In this issue of the newsletter:
Update: Christmas programs have started in Lebanon … Jordan and Iraq are next
Update: How we did in 2019 – Camp Gilead in Jordan received updated equipment
Update: Diapers for Refugees expanded to include many elderly and special needs adults
Update: Nigerian orphanage farm a success / West Bank programs expand!
Christmas for Refugees programs now being held!
Christmas for Refugees programs have begun: Despite all the demonstrations this year in Lebanon that forced the prime minister to resign, our Christmas events are being held!
More than 2,000 Christian children forced from their homes in Iraq and Syria by groups such as the Islamic State will have a real Christmas, one far better than their refugee parents are able to furnish for them.
My wife Nancy and I leave for Lebanon soon to oversee some of the programs there. The Christmas programs in Lebanon are smaller, with just 100 to 200 children each, but they are held all over the country during December. The children must be bused to most.
The programs in Syria will be conducted again this year by our Lebanese partners!
We will be able to visit only three of the Christmas programs before flying directly to Iraq where we will be for six days. The Christmas events there sometimes number as high as 700 to 800 children each, and we will be present for all of them, including those in Bartella and Qaraqosh.
This will be the first time we will hold a separate Christmas event for Syrian Christian refugees who have recently fled to Iraq.
Syrian refugees coming to Iraq is a reversal. Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians fled to Syria after the 2nd Gulf War. Now, many Syrian Christian families, especially with wounded or special needs members, have headed to the Nineveh Plain to be near other Christians.
We want to bring joy and hope to the children of these Syrian refugees in Iraq!
From Iraq we will go to Jordan and visit all three of our major Christmas programs there in Amman, Kerak and Fuheis.
A few days before Christmas Nancy and I will travel to Bethlehem in the West Bank. This year we will hold two Christmas events in the West Bank, one in Bethlehem and the other in Beit Sahour. Last year we were able to hold only one event for Christian children. I pray we can add another two Christmas celebrations there next year.
How we have done in 2019
Real help for repressed Christians
Jordan: The Religious Freedom Coalition accomplished even more in 2019 than in the past, in areas where we help persecuted Christians.
Camp Gilead is a summer camp for Christian youth in a nation that is 97% Muslim. It is on the ridge of the Jordan Valley facing Israel and has done amazing work advancing the Kingdom of God. Its very presence is a miracle of God.
Every year, Camp Gilead helps young Christians grow in the Lord, and many truly accept Him as Savior for the first time.
Many of these young people go on to become leaders serving the body of Christ in a country and region where Christians are second class citizens at best.
We have helped Camp Gilead for more than a decade. Over a period of several years much was accomplished to make the camp a better experience for the children. We completely replaced the water system. Rusted water tanks were replaced with modern PVC tanks and new plumbing was installed, including modernizing the bathrooms.
We also furnished new kitchen equipment including commercial refrigerators.
Just two years ago the Jordanian police were going to refuse to allow the camp to open for the summer without expensive security upgrades. We helped repair and replace fencing and install a security camera system that covered the entire grounds.
Last year we updated a playground putting in rubberized flooring and new playground equipment. This year we replaced chairs in the area used for Bible studies and meetings.
The West Bank Mission
The West Bank: Almost every time I write about Bethlehem, I mention that it is no longer in Israel and that the Christian population is now a repressed minority. My ministry there began before the “Oslo Accords” that handed the area over to the Palestinian Authority. As I have visited over the years, I have watched the decline of Christianity there.
The Religious Freedom Coalition has worked to help Christians there since the early 1990’s. While the Christian community was shrinking for the last twenty years, we instituted programs in the West Bank to aid Christian schools and to help Christian businesses there. For over a decade we aided Hope School in Beit Jala; we updated the kitchen and even installed bars on dorm windows after break-ins. We helped with a lot of physical and spiritual needs.
We also aided the Talitha Kumi school in Bethlehem. The name of the school comes from Mark 5:41 when Jesus raised a child from death. A Baptist school was also aided there.
