A LITTLE HISTORY
Syria is an ancient civilization. The nation and one of its cities, Antioch, rose to prominence under Roman rule (300 BC) and flourished until after 300 AD. Damascus is the current capitol of Syria and is known as the city in which Paul became a Christian (Acts 9). Christians in Antioch, led by the Holy Spirit, experimented with sending out a team to areas and cities where there were few, if any, other Christians (Acts 13). This effort resulted in a multi-year relationship between Paul and this church. The product was cross-cultural evangelism and church planting in modern-day Turkey and Greece.
CURRENTLY IN SYRIA
The current president of Syria is Bashar al-Assad (1965). He is, by training, both a medical doctor (ophthalmology) and a military officer. He became president in 1999. Thought to be a moderate, there was hope he would lead Syria toward democracy and root out the corrupt bureaucracy.
However, al-Assad rules with a heavy hand and the old ways are intact. Every other Middle Eastern county has distanced itself from Syria, with the exception of Iran. The so-called Arab Spring arrived in Syria in 2011, and there has been civil war — and every atrocity that goes with such — ever since. ISIS has some of its origins in this context. (Arab Spring was a series of violent protests that began in Tunisia in late 2010 and quickly swept across many of the countries in the Middle East. Young people participated in public demonstrations to petition their dictators to reform in favor of western democracy. Some leaders were overthrown and some responded with varying degrees of reform.)
The United States has tried to oust President al-Assad, with no success. The US has had little success in Syria, with the exception of removing chemical weapons. There is nothing simple or easy about ending the war in Syria (and its effects in Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon). The regime wars against the rebels while both war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State. There are civil wars within a civil war in Syria. The situation is complicated and complex, giving rise to desperation and hopelessness. Syria’s population has been decimated. Since 2011, approximately five to six million people no longer live in Syria because of either death or leaving. (Tennessee has about six and a half million residents total, to give you an idea of that number in a tangible form.) Think of waking up one morning and two of your neighbors left during the night. And the next night. And the next.
ETHOS HOUSE CHURCH
One Ethos House Church has partnered with World Relief to welcome and become friends with one Syrian family. The House Church met them in October 2015, about three weeks after they arrived in Nashville. Members of this House Church visit with the family two to three times a week. The family is learning English while the HC learns a little bit of Arabic. The parents are in their mid-thirties, with three school age children.
The visits started out messy and stilted (due to language and cultural challenges) and yet, the family and the HC are now friends. Meals, outings to parks, library excursions, Christmas lights at Opryland, holiday events and a couple of shopping trips have been shared and explained. The children are regularly helped with school work. The parents have allies as they navigate shopping, job searches, interacting with school personnel and so on.
This Syrian family has introduced the HC to other Arab-speaking refugees. God is orchestrating a new melody as “inaccessible” people come to our neighborhoods, our schools, our city.
World Relief reports that most refugees have one desire: to be invited into a home of someone who lives in the USA. Something like eighty percent (80%) will never experience that one desire. This HC has found that inviting a refugee family into your house or apartment for a meal is, while somewhat awkward, a fantastic to do. And one of the best ways to love people.
This House Church is led by Katie & David Meek. They will eagerly share what they know and have done, and how you can start a HC that welcomes and befriends a refugee family. David can also give guidance on volunteering with World Relief. Abby Mosby is a part of this HC and will gladly share her experience of living in the Middle East and working with refugees. Abby works for Nations Ministry Center (see below) and is a rich resource for how to help refugees.
What would it take to lead or be part of a House Church that regularly visits with and prays for a refugee family from Syria or Iraq? How could it be done? The opportunity is there and our Father is ready to make it happen.
There is one other issue related to Syria and the Middle East that many of us need to address: Do we think people of Middle Eastern culture and faith are less than us? Are they a bit less human than we are?
Who is Leaving for Europe and Why
World Relief Nashville
World Relief (WR) is an organization based in Baltimore, Maryland. The local office is near the airport on Murfreesboro Road. They welcome volunteers. The Mission of WR: to empower the local Church to serve the most vulnerable. The Vision of WR: In community with the local church, the most vulnerable people are transformed economically, socially and spiritually.
Nations Ministry Center
Nations Ministry Center helps refugee families become generationally self-sufficient. This organization helps refugees find jobs, helps children succeed in school and helps families maintain legal immigration status. They welcome volunteers, also.
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A PRAYER FOR SYRIA
Father in Heaven, holy is your name in the midst of a chaotic world.
May your kingdom come in Syria. May your kingdom come in the Assad regime. May your kingdom come in the Islamic State. May your will be done in Syria and the Stonebrook Apartments just as it is in Heaven.
Give us enough bread for today. Give Aleppo provisions of bread today, even as bombs fall on the people. Give sojourner families in temporary camps and on the roadsides throughout Europe enough bread today. Give the refugees and the nations who live up and down Nolensville Road daily bread.
Forgive us the things we do that grieve you - our own hatred, our own prejudice, our own apathy - and give us the divine grace to forgive our enemies.
Lead us all away from this propensity to rebel against you and your ways. Deliver us all from the grips of evil.
For even still, both here and in Syria, yours is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever. Amen.