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“Though the Mountains Be Shaken…”

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

Spring 2023

Write to Elmarie Parker
Write to Scott Parker

Individuals: Give online to E132192 in honor of Elmarie and Scott Parker’s ministry

Congregations: Give to D500115 in honor of Elmarie and Scott Parker’s ministry

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

 


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Dear friends,

Through the Prophet Isaiah, we hear these words of comfort spoken by God to God’s people. They offer poignant hope today to communities throughout northwest Syria and southern Turkey who are living in the aftermath of the strongest earthquakes to shake the region in a generation:

Though the mountains be shaken, and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.  –Isaiah 54:10

Comforters were supplied through FMEEC by Monday night of the earthquake.

In the early morning hours local time on Monday, February 6, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, followed by almost equally strong aftershocks, rocked the region. Its epicenter was in southern Turkey, and its destructive forces were felt there and throughout northern Syria. Its impact was felt in parts of Iraq, throughout Lebanon, and in parts of Jordan, Israel/Palestine and Cyprus. My phone began filling with WhatsApp messages from local partners, neighbors and friends almost immediately. All of us were checking in on each other. My building suffered no damage. I am safe.

 I spent the rest of the day messaging with all the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon pastors in Syria and northern Lebanon, along with other partners and friends in Syria and Lebanon. Thanks be to God, none of our dear partners and friends lost their lives in this quake. All of them began to immediately spring into action to offer shelter, blankets, food, water, medical assistance and hygiene packs to the many around them who were forced into the freezing cold rain and snow of the early morning hours as their homes collapsed around them.

Earthquake survivors seek shelter and warmth at the NESSL Church in Aleppo.

As you have likely seen from media reports, the rescue and recovery work throughout the impacted region has been arduous, made even more challenging by a brutal winter storm and cold temperatures. The multi-national first responder teams pouring into the region have been a testimony to the benefits of being a connected global community. But the challenges are just beginning. Especially for those in Syria.

 This disaster comes on top of what has already been a horrific few years for those living in Syria. Though peace is pervasive throughout the country, Syria has been deeply impacted at an economic level due to the combined effects of the war, Lebanon’s economic collapse, and U.S.-led sanctions (especially following the implementation of the Caesar Act). The medical system has been decimated by these same factors and has been struggling to respond to COVID-19 and then cholera, along with chronic healthcare needs for which there are little to no medications. Medical equipment is difficult to impossible to repair due to sanctions; lab and pharmacy supplies are difficult to impossible to fill for the same reasons. The Syrian pound has been severely devalued, and the cost of fuel for both transportation and heating is well beyond the meager budget of most families. Schools have been doing their best to keep their doors open so students can begin to recover their educations after many disruptions over the past 12 years. And now, the ramifications of the earthquake must also be faced.

Rev. Ibrahim Nseir of the Aleppo NESSL Church holds bread to distribute to earthquake survivors.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance was in immediate contact with our partners as well. Already four emergency grants of $10,000 each are being sent to four of our partners who are on the ground in Syria and have an impressive track record through these many years of struggle for implementing effective relief work benefitting everyone in the community. These four partners are: National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL), Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), Forum for Development, Culture, and Dialogue (FDCD), and Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEED). Between each of their expansive networks, they will be reaching many people in need over the coming months. Their immediate focus is on basic support: getting blankets, food, water, medicines and hygiene supplies to the network of local churches, mosques and schools that are offering displaced families emergency shelter. PC(USA) will be working with these partners to assess and collaborate on mid- to long-term recovery and rebuilding needs.

We and our partners are grateful for the actions of the U.S. Treasury Department to issue a new General License for Syria that will allow PC(USA) and others to more easily send funds for earthquake relief over the next 180 days (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy1261). Our partners will need additional funds to respond to the overwhelming needs that yet lie ahead. Please visit the Syria-Lebanon Partnership Network website for additional details and updates (syrialebanonpn.org/). To support PC(USA)’s  response, you can designate gifts to DR999999-ST Earthquake.

I thank you for your continuing partnership with us and our siblings in Christ in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Your prayers, your kind and encouraging emails checking in on us all. Your collaborative efforts all mean more than words could ever convey. You are part of how God is communicating God’s unfailing love toward a people whose lives have been shaken yet again.

In grateful service together with you all,

Elmarie (for Scott as well) 


Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou 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.

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