May 2023 - First Presbyterian Ridgewood, NJ
Early this year, I was invited by The Outreach Foundation to make a second trip to Lebanon and Syria. Not long after that, the first earthquake hit Syria, and I wasn't sure the trip would take place. Eventually, however, I received word that the trip is on. Sensing a call to say “yes” to the invitation, I consulted with the First Pres Mission, Peace and Social Righteousness Team and was given the green light to make plans to travel to Lebanon and Syria in May. Session has given its blessing as well.
During our bicentennial year, it has been our goal to become more engaged in worldwide mission. I believe that my participation in this trip will strengthen our relationship with the Presbyterian churches of Syria and Lebanon, a part of the world from which a number of our members immigrated. And my participation will give me first-hand knowledge of the challenges and needs of the people there, which of course, I plan to share with our congregation. On a personal level, it will give me an opportunity to reconnect with people I met in October, hear their stories and pray with them, letting them know they have not been forgotten.
The first few days of the trip will be spent in Lebanon attending a conference hosted by the National Evangelical (Presbyterian) Synod of Syria and Lebanon. Attendees will include pastors of the Synod, the Synod's European partners, representatives of the Presbyterian Mission Agency and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance [both from the Presbyterian Church (USA)], and representatives of The Outreach Foundation.
I am especially looking forward to spending time with Rev. Ibrahim Nseir, who is one of the conference presenters. Ibrahim is Pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Aleppo, and I hope to learn from him about the church’s role in earthquake recovery and, more specifically, what the most pressing needs of the people of Aleppo are at this time.
Originally, the second leg of the trip was to be spent in Syria, visiting the Presbyterian congregations in Aleppo and Latakia, the two major Syrian cities most affected by the earthquakes. However, the process for obtaining a visa to Syria has recently been changed, and it is virtually impossible for an American to travel to Syria at this time. Therefore, following the conference, I will visit ministry stations and churches in Lebanon. As I did last October, I will provide the congregation with regular reports and reflections via Facebook and email.
The trip is scheduled for May 12-22. And I am pleased that Rev. Susan Friedl has agreed to preach in my absence! Please keep me in your prayers while I’m away. Thank you!
Grace and peace,