A Letter from Elmarie and Scott Parker, serving as regional liaison for Syria, Lebanon and Iraq (Elmarie) and as Associate for Ecumenical Partnerships (Scott)
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Dear friends and partners,
We invite you to continue listening-in to our partners from the Assembly of Evangelical (Presbyterian) Churches in Iraq as they share in their own words about the “Matthew 25” ministries to which they have been called. Many of you reading this letter have collaborated in some of these ministries through your prayers and financial gifts. Thank you!!! Please be in contact with me (Elmarie Parker) to extend your involvement or get involved for the first time.
From the National Evangelical (Presbyterian) Church in Kirkuk, Iraq
The Presbyterian Church in Kirkuk has had an extended ministry to families (both Muslim and Christian) displaced from the Nineveh Plain and Mosul since 2014. They have also carried out a Jail Visitation ministry since 2009. The below reports share a bit about both ministries—ministries that many of you have helped to support through your prayers and financial gifts.
First—a view into Jail Visitation ministry in Iraq as shared by Mrs. Mayada Jazrawi:
Dear Sisters & Brothers in Christ,
Greetings and Peace.
I write to you today to provide an update on a recent visit to the Kirkuk Women’s Jail. There were 52 women and 15 children.
As has been the case in our recent visits, the majority of the women in jail were widows of suspected ISIS terrorists. Many of them were familiar with us, including the newer ones who hadn’t met us before—the rest of the women had told them about us.
Initially, we couldn’t speak with them very much because of the large number of women and children. Additionally, the new cells had large columns that made seeing all of them at once difficult. So, we divided among them and started to speak with them and write down their prayer requests:
1) One of the Muslim women said she had gotten in the habit of wearing a cross because the feeling of the cross around her neck made her feel safe.
2) One of the women told me that we were a “crown atop their heads” (this is an extremely honorific thing to tell someone in Iraq).
3) Another woman thanked us—she had never seen people who wanted to plant peace and who exemplified the Love of God more than us.
4) Yet another woman said she wishes to go back to the detention camps because there they had some sort of academic schooling available for the children (schooling isn’t available in jail).
Friends, I ask that you continue to pray with us so that the Lord would reveal Himself to these women that they might know he’s the God of Peace and Mercy.
And may our Lord be with you all, now and evermore.
Friends, it’s entirely too easy and incredibly tempting for many of us in Iraq to fall prey to despair. Having been in a near-constant state of war since 1980, an entire generation of men and women under 40 have seen nothing but war. And for the past few years (especially under ISIS), far too many have seen their homes destroyed, children die, and livelihoods crushed.
It’s borderline arrogant to expect them to find hope in the face of their adversities. As I consider the pains of my fellow Iraqis, I’m reminded of the Lord’s word in Ezekiel 37, in what might be one of the strangest stories told in the Bible. The prophet Ezekiel has a vision in which he sees a valley full of dry bones. The Lord commands him to prophesy that the bones gather together, grow flesh, blood, and skin, and then to breathe and be brought to life. It’s one of the most beautiful displays of the Lord’s infinite sovereignty: He doesn’t simply raise people from the dead; no, he commanded bones, dry bones, to coalesce and grow life.
Like Ezekiel, who answered the Lord’s call to do the unlikely and seemingly absurd task of speaking to bones, so have you, our friends at PC(USA), answered the Lord’s call to speak life into your Iraqi brothers and sisters halfway across the world. I cannot overstate just how much your love, prayers, and support have continued to breathe life into the valley of death that previous wars and ISIS left behind. It is a testament to our Lord’s infinite grace that He has not forgotten his people; on the contrary, every single day He breathes life through His Church in Iraq. This is most especially seen through His blessing of our outreach to prisoners and refugees, Christian and otherwise.
We have continued to see more Christian internally displaced families returning to their homes that were previously occupied by ISIS. Though we of course miss having our brothers and sisters nearby worshiping with us, we are beyond delighted that they are able to return to their homes and rebuild their lives. Your gift was used as a part of the internally displaced resettlement programs that our church has continued to support. These projects include financing home repairs (most homes were burned by ISIS, and several were razed to the ground), purchasing new appliances, and ensuring that water and electricity are once again connected to the re-inhabited homes.
We continue to pray for you and for our Lord to strengthen your missions across the globe. We thank you for your trust in us, and for your unceasing love and support; we pray that our Lord continues to bless you in ways you cannot imagine. We ask that you continue to pray for us and walk alongside us as we all work to fulfill the same mission: to spread hope through the Gospel to the least of these.
As we all prepare for another season of Advent, a time of listening and waiting with fresh expectation for our Lord’s presence and work among us and through us, Scott and I offer our deep gratitude for your faithful partnership with us and with our sisters and brothers in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. You all are a deep encouragement to us. We invite you to continue in this journey with us through your prayers, your correspondence and visits, your collaborations on advocacy issues, and your financial gifts that allow us to continue in this work. We thank you especially for your year-end gifts that have allowed us to finish strong every year. We look forward to continuing together in this work.
In Advent Expectation,
Elmarie (for Scott too)
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Tags: advent, Ezekiel 37, ISIS, Jail Visitation ministry, Kirkuk Women's Jail, Matthew 25, National Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Kirkuk, prayer requests, Rev. Haitham Jazrawi
Tags: Elmarie and Scott Parker
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