A letter from Elmarie and Scott Parker serving in the Middle East, based in Lebanon
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)
Blog: Find a World
This summer, four years will have passed since we began our training as PC(USA) mission co-workers for Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Our recent decision to renew our commitment to a second term was not a difficult one—we are convinced that Jesus Christ is profoundly active in this region. It is our joy to partner with the Christians who are faithfully living in a way that is making the reputation of Jesus known, and we are so grateful that you have been a vital part of this journey.
As we write this letter, we are traveling through northeast Syria with a team of 12 PC(USA) congregational members. Our team is meeting Presbyterian congregations in Kamishly, Hassekeh, Malkiah and Damascus who have been under immense threat and pressure over the past six years. A trip like this has a number of purposes: understanding the experience of families living in the middle of war, learning how we can partner with and support the vital work of the church here and simply offering encouragement to our brothers and sisters who are serving Jesus Christ on the frontlines.
The moments that stand out on this (and every) trip are the ones experienced by our team members: reaching past the language barrier to engage with new friends; exchanging email addresses; learning how things are much different from what they see on the news; joyfully handing out small toys to local kids. These trips help create fruitful relationships that will continue to have ripples as participants return to their home congregations in the U.S. We have been able to take part in three visits to Syria since the beginning of the year, and we spent Holy Week and Easter with our Iraqi partners in Kirkuk, Basra and Baghdad.
While in Iraq, a few days before Easter, a Syriac Catholic priest we met through our Iraqi Presbyterian partners gave us a tour of his sanctuary in Basra. When asked if the church would be holding any special Holy Week services, the priest replied, “Sure, but few people ever attend.” Then he confided about the discouraging situation for Christians in Basra: “We feel persecuted by the Muslims . . . . The people here are suffering (and) persecuted, and the Church can’t protect them. We can’t tell them not to leave.”
But as we left the sanctuary, Scott noticed a shrine to Mary constructed just outside. “Yes, we built that so the Muslims can come to pray,” the priest said. “They revere Mary like we do, but many of them will not go inside a church. So we have it outside.” That powerfully revealing moment captures the spirit of the many Middle Eastern Christians we have met—they are under great pressure but are committed to faithfully following, serving and representing Jesus Christ.
A significant development in our work this past year has been Scott beginning to work with the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) as a communications specialist and program developer. As part of this work, he was able to spend a week in Damascus in February to visit and write several articles about their work.
This role with MECC is not only giving Scott another avenue for his storytelling ministry, but it is also allowing him to create a program that helps Iraqi refugee children develop emotional resiliency through music, art and storytelling.
Scott continues his storytelling ministry not only through MECC, but through entries that may be found on findaworld.org, his blog site. Through this blog and his Facebook page, Scott shares stories of the everyday encounters we have with people in the region and the faithful work of our partners in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
This summer we will be coming to the U.S. for four months as part of our end-of-term itineration. We will be crisscrossing the country between June 24 and the end of October and will be participating in the New Wilmington Mission Conference, Big Tent and the Sharing Conference.
While we wish we could, we will not be able to visit each one of the churches that has been a vital part of our sending and ministry. Still, we do hope to see as many of you as possible.
We are so grateful for your support and prayers that have made these past four years possible. We look forward to partnering with you as the next part of the journey unfolds.
In Christ’s Joy,
Elmarie and Scott
You may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.