CMS - Andrew and Pam Lake
Road from Damascus
Andrew and Pam Lake returned last month from two years in Syria where they pastored All Saints Church in Damascus and Aleppo, the only international church in that country.
TA: Welcome back to Tasmania. How does it feel to be back?
Andrew: We have mixed feelings. Reconnecting with family and friends has been a joy, but the circumstances of leaving Syria are regrettable. We had to depart because our visa was not renewed by the authorities, which leaves the congregations in Syria with little pastoral support at a time of national crisis.
TA: How will the congregations cope?
Pam: The lay people are organising themselves. We keep in touch with them weekly by email. Needless to say we have to be careful what we write in emails because the security officers there keep a careful eye on anything to do with foreigners still in the country. Still, we are very encouraged by the faith and hope of the church members there.
TA: How was church there different to church in Tasmania?
Andrew: For one thing we had about twenty nationalities represented. For another we didn't have our own church buildings but had to rely on the goodwill of the Franciscan nuns in Damascus and the Armenian Protestants in Aleppo. But perhaps most significant was the turnover of congregation, such as the young Europeans and Americans studying Arabic who were only there for a few months, or foreigners working on short-term contracts.
TA: What do you miss most?
Pam: One of the most rewarding experiences was the English classes we taught to the Iraqi and Sudanese refugees. Their life is such a struggle and they really appreciated the friendship as much as the lessons.
TA: What of the future?
Andrew: The future for Syria is a real worry. Christians feel safe under the current government even though it has a reputation for dealing harshly with protestors. The last thing they want is Western interference leading to an outcome like Iraq.
Pam: In terms of our own future, all we know is we will be visiting churches around the state until the CMS Summerview Conference at Port Sorell 12th to 16th January. And we hope all this magazine's readers will seriously consider coming.
Looking for the Perfect Gift? Catalogue
These days, more and more people, particularly Christians, are seeking ways to fight the commercialism of Christmas with gifts that benefit others instead of themselves. The gifts from the 2012 CMS catalogue once again give the opportunity to buy a variety of gifts for loved ones which will directly support work in one of CMS's strategic areas of ministry.
For instance, $5 will buy a Bible and other materials for two children at the Bible Club run by Retrak, a ministry to homeless kids in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, led by South Australian missionary Maggie Crewes. $50 would pay the living expenses for a period of a student of theology who will go on to lead the church in Myanmar (Burma). And there are many more.
Andrew (4th from left) and Pam (centre, wearing hat) with some of the Syrian congregation.