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“While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.” —Luke 24:51

Middle Eastern Emerging Ministries
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Sherree May 
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Meeting the spiritual needs of refugees

The Rev. George and Mary Bitar

The Rev. George Bitar, pastor of the Middle Eastern Presbyterian Fellowship in Tucson, AZ, with his wife Mary Haddad. Photo by Amgad Beblawi.

Being a refugee and its outcomes — which may include loss of home, identity, family, career and ancestral roots, along with the failures and challenges of life in a new country — cause spiritual crises for many. The spiritual needs of refugees are often threatened and unmet. These include safety and security, trust, happiness, healthy judgment, values, hope, faith, self-respect and purpose of life. An environment of suffering, culture shock and victimization may leave people feeling like failures and rob them of their ability to make long-term decisions in their new lives. The fulfillment of their spiritual needs, however, leads to restoration of a sense of purpose for their lives and results in the tendency to care about and to help others.

In the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, thousands of Iraqi Christian refugees (Assyrian and Arab) have arrived in the United States in search of safety and stability. Middle Eastern Presbyterian congregations are committed to welcoming, praying for, assisting and doing mission among refugees from the Middle East. When they arrive their needs often are overwhelming. Yet God has called these congregations to this mission and with God’s help these Presbyterians seek to be faithful in their response.

Among these congregations are St. John’s Assyrian Presbyterian Church in Turlock, California (Stockton Presbytery), and the Middle Eastern Presbyterian Fellowship in Tucson, Arizona (Presbytery de Cristo).


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