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A Beautiful Mess, Fauwdea Helweh

A Letter from Elmarie and Scott Parker, serving in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria

Fall 2021

Write to Elmarie Parker
Write to Scott Parker

Individuals: Give online to E200504 for Scott and Elmarie Parker’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507569 for Scott and Elmarie Parker’s sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery)


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Dear friends,

After almost a year of COVID lockdowns and gas shortages and protests, the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) was finally able to start up Strong Kids again.

Barely an hour into the Strong Kids session, the entire floor was strewn with foam scraps, pom poms and pipe cleaners—the price one pays for integrating craft play with learning trauma skills. Iraqi and Syrian participants were still in full frenzy to put finishing touches on their masterpieces before their moms and big brothers came to pick them up. The usual chaos. Rana, our staff psychologist, looked up from a huddle of kids she was helping with the hot glue gun.

“I LOVE THIS MESS,” Rana beamed.

“Mess” is a pretty good word to describe life here in Lebanon right now. Over 60% of the population is living below the poverty line. Households are getting by on a few hours of daily generator power and usually little to no electricity from the power grid. The value of the Lira has sunk to 20,000 per dollar (compared to 1,500 two years ago), which means families are struggling just to put food on the table. Domestic abuse is rising as stressed-out families have run out of hope and ways to cope.

As my taxi-driver friend Abdu says, “Every day is a minus.”

And yet, it is in this mess that all sorts of life is happening.

Rana and I took advantage of the long hiatus between Strong Kids programs to develop new resources for helping refugee kids develop trauma resiliency. For the past year, I have been taking courses in the Trauma Resource Institute’s Trauma/Community Resiliency Model (TRM/CRM), then coaching Rana to use these therapeutic techniques during our Strong Kids sessions. Using a biology-based approach, they learn they don’t need to be ashamed about having trauma, but instead can learn a whole range of practical skills that improve their resiliency to traumatic experiences. As the kids learn these skills, they are then teaching them to their siblings at home.

Through learning these TRM/CRM skills, Strong Kids participants are finding that they can thrive even though life is pretty hard all around them right now.

Because schooling for refugee children has been one of the casualties of the crises here over the past two years, most of the kids currently attending Strong Kids don’t read or write. So, Rana and I have transferred the TRM/CRM skills into symbols. We put the symbols on huge posters, then give the kids laminated copies of the symbols to take and apply at home.

These are the skills Strong Kids participants are learning:
TRACKING: Noticing the unpleasant sensations in your body that indicate trauma—and the pleasant/neutral ones that indicate well-being.
RESOURCING: Drawing yourself to sensations of well-being by focusing on a memory/person/experience that gives you comfort or strength.
GROUNDING: Bringing yourself back to the present moment by connecting with the solid ground or a surface.
HELP NOW: Pulling yourself out of an overwhelming moment by using little tricks like naming the colors in the room or taking deep breaths.
GESTURING: Using hand and body movements that have personal meaning.
SHIFT-and-STAY: Moving from an unpleasant sensation in the body to a part of the body that is pleasant or neutral.

These skills are helping vulnerable kids learn how to “self-regulate” and thrive during these messy times.

Fauwda Helweh. In Arabic that means “Beautiful Mess.”

We remain so very grateful for the many ways you partner with us and Presbyterian World Mission in this work of experiencing the beauty of God at work in the midst of the immense challenges facing our partners in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. Thank you for your steadfast prayers, for your encouraging emails, your creative suggestions and inquiries of how to be connected with what God is up to here in the Middle East, your invitations to meet by Zoom, and your continuing financial partnership. It is truly a gift to be in this work together with you.

In Christ’s Service Together,

Scott and Elmarie Parker

Please read the following letter from Sara P. Lisherness, the interim director of World Mission:

Dear partners in God’s mission,

I don’t know about you, but daily my heart grows heavier. News about the pandemic, wars, wildfires, gun violence, racism, earthquakes and hurricanes cloud my vision. It’s hard to see hope; our world is in a fog. Yet we trust that God’s light and love transcend the brokenness of this time.

God is at work transforming the world, and you, through your prayers, partnership and encouragement, are helping us share this good news. Thank you for your faithful and gracious support of our mission personnel.

How can we see through the fog? What will the church be after the pandemic? Could it be that God is doing “a new thing” and is inviting us to perceive it? Through all the uncertainty we know that God’s steadfast love and care for all creation will prevail and that God’s Spirit is at work in each of us.

We all have an integral part to play in fulfilling God’s mission. As we seek to grow together in faithfulness there are three important steps I invite you to take in supporting our shared commitments to God’s mission:
Give – Consider making a year-end financial contribution for the sending and support of our mission personnel. Your support helps mission personnel accompany global partners as together they share the light of God’s love and justice around the world. Invite your session to include support for mission personnel in its annual budget planning.
Act – Visit The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study to delve deeper into the work God is doing through the PC(USA) and its partners in ministry around the globe:
Pray – Include our mission personnel, our global partners, and our common commitments to share God’s grace, love, mercy and justice in your daily prayers.

Thank you for your faithfulness to God’s mission through the Presbyterian Church. It is my prayer that you will continue to support this work with your prayers, partnership, and financial gifts in the coming year. We hope you will join us and our partners in shining a beacon of hope throughout the world.

In the light of hope,



Sara P. Lisherness, Interim Director
World Mission
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

To give please visit

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

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