Come, meet our friends in the Middle East

 

Christ calls us to join hands in solidarity

by Elmarie Parker | Mission Crossroads

Team member Bobby McCutcheon shares a musical moment with children in the kindergarten ministry of the Presbyterian Church in Kirkuk, Iraq. (Photo by Elmarie Parker)

LOUISVILLE — One Lord, one faith, one baptism (Eph. 4) — God calls us to join hands with one another, regardless of the continent or country or context in which we live.

Solidarity — joining hands with our Iraqi neighbors — binds us together and sends us out to receive from, depend on and respond to others as Jesus showed us. God is not only about the power and initiative of sending, but also about reciprocity and mutuality. It is in Jesus’ life that we see mutual patterns of our Triune God.

Being sent is not an end in and of itself, but rather a means by which we join hands and hearts in solidarity with our global partners. Presbyterian World Mission encourages the practice of joining hands through solidarity trips, like the trip to Iraq I had the privilege of facilitating with the Iraq Partnership Network last fall.

Team member Helen David (left) gets acquainted with a new Iraqi friend who shares her Assyrian ancestry. (Photo by Joanne Sizoo)

We visited the three remaining Presbyterian congregations in Iraq, traveling to Baghdad, Kirkuk and Basra. We shared in worship, prayer and fellowship. We listened as our Iraqi friends — Christian and Muslim — shared their experiences of living in Iraq, both the challenges and the unique opportunities. We bore witness to the faithful and courageous daily witness of our Iraqi sisters and brothers to the grace and ways of Jesus and the tremendous impact their ministries are making in each of their cities and in the lives of many individuals.

Why take the risk of traveling to Iraq for this purpose? Why spend funds in this way?

Here are a few responses from our Iraqi friends to these frequently asked questions: “For you to come and step into our world and be with us brings us the encouragement we need to stay and continue being faithful to God’s call on our lives.”

One U.S. trip participant responded, “I’ve hosted Iraqi pastors in my home, I’ve spent countless hours talking with them, but it’s only now, by stepping into their world, that I truly understand their challenges and can even more deeply learn from their faithful witness.”

Another U.S. team member shared: “I expected to hear some bitterness from the Iraqi people we met, because of all they’ve had to endure. Though remnants of war are evident in the country, God is working far beyond what I saw — maybe more now than ever before as non-Christians are finding refuge in Him.”

Team member Carol Haeussner meets a student attending the kindergarten ministry of the Presbyterian Church in Kirkuk, which she says is a testimony of Matthew 25 and John 6 in action. (Photo by Elmarie Parker)

Consider joining hands with our Triune God and others around the world, through solidarity visits. Mutual encouragement is a gift for strengthening our faith as we follow Jesus together (Rom. 1).

The Rev. Elmarie Parker is World Mission’s regional liaison to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. She serves in the Middle East with her husband, the Rev. Scott Parker, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s associate for ecumenical partnerships and communications.

Strengthen the church in the Middle East
Support the work of the Revs. Elmarie and Scott Parker in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria: pcusa.org/donate/E200504

This article is from the Spring 2019 issue of “Mission Crossroads” magazine, which is printed and mailed free to subscribers within the U.S. three times a year by Presbyterian World Mission and also available online at pcusa.org/MissionCrossroads.

 


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.

  • Subscribe to the PC(USA) News

  • Interested in receiving either of the PC(USA) newsletters in your inbox?