For many years we imported olive oil soap and Jerusalem stone items such as Nativity sets made by Christians in the Holy Land to offer to our supporters. A major aim of all that was done was to help Christians maintain a presence in the Holy Land. The many small projects we have completed there are too numerous to mention.
In March of this year I received distressing news about a day care center in Beit Sahour, a Christian area inside the Bethlehem “governate.” The day care, with 117 children age four and under, had only one of seven rooms with a working air conditioner.
Six of the rooms would be exposed to the heat of the summer. The babies under one year old would be in the only air-conditioned room. In order to add new air conditioners to the other six rooms, it would be necessary to rewire each room as there was not sufficient power.
The project was not in our budget for 2019, but after seeing photos of the children and praying about what to do, I was confident that the Lord would want us to help. We paid to rewire the building and install six brand new air conditioners!
In June my wife Nancy and I visited the day care center and saw many of the smaller children sleeping soundly in cool rooms on a very hot day.
My heart really goes out to the Christians of the “West Bank.” The Christian community established in and around Bethlehem for the last 2,000 years was abandoned to Muslim control forever by the 1993 Oslo Accord orchestrated by President Bill Clinton.
Diapers for Refugees
Two million diapers in 2019: In September the Lord provided the funds through ministry supporters to purchase a four-month supply of diapers instead of three months. The purchase was a real blessing because it relieved the burden of buying and shipping diapers the same month as the Christmas programs in Iraq.
In total, over two million diapers were purchased for distribution in Iraq. Diapers are purchased in bulk four times a year. All diapers are not distributed when shipments are accepted.
We maintain large seagoing containers which we use to warehouse the diapers. Containers are in Ankawa, which is near Erbil, and also at a facility in Qaraqosh. The real name of Qaraqosh, from the time it was an Assyrian Christian town, was Baghdadi. The name was changed when it was overrun by Muslims centuries ago.
I often refer to “two million diapers” but in reality, we buy and distribute many more. The Religious Freedom Coalition is furnishing tens of thousands of adult diapers for special needs. We also supply feminine pads to the mothers of the infants and toddlers.
On the Nineveh Plain, the people have given us the nickname of the Diaper Ministry!
Diapers for Jordan: The Diapers for Refugees program was expanded to Jordan in December of 2018. The majority of diaper recipients in Jordan are special needs Iraqi and Syrian refugees. There are over two million refugees in Jordan with 1.4 million of those “unregistered.” For the most part the Christians, for obvious reasons, are not registered.
Nigeria – Much accomplished in a very dangerous situation
A dramatic change in the orphanage: I cannot emphasize enough that the orphanage we support in Nigeria takes in children whose parents have been murdered by Islamic terror groups such as the Boko Haram and the Fulani Herdsmen.
This year the orphanage has accepted many more children, bringing the total to above two hundred as more Christians are murdered almost daily. The president of Nigeria is a Muslim who is from the Fulani Herdsmen. His presidency puts Christians in grave danger. The Fulani Herdsmen kill as many or more Christians a year as the Boko Haram terror group.
The Farm: Our biggest success of the year was the creation of a farm for the children to grow their own food. Earlier in the year we rented two hectares (about five acres) and purchased hand tools, seed and fertilizers. The total cost was just $7,500!
So far the value of the fresh food produced from the farm exceeds by many times the initial cost. The value of fresh food for the young orphans cannot be measured in dollars.
Many hundreds of pounds of Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, soybeans and groundnuts (sort of a peanut) have been harvested.
But young bodies need protein. Until July of this year the total protein for the children consisted of one egg every other day.
In July enough funds had been raised to make a commitment to provide protein for the rest of the year. At a cost of $3,700 a month the children receive one egg a day and protein with the other two daily meals.
During the year we also replaced the chapel roof that was blown off during a storm.
These projects at the orphanage were in addition to the wells and water tower we had already paid for.
I pray we can continue to support at the same level in 2020. The number of children has increased and to make a commitment on protein for three meals a day would require $4,500 a month which is currently not possible for us to promise.
Please pray for the children at the Nigerian orphanage and all the other Christian children we bring aid to in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and the West Bank.
William J. Murray, President