June / July 2018 - Vol. 98
Christmas Day2017 liturgy in Aleppo, Syria
Rising from the ashes we proclaim that
"God alone is our only Hope"

Update on “Emmanuel” in Aleppo
Easter 2018

by Andre J Codouni

In March and April 2018, the prayerful church services and liturgies of the Lenten season, holy week and Easter definitely helped Aleppo’s Christians to start remembering what “normal” life was like before their world was turned upside down during the six years of political turmoil and trauma of war.

Yet, deep down in their hearts, people who survived the conflict of war, know and feel that nothing can ever be the same again. The last few years have impacted everyone and everything in Aleppo. The children of the early years of the conflict now are teens, and those who were teens have now matured (probably too early) and have gone on to face life self-reliantly.

Our brothers and sisters in Emmanuel community have been very busy in reaching out to others and sharing the Gospel message of hope, peace, and abundant new life which Christ offers to those who turn away from sin and believe in him, the only true Savior of the world who suffered, died, and rose on the third day never to die again. Their witness and sharing of the Gospel has not gone unanswered. Many are now believing in Christ and turning their lives around in response. But there is now much more work to do to help people grow in faith and Christian maturity. The community is seriously undertaking the task of providing teaching and training to  raise up mature disciples who can serve in mission to advance the kingdom of Christ.

Here are a few recent testimonies from brothers and sisters in Emmanuel. I hope their sharings will inspire you and others to boldly and generously share the good news of Christ to those around you.

“Leave everything and come follow me”.
A young teen who came to Emmanuel’s meetings had a hard time at first hearing the call of Christ in the Gospel, “Leave everything and come follow me”. For her, it meant changing how she imagined living out her youth in a fulfilled manner and becoming a mature adult disciple of Christ.

Here is how she spoke about her experience. “With time, and with the help of the teachings I heard in Emmanuel, I understood that Christ is calling me and He will make sure that I live my life abundantly as promised in the gospel of St John”. She goes on to explain how she clearly perceived that her main role in her Christian journey was to make sure that she preserves and protects this “newborn” spiritual life growing in her. “I needed the support of those teachings and the help of my friends in order to be able to avoid the temptations that eventually, would undermine that life.”

“The community has become a family to me”
A member in Emmanuel who is in the process of preparing for marriage beamed with excitement and shared: “The community has become a family to us (referring to the young people).” “With awesome love they have taught us so much. The leaders and the brothers and sisters embraced me and loved me as I was, and I have learned how to live as a radical disciple of Christ”.

Then goes on: “I have grown so much. I have taken on many good habits and given up old ones that usually led me to sin. Prayer, sacrificing for God, fasting, come easier to me now. A new approach to how I live my life helps my faith to grow”.

“As I prepare for our wedding day, I hope to bring into this new union all that I have learned!”

Enjoying Christian fellowship with members of other communities
A young student speaks of the relationships she has developed over the years not only within the community but also with members of the People of God community centered in neighboring Beirut, Lebanon. “With their help I have matured, I have grown in appreciation that as a young teen, I could trust Christ to lead me in the way of discipleship…Those older and more experienced than me, helped me in a way I would not have been able to by myself. Since joining with others I have accepted to follow Christ, knowing that it would fulfill my life, even as a youth”. With a radiant smile she continues: “This was so liberating. I was free to see more clearly and have experienced fulfillment more than ever. After I tasted the sweetness of the Lord, many material things no longer mean the same to me.”

And, sounding sensible beyond her years: “We are His ambassadors, we proclaim His good news. We are leaven for our city, Aleppo. I personally feel responsible to tell everyone around me about God and His love. I usually start by telling others about the change that has occurred in my life and I also witness by the way I act and by example everywhere I go. I thank God and all those who have helped me become an active member within Emmanuel”.

“I kept hearing that from my sorrows, God was going to bring out the fruit of joy!”
Another example of this Easter hope is lived out by a sister who is very active in reaching out socially through the NGO she works under. “I had a complete turnaround in my life, following a major personal tragedy, which left me a widow. God sovereignly visited me as I gave my life to Him”.

With resolute courage she continued: “I have learned how to face life on my own without my late husband and how to take care of my family. I kept hearing that from my sorrows, God was going to bring out the fruit of joy.”

She goes on: “Like the blind man of Jericho, my eyes were opened and I began to see. That spiritual light enabled me to bring solace to others. I started visiting the needy to find out from them what their needs are, and I found great fulfillment in doing that.”

“Through giving I was enriched; As I grew in my serving others, I was able to see beyond their immediate needs and started providing to them what was principally needed in terms of moral and psychological support.”

She explains that the NGO she worked for eventually sent her to nearby Lebanon for further training where, she said: “I learned from counseling professionals to understand the psychological aspects involved in my work helping others. I received the training and the tools I needed. I loved to get to know and to understand better how I can help”.

“As I brought solace to others, God’s hand carried me through the challenges of handling my responsibilities of taking care of my own family and the requirements of my work. I consider this a great delight and a privilege”.

This Easter, may we all experience the full and abundant blessings of the season, as our brothers and sisters in Emmanuel are doing despite the great challenges they encounter every day. “Just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance, …see that you abound in this gracious work”. (NAB 2 Corinthians 8:7); And may we all continue to support Emmanuel prayerfully.


Andre J Codouni is a member of the People of God Community in Beirut, Lebanon.

Photo from the original article published on Facebook the 7th of May of 2018.

Return to Table of Contents or Archives  • (c) copyright 2018 The Sword of the Spirit