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A letter from Nuhad Tomeh in Lebanon

July 2013

Waiting to return to Syria

And the King will answer them, "Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren [and sisters] you did it to me" (Mathew 25:40).

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

During my last visit to one of the many centers for displaced people in Syria, where hundreds of thousands have had to flee for their lives, leaving behind them everything, even personal documents and intimate belongings, I met some families that I knew from our Presbyterian churches in the area.  Northeast of the city of Homs the National Evangelical Presbyterian Synod of Syria and Lebanon had started a care program in a village, providing relief assistance and pastoral care, including a worship service once a week, for these displaced families.

The pastor of the Presbyterian church in the area reaching out to these refugees

There I met young women in her late 30s; she started telling me her story, which I would like to share with you. Talya, married and with two daughters, 17 and 15, and a son, 5 years old, lived in a big city where her husband worked as a barber, and they were doing well raising their family. She said, “We love our dearest Syria—it is the most beautiful land and people—but, unfortunately, it was kidnapped by the terrorists, who killed our dreams and our people… What a sad and painful situation we are in. And we have had to leave our humble but beautiful home, like thousands of other families.”

Talya explained how the situation had gotten so bad that when the children went off to school, they waited with worry and fear for their return, and when her husband went off to work, we wondered if he would make it back home again. The violence continued to increase, and they finally stopped sending the children to school because they were hearing that girls were being raped and boys kidnapped.  Everyone was carrying weapons. The “final straw” was when they learned that a relative had been taken from his home and killed, and so they decided to leave. Even now, weeks later, she thanks God for their safe passage out of that dangerous city and adds, “Thanks be to God and to the Presbyterian church, who have helped us very much and looked after our children and even gave me a part-time job helping in the distribution of the food relief to these displaced people…”

The children who are mentioned in the moderator’s news at the Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon, wondering about their future

My friends in Christ, this is a but one story of thousands—even hundreds of thousands—of the Syrian people and of the war that has been going on now for two and a half years!

The PC(USA)—Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and the Middle East desk—have made big efforts to raise funds for our main partner in Syria, the Synod of Syria and Lebanon (the Presbyterian church of these two countries). So far, with the support of the PC(USA) as well as The Outreach Foundation, the Synod has been able to help 169 families who were displaced from their homes, with plans in the coming month to reach 3,000 families with relief supplies.  Each family will receive a relief basket as well as $35 per month.

The Synod was also able, with the help of partners in the U.S.A. and Europe, to renovate and furnish one of its old schools in Lebanon near the Syrian boarder, which will now receive refugees coming to Lebanon. It has also begun bringing relief supplies to a Syrian refugee camp near the Syrian-Lebanese border.

Displaced Presbyetrians from the Homs Church gathering for worship in a safe area

More important than providing relief supplies was the solidarity visit by the PC(USA) General Assembly moderator this past May, along with the area coordinator and his delegation (see the moderator's commentary at http://www.pcusa.org/news/2013/6/1/life-and-death/).  About that same time another delegation of nine people from The Outreach Foundation led by Ms. Marilyn Borst, Associate Director, came. These visits reassured our partners of the support and love of sisters and brothers in the U.S.A. in spite of the danger of such visits at these times.

The Christian presence in the Middle East is in danger of being demolished, and so we hope and pray that this will not happen and that God, in His own way, will bring His people His everlasting peace there. Please also pray with me that the leaders of all nations—especially those who are, in one way or another, involved in the war in Syria—will work for peace and justice, ushering in God’s future where:

Damascus Presbyterian congrgation in spite of the vilonce never stop gathering for worship

The wolf will live with the lamb,
    the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
    and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
    their young will lie down together,
    and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
    and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
    on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea
 (Isaiah 11:6-9).

And please support the PC(USA)’s and The Outreach Foundation’s efforts to help the Syrians who have been internally displaced and the refugees that they will be able to return to their homes in the villages and the cities.

God’s blessings on us all,

Nuhad Tomeh

The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 306
Read more about Nuhad Tomeh's ministry

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