"Hello, dear Network friends!"

Rev. Elmarie Parker, PC(USA)’S Regional Liaison to Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, sent greetings in a recent email from her home in Beirut, Lebanon.  In the email, she shared news about what is occurring in Syria and Lebanon with our various regional partners. Words in quotes are Elmarie’s; the square brackets [ ] are editorial comments.

Rosangela Jarjour of the FMEEC [Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches] has asked the SLPN to partner with them to support a new program, “Psychosocial Intervention with Children in Emergency Setting.” The program would train 50 volunteers, “members of the NESSL [National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, PCUSA’s partner denomination in Syria and Lebanon] congregations (and other evangelical [Protestant] churches as well…like the Armenian Union churches) with the front-line skills needed to work with traumatized children (especially) and adults. NESSL is not able to focus on this type of training at this time, so FMEEC is filling in this gap, because the churches have asked for this type of training assistance.” The estimated $20,000 needed for funding the program has quickly come from European partners, Presbyterian World Mission, and concerned individuals. Less than $5,000 is needed to meet the financial goal at the time of Elmarie’s email.  

During the NEST/PC(USA) Study Trip [Christianity and Christian-Muslim Relations in the Lebanese Context, June 26 – July 11], Elmarie introduced a young couple to regional partners. The couple is discerning “a possible MCW [Mission Co-Worker] position focused on capacity building for work with traumatized children and adults, along with discipleship/leadership development. So far this possibility has been received with great enthusiasm!” There are more formal layers of discernment work with the young couple and Presbyterian World Mission about the position…. which will require funding. Elmarie hopes that the SLPN and the Iraq Partnership Network will be prayerfully considering how they might help with funding this much-needed position.

Dealing with trauma caused by the Syrian crisis and its effects is a major concern for all the churches in the region, not just those in Syria. A recent NESSL Pastors’ Conference focused on Pastoral Counseling, led by a psychologist from the Synod of the Nile [Egypt].  “He covered several short-term behaviorally based therapeutic interventions, discerning the role of pastor in intervening and knowing when to refer to someone with more training/expertise, and an introduction to couple’s therapy.”

NESSL “is preparing for a summer full of conferences for children, youth, and women—many of those being held in Lebanon, but with plans for some gatherings in Syria.” The Syrian crisis has created additional challenges for the planning of these annual summer conferences, as costs have risen and travel continues to be difficult. Rev. Hadi Ghantous [of NESSL’s Educational Staff] indicates that these conferences provide “a great chance to strengthen our connections with…our churches and [allow us to] work on creating a common vision and mission for all those churches as parts of the same church.”

On a personal note, both Elmarie and her husband Rev. Scott Parker [PC(USA)’s Associate for Ecumenical Partnerships] are continuing their studies in Arabic, with Scott undertaking a series of intensive courses over the past few months. “Scott and I will be taking some time with my mother’s side of the family in South Africa from Aug. 2-14 (that’s where all of my mom’s side of the family lives).”

Elmarie closed her email asking for prayers for she and Scott and the people of the region where they serve. “You all remain in my prayers as well!”      



Photo above:  Night Scene in Beirut. Copyright 2017 by Tina Manley