Up the dingy stairway to a small and unremarkable second floor apartment we went, as we almost always do when we come to Beirut. Here in this crowded Christian suburb of Bouchrieh (Booch-REE-ah) is one of our precious partners in God’s mission – the Our Lady Dispensary. A few of our Outreach Foundation team, who would soon head into Syria, had come a day early: Julie and Steve Burgess, Rob Weingartner and myself. For our short time together with Grace Boustani, the social worker who oversees this mission of the Middle East Council of Churches, and with Rola Al Kattar, a volunteer who conducts the trauma healing program with children, we lived into the promise put forth on the plaque which adorns the pale green wall of the narrow entry hallway: You Will Be Blessed …Read More
Late last fall, we sent this word on behalf of the three Christian refugee ministries with which we partner in Lebanon and Jordan: “winter is coming.” Your response over the next month allowed us to make available $25,000 to be shared by Together for the Family and Our Lady Dispensary in Lebanon and the Orthodox Initiative of the Middle East Council of Churches in Jordan. Soon, food parcels, blankets and heaters plus medicines and assistance with rent were bringing Light and Hope to thousands of Syrians and Iraqis, both Muslim and Christian. In Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley, where Together for the Family serves many who live in tents, the context turned dire recently when intense winter storms brought bitter temperatures along with rain and snow. On January 16th I received an unsettling update on these vulnerable Syrian refugees from Mrs. Izdihar Kassis, founder and director for Together for the Family:Read More
And winter is coming …
They are Iraqi Christians who fled ISIS and Syrian Muslims were driven out by war. They found safety in Lebanon and Jordan but not much else, as they quickly overwhelmed the capabilities of the governments who opened their borders to receive them. International aid agencies came to their assistance but so much more was needed, especially considering that more than 60% of them are school-age children. The numbers are hard to grasp: 1.3 million Syrians came to Lebanon – in a country of only four million people. In both Jordan and Lebanon, many want to go home but their countries are not yet stable. Others are in the long queue to immigrate to the West. Most just do not know what the future holds for them and their families. Some have made a temporary life in tents. Others crowd together in small rooms. Despair is found in abundance. Hope is a rare commodity.Read More
In late July I took a small team of women (Sheryl Wood, Evangeline Paschal, Julie Burgess) to Lebanon to participate (for the fifth year!) in a women’s conference held by the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. With almost 80 women joining us from the Presbyterian churches in Syria, our week together left us with hope as we heard many, many stories of how the war is winding down and peace is on the horizon. But the harder reality is that most of the refugees who fled into Lebanon from Syria are not yet able to return home, largely because they have no home to which to return….and will not, into the foreseeable future. The ministries which serve these refugees continue to engage deeply and compassionately in serving these “neighbors” in Christ’s name. Our team visited with two of them and Julie Burgess reflects upon that experience below (excerpt from trip blog published July 19).
Marilyn Borst, Associate Director for Partnership Development
They are the most vulnerable of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, these babies…
Izdihar Kassis, director of an outreach ministry called Together, for the Family, met Muhammad when he was only one month old. His family had fled Aleppo and ended up in the Beqaa Valley in western Lebanon. His father found part-time work in construction, but the only home they could afford was a tent – leaky and cold – on top of an apartment building. The mother had to undergo a C-section since there were some complications during Muhammad’s delivery. The United Nations helped with birth expenses, but the family didn’t have resources for Muhammad’s basic needs like milk and diapers.Read More
Every blessing you receive is for you to be grateful and to pass it on. We remain committed to our mission, the mission that our Lord Jesus Christ entrusted to us: we must continue to be there for the stranger, the refugee, the child and the most vulnerable. We want to be his ambassadors, and we are always open to be used as tools for our Lord. We are aware that with the little we offer to those people we are making a big difference. This is an opportunity for everyone to step in with us, hand in hand, to continue this work, as partnership is what our Lord Jesus Christ meant when he said, “for where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” These words of Wafa Goussous, who directs the Orthodox Initiative (of the Middle East Council of Churches) in Amman, come from deep within her heart. For it is into the midst of her nation of Jordan that tens of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi refugees have sought safety and help... and The Outreach Foundation has come alongside this ministry, over the past two years, supported by your generous gifts.Read More
The Years the Locusts Have Eaten
How does one keep faith following a sustained tragedy? The prophet Joel importuned God, in the aftermath of a disaster in Judah, concerned that even the priests were doubting God’s presence asking, “Where is their God?!?” God responded, taking “pity on his people”: I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations…I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…
In August, I spent a week with Outreach partners in Jordan who are ministering to refugees in Jordan. The Orthodox Initiative, which we support, is under the umbrella of the Middle East Council of Churches; its director, Wafa Gassous, has a huge heart for Iraqi Christians who were driven out of their homes by ISIS in Mosul and from the surrounding villages. 250 of these families have found a haven at the Syrian Orthodox Church in Amman. I was with them on the morning when modest food parcels were distributed: rice, sugar, flour, pasta, tomato sauce, tuna, corned beef, oil and tea filled bright blue bags, neatly arranged in the courtyard of the church. Inside the crowded church hall, the families gathered. As their names were called, they came up to a table in front and presented their “ID” – for all of them, this was a photocopy of their UNHCR Asylum Seeker Certificate. They were given a slip of paper and then took that “receipt” out to the courtyard to receive their parcel.Read More
The Outreach Foundation celebrates your continuing generosity to our Refugee/IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) Appeal. Your gifts have allowed us to undergird the ministry of our partners in the Middle East as they work to renew hope and healing in Christ’s name. The following story was written by Julie Burgess, a member of West Hills Presbyterian Church in Omaha, who has traveled often with The Outreach Foundation to the Middle East.
