuk and Basrah.
Good desks are still needed for the Good Shepherd School plus a second mini-bus and assistance for the teachers’ salaries. And they are already “eyeing” an adjacent parcel of land which would serve as a high school in the future. “Time is limited,” observed Rev. Farouk. “We want to buy the entire street and open a clinic and other community outreach services – this is our new parish.” As to these “extra-large” dreams of such a small congregation? “We trust the Lord for every moment of our lives and ministry.” Big plans? Bigger God!!!
Associate Director for Partnership Development
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, or the Good Shepherd School and Nursery, may be sent to our office at the address below or you may make a gift online HERE.