First Presbyterian Church
in Brookline 10:15 am Sunday Service
32 Harvard St.
Brookline, MA 02445
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Philemon Preschool Project
In Beirut, the Presbyterian church is in action dealing with one of the great tragedies of war and poverty: the exploitation of migrant workers and war refugees. The government of Lebanon does not offer Asylum and has not signed the UN Refugee Charter. The social safety net is minimal in Lebanon and heavily dependent on church donations. Lebanon has the most prosperous economy in the Middle East: creating a demand for a service workers. War refugees from neighboring Syria continue to pour in as do refugees from the continuing battles in Iraq. The National Evangelical Church of Beirut has committed itself to the assistance of these men and women http://www.nechurchbeirut.com/index.php/ministry-fields/philemon-project. Sadly, in Lebanon an illegal underground day care system has developed. Desperate migrant workers and war refugees in need of day care, have been exploited by this system. Members of the National Evangelical Church of Beirut learned of children in Beirut being tied up all day and often medicated when they are placed in these private illegal day cares.
Church member, Robert Hamd, committed himself to creating an alternative for the children of Beirut. Working with his church and a small staff he created the Philemon Preschool Project. The project assures a safe place for children along with good nutrition and education. Mr. Hamd has a degree in child development and works to improve the children’s verbal and social skills. He makes Bible stories and the teaching of the Christian faith a daily part of their care. The church has also been blessed to share a building with a home for the elderly and the children and elderly find great joy in each other’s company. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xl_O7M74Y-A.
Along with this commitment to the children of Beirut, The church Saturday School program has developed for parents of these children as well as for all refugees and migrant workers. The program teaches English as well as computer skills. It is an essential program integrating newcomers into the community and providing them with market skills. The church is generous in assuring that all can participate, regardless of income. The success of both of the Philemon and Saturday program has been a great encouragement to the staff of the Philemon Project and the National Evangelical Church of Beirut. Among the goal’s of the Philemon Project is expansion. They want to see this care for children spread throughout Lebanon and hope to eventually have five different Philemon Project centers in the country. Along with donations they are also in need of temporary relief for their staff and they welcomed Christians with degrees in child development to volunteer.
NEAR EAST SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY http://www.theonest.edu.lb/
In the 1820s Presbyterian and Congregationalist from Massachusetts agreed that the great new mission field must be the Middle East. As essential part of that mission was to be education. In 1866 the Syrian Protestant College was founded in Lebanon. This college became what is today the American University of Beirut(AUB). In the 1930s the Congregational and Presbyterians worked to create from AUB a seminary with an emphasis on Theological studies for those called to the ministry. In 1932 this seminary opened as the Near East School of Theology. In the 1940s the University began its partnership with Armenian Evangelicals, Lutheran Churches of Jordan and Episcopal Churches of Jerusalem.
During Lebanon’s Civil War(1975-1990), the school continued as a place of learning as well as a refuge from the war. Today the school has many students from Syria and many alumni currently in Syria. Many of the school’s alumni remain in Syria, even as they have many opportunities to leave for a safer place. They have a strong sense of obligation to remain and create a strong Christian presence in the divided cities of Syria. They reflect an attitude of many Syrians: Christians must be able to say when the war ends that they were there all along serving their communities.
We had the opportunity to meet many students from Syria as well as some from Lebanon. What they shared was a passion to be in Syria as soon as they graduate. They want to be there as pastors and as church leaders. Along with the alumni, they see the potential for a re-birth in the churches of Syria as their leaders set an example of Christian sacrifice by maintaining their churches and serving their communities in a time of war. The school realizes Christians now have the opportunity to be a beacon of light in the war zones of Syria. Men and women are being trained in counseling those traumatized by the war. There are also seminars on Christian-Muslims dialogue. Although the female graduates of the school cannot be pastors in Syria or Lebanon at this time, they also are going into the war zones of Syria to serve their churches and communities. We had the opportunity to meet many of these brave young men and women and saw firsthand their passion to serve in Syria.While at the school we were able to join the students and faculty for chapel services as well as enjoy a tour of many of the rare books in the school library.
Out Side of Beirut
The smaller Presbyterian Churches outside of Beirut have converted many of their offices and school rooms to apartments to assist Presbyterian refugees. The need for housing is overwhelming and churches are doing what they can do keep Christian refugees out of the refugee camps.
Next to Lebanon <click>
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First Presbyterian Church in Brookline
32 Harvard St.
Brookline, MA 02445