The Gift of Grace
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 1:3)
We know that grace is a gift of God and it comes through Jesus, as Paul so aptly reminds us when he begins his letters.
Grace to you…
There is a ministry in Beirut, Lebanon, where those words are not only lived out, but they are lived out literally by a woman named Grace, who is a gift of God to the thousands of refugees who have found their way from the war zones of Iraq and Syria to Our Lady Dispensary. Our Lady Dispensary is housed in a nondescript building supplied by the Syrian Orthodox Church whose bishop is in the church across the street. It is one of those places where the phrase, “you can’t judge a book by its cover” comes to mind.Read More
Doubles and Triples
I just finished reading an inspiring report written by one of The Outreach Foundation’s partners in Jordan, the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC). For the past few years, with your generous gifts, The Outreach Foundation has supplied funds for MECC’s ministry with some of the 2.7 million – million – Iraqi and Syrian refugees who have sought a haven in this country which, admirably and with great dignity, refers to them as “guests.” MECC’s “hands and feet” for this ministry has been the Greek Orthodox Church which has been faithfully ministering to these refugees and bringing them glimpses of Hope and Light. The following excerpts and photos are taken from that report on their Winter Appeal, which focused on the “Orthodox Initiative (OI).”Read More
Beauty for Ashes
In a bustling, lower middle-class and predominantly Christian suburb of Beirut, thousands of “brokenhearted” refugees from Iraq and Syria are being “bound up” by ministries which The Outreach Foundation – because of your generous gifts – has helped to support. At the Our Lady Dispensary (OLD), a social service outreach center of the Middle East Council of Churches, social worker Grace Boustani and her small team are impacting the lives of 1,200 families. They come not only for food and medical care, but to participate in educational seminars as well as summer and holiday programs for themselves and their children which offer hope through a reminder that there is abundant life beyond their traumatic circumstances.Read More
In a small, aluminum prefab classroom, baking under the relentless summer sun that nurtures the lush vegetable crops for which the nearby Beqaa Valley in Lebanon is famous, hope is being incubated. 40 young Syrian Muslim women, mostly refugees from Aleppo and some of them mothers and widows, are learning to sew. Izdihar Kassis, a local pastor’s wife and a dynamo for Christ’s Kingdom, has run several faith-based non-profits and has now created Together for the Family to address the refugee crisis.Read More
by Marilyn Borst
In the midst of multiple crises unfolding in the Middle East, The Outreach Foundation has used your generous gifts to strengthen the hands of Christian partners in the region. They are the face of Christ to many who have lost everything…
Siham and Jeries Abd Rabbo are a Palestinian couple from Bethlehem who are serving Muslim refugees on behalf of the Shepherd Society – the mission outreach of Bethlehem Bible College.
Although the tragic events in Iraq from the summer of 2014 have mostly faded from our daily news cycles, the past is very much present for Rev. Haitham Jazrawi and his congregation at the Presbyterian Church in Kirkuk. It began with a persistent knocking at the church’s gate late one night. It was soon inescapably evident in the streets around town as entire families stood dazed and bewildered, clutching small parcels and, for the fortunate ones, a suitcase containing a few changes of clothing and their important documents. And then the reports soon reached their ears of entire congregations of the Syrian Orthodox Church seeking haven in safer villages not far from Kirkuk….Read More
Located just 20 miles due east of Beirut, the Bekaa Valley stretches for 75 miles and lays claim to the richest agricultural land in the country where wheat, corn, cotton and an array of vegetables flourish. Its vineyards have given rise to a wine industry that is now world renowned. The Bekaa is also now home to over 370,000 of the 1.1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, many of whom have been living in tents in dismal camps for years – and most of them are children. In a country of only four million, the Lebanese public schools are able to accommodate only a fraction of these Syrian refugee children.Read More
As this new year begins, The Outreach Foundation celebrates your generosity in responding to our Refugee/IDP (Internally Displaced Person) Appeal. Your gifts of over $99,000 have allowed us to undergird the ministry of our partners in the Middle East as they work to renew hope and healing in Christ’s name, such as the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC). The following story was shared by Ms. Wafa Gassous, Director of MECC in Jordan…Read More