Dear Friends and Partners in the Christian Service,
Greetings in the name of our Christ the Lord. Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends and partners!
As the Season of Advent starts once again, it is our honor and pleasure to wish you a very blessed Season. May the coming who has come and is always coming, fill your lives with Light, Love, and Hope!
God has come to our world in the child of Bethlehem to give the world peace and joy. May you all, and the world, see the Light, and hear the song of the angels:
Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors! (Luke 2:14, NRSV)
We praise God who has allowed the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL) to hold their General Assembly November 23-26, 2015.
The Syrian tragic events have prevented such a meeting for the last five years. Sadly, but as unexpected, our delegates from the northeast of Syria were unable to attend, even though they were stuck in the airport of Qamishly for hours on the waiting list. Flying is the only way to get out of that area due to unsafe roads that are controlled by armed groups. We pray to God the Almighty to give Syria His peace so that normal life can be resumed.
The General Assembly went fine, thanks be to God. The Theme of the meeting was: "Eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace."
And as a sign of this unity our sister Gunilla Ikponmwosa, and the Rev, Daniel Ibrahim from the Uniting Church in Sweden were with us.
Thus, as of the New Year 2016, NESSL will have new leadership, which will officially be announced later. Please pray with us that the church will be guided by the Spirit of God and in the bond of peace, to be able to continue its ministry and live its witness.
The General Assembly listened to pastors and elders from the churches, their struggles, needs and hopes. In the following I will share with you their news:
- Aleppo church: The church and its facilities were tragically destroyed in 2013. The congregation continued its worship and activities on a fifth floor apartment that belonged to the church, which in fact is the home of the pastor. With the lack of electricity it was a struggle for people to climb to the fifth floor. So it was decided to have a pre-constructed church so to help specially the elderly to attend the worship. This will soon be completed. The congregation maintains most of its activities but on a smaller scale than used to be.
- Homs church: In 2012 the church was attacked by the armed groups. A direct rocket hit the roof and destroyed it, the library was burned with the Bible copies, as well as the wooden Cross, and all the doors and windows of the church. Thanks be to God that a church member was able to rescue the archive of the church and all documents. The facilities of the church included the pastor's home and the Synod's offices all have been attacked and the basement was used as a center to teach the Islamic lessons and behavior.
With the special agreement between the formal Syrian army and the rebels the church was retuned.
Rebuilding and renovation started soon and with the help of our partners, most specially the PDA of the PCUSA, the sanctuary is now mended and the other facilities will soon be all renewed. They hope that by the Christmas time all the church activities will be held in the church. May all Syria soon be renewed with God's help and mercy.
3. Ghassanieh church: occupied by the rebels in 2013, all the congregation was displaced. We are told that the church is being abused badly, but no details. That will be the situation until the town is freed.
4. Idleb church: The city fallen into the hands of ISIS in March of 2015. Even though the church was not functioning due to the fact the all left the city much earlier. At the moment most inhabitant of the city are displaced. No information about our church condition.
5. Damascus church: In 2014, a rocket fell in the yard of the church, and in August 2015 a rocket hit the roof of the church and got into the stage of the church, causing damage but no human injuries praise be to God.
Again with the help of our partners, most specially the Outreach Foundation mending the roof is in proses. The church is in the Christian part of old Damascus, an area that has been attacked with rockets from far like never before.
6. Kharaba church: In 2012 the church facilities were occupied by the rebels from the surrounding villages, and used as they wished. constructed tents and hosted displaced from the area, and have made changes in the facilities and around it. In 2014 the town fell into the hands of armed groups. Thus the church is totally occupied and we know nothing about what damage, changes, destruction, is made.
All other churches, thanks be to God continue its life and ministries normally, yet no church was saved from seeing many of its members move or emigrate.
As for the relief work of NESSL, the following is a summary from the report of the Relief Director:
NESSL began its relief work in 2012 with the displaced families from the church in Homs, most specially after what was known as the "black Sunday) Feb. 26, 2012 when the 50,000 Christians in Homs were totally displaced (80 persons were left who were doing relief work).
However, the relief work widened bit by bit until it included Presbyterians from most of the Syrian churches (16 churches).
In 2013, NESSL had a trained person to direct the relief work .
Thus, first of August 2013, wanting to be a church for all, NESSL launched its major relief project centered in Damascus. Meanwhile the standing committee of Social work trained local committees to work in 16 locations so to do the work.
Relief material included shares of food, Hygiene material, medicine, and a fair amount of cash to help with renting new homes.
Within one year those committees distributed 14,000 shares, equal to 64,000,000 Syrian Pounds.
In 2015, NESSL began two major projects:
- The winter project: It was dramatically urgent to help people be able to Fuel for heating, gas for cooking, Electricity, water. 960 shares of Fuel, same of water and electricity were distributed.
- Renovating partially or completely destroyed homes in Homs to allow people be able to return to their homes. Set aside $95,000.00 to renovate 44 homes in old Homs, work in process.
The other major project in process of getting ready is the educational project for Syrian children from the camps in Lebanon.
We hope to accommodate up to 200 children in the hope of rescuing them from the streets. This have faced many obstacles to start due to much politics in those areas meant to start. However, we are racing with time to get all things in order.
NESSL is also appealing for a major project inside Syria for the year 2016.
This will include continuation of:
- help to students be able to get their school needs (2000 students) several levels.
- Fuel and electricity (one-time) for 1000 families.
- Rent help (twice) for 250 families.
- An amount to be agreed upon for medical help.
This has been a summery of the issues presented to the General Assembly. We appeal for all our partners to continue praying with us and stretching their helping hand so that we can continue our ministry together for the Glory of God.
Your Faithfulness will be honored by God!
The United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) continue to offer support for the work of many partners in the region to provide humanitarian response to the needs of Syrian refugees. Please consider supporting the work of Global Ministries' partners' relief efforts in and around Syria. You can do that through One Great Hour of Sharing (UCC), the Week of Compassion (Disciples), or through Global Ministries directly.