First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest, as part of the The Presbyterian Church USA, recognizes that we are called to stand in greater solidarity with our partner churches in the Middle East in this time of crisis; to strengthen ties; and expand relationships. Thus, in addition to our current mission support, we have established a prayer partnership so that we may:
- learn new ways to reach out to share God’s love for others;
- realize our common Christian community by witnessing how the ties of God’s love reach across barriers of nationality, language and culture;
- bear witness in our home country to God’s work in Middle East, especially with our partner church;
- experience from each other the power of God’s love, the meaning of being brothers and sisters in Christ, and the joy of sharing with and learning from one another; and
- through prayer, care for each other, support one another’s joys and concerns, and know that we are all God’s people.
Through guidance and prayerful reflection, we have partnered with the Presbyterian church in Fairouzeh, Syria. Fairouzeh, a suburb 3 miles southeast of Homs, is home to Rev. Yacoub and his wife Grace. Fairouzeh’s population has swelled from about 5,000 before the war to more than 12,000 today, due to the influx of refugees. The church serves all who come to its doors, regardless of denomination or faith. Until last year, Rev. Yacoub served as a pastor in northeastern Syria, where the current civil war forced him and his whole congregation to leave their town. Several years prior, according to Rev. Elmarie Parker during her May 19 talk at First Pres, Rev. Yacoub had been captured by Islamist extremists but was let go when it became clear that he would not waver in his faith.
Rev. Yacoub shares a brief history of his new home: The evangelical community in Fairouzeh was born due to the missionary work more than 170 years ago in Hafar Area, 65 km east of Fairouzeh. There is a town near Hafar called Sadad, which is considered the mother of all the Syriac Orthodox and the mother of Fairouzeh as well. Many of the evangelical families started to travel away from Sadad and reached Fairouzeh 120 years ago—so we can say that our church in Fairouzeh is 120 years old. Our first baptism took place in 1905. Many pastors were called to take care of this church here. Officially, I am number 22.
Despite the current difficulties, Rev. Yacoub is pursuing his theological education, working towards a Master of Sacred Theology degree at NEST (Near East School of Theology). He commutes from Homs, Syria to Beirut, Lebanon weekly (not an easy drive!) to pursue his studies where he has been granted a full scholarship.
Rev. Yacoub sends his greetings to all of us, along with this prayer: We pray fervently to our Father to keep you and hold you close to His heart. We pray that you shine like light all the more where you are and be salt to the earth you inhabit, that all around know you are the people of God and His true children.
Please lift Rev. Yacoub, his wife Grace, and his whole congregation in your prayers. Weekly prayers in the bulletin lift up people in peril, including our prayer partner in Fairouzeh.
Let us pray for God’s guidance and strength as Rev. Yacoub and Grace struggle to serve all who come to their doors, while members flee in fright from continued fighting and hardships. In Christ’s name. Amen.