The Chairman’s Report for October 26, 2018

Oct 26th, 2018 | By | Category: RFC Newsletters

October 26, 2018

In this issue of the newsletter
Update:  Christmas for Refugees “matching gift challenge” underway
Update:  Christmas for Refugees will set up program for children in the “West Bank”
Update:  Diapers for Refugees program totally funded for 2018 * 2 million diapers!
Update:  HR-390 is still stalled in the Senate . . . Senator Rand Paul is trying to help!

Christmas for Christian Refugee Children

New matching gift program:  I was stunned by the size of the matching gift challenge for Christmas for Refugees this year!

Seventy-six supporters of the Religious Freedom Coalition came forward to pledge $77,031 for this year’s matching gift challenge fund.  That means that gifts sent specifically to the Christmas for Refugees program — up to $77,031 — will be doubled!

If we can raise the $77,031 needed to use the full matching gift fund, we’ll have raised $154,062 toward fully funding the 2018 Christmas for Refugees program.  By completing the matching challenge, we will be close to reaching our goal of helping almost twice as many  children in Lebanon — and also adding children in Syria and Jordan.  Plus, the Christmas for Refugees program can be taken into the Bethlehem area to help the beleaguered and outnumbered Christian families who still remain there to have a better Christmas.

The total budget for Christmas for Refugees this year is $380,000 to reach at least 8,300 children and their families.  Christmas for Refugees does more than provide a Christ-centered Christmas program and meal for the children.  The family of each child receives a Christmas gift as well, tailored to meet the particular needs in the area where they live.

Most of the children’s families will receive a boxed hygiene kit that includes much needed articles for the whole family — toothpaste, tooth brushes, shampoo, body and hand soaps, disinfectants, bandages and more.

The retail value of the hygiene kit is between $30 and $50 depending upon the area and currency values.  Some families in colder areas receive blankets along with a smaller hygiene kit.  At each Christmas for Refugees event we take the advice of our ministry partners who work with the displaced and refugee Christian families year-round.

Each child receives a Christmas gift that consists of a toy or a craft that is gender specific when possible.  In some areas, we distribute boxed games because they can be used by all the children in the family.  Children’s books that are Gospel centered are also distributed when possible.  In some areas, if available, we also give picture Bibles to the younger children.

The red and white is NOT about Santa Clause. These are the traditional colors for Christmas in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Christians dress their children in red and white as a proclamation that they are Christian. Imagine the challenge of gathering this many children in one place, feeding each of them, entertaining them, and handing each a gift as they leave.

Christ is the center of the Christmas for Refugees program and He is present at each event.  The coloring books used for contests during the programs for the children present the Gospel story and the skits and puppet shows are also Christ centered.

Keeping the programs Christ centered is important, as every one of these children have suffered some kind of trauma — from losing family members to Muslim terrorists, to being forced from their homes and schools, then living in conditions that are sometimes worse than those for prison inmates in the United States.  Often an entire family was forced to live in one room or in one tent.  The term is overused in the United States, but these children and their families all suffer to one degree or another from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

On average, Christmas for Refugees costs $45 per child.  Often this includes chartered buses to transport the children to where the Christmas celebrations can be held.  That cost includes planning and logistics.  In Lebanon, we must hire someone for three months to plan and provide for up to 20 different programs for about 100 children each in different locations.

Is it worth the cost?

If you could be with me and see the smiles on the faces of the children and hear them laugh and sing Gospel songs, you would say the cost of the programs is worth every cent.

That is why it is so important to me to reach the 2018 goal of $380,000.  Our partners who set up the Matching Gift Challenge fund have helped put this goal within reach; now if we can raise the $77,031 needed to equal the full matching gift fund, we’ll have raised $154,062.  That brings us very close to the $170,381.55 still needed to fully fund Christmas 2018!

I have sent out a special letter to many of the Religious Freedom Coalition’s supporters asking them to help us reach the goal of the Matching Gift Challenge fund.  Please pray the Lord will touch the hearts of those whom I have asked for help and that by the beginning of December we will have all the needed funds for this year’s Christmas programs.

We are committed!  By the time you receive this newsletter we will already have transferred over $100,000 to our ministry partners in the Middle East to make deposits on halls and buses and buy supplies such as staple foods, Bibles, games and toys in advance.  While some of the individual programs are small the finished product is very large.

Imagine putting on a party for 8,300 kids!

My wife, Nancy, and I will travel to Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq to supervise the programs.  This year it will not be possible for us to attend the new celebrations in Syria because of security issues.  Our presence in Syria could endanger the children even more.

Thanks to those seventy-six supporters who built the Matching Gift Challenge, this can be our best year …. IF …. we can raise the funds to match the $77,031 challenge quickly.  All gifts to the Christmas for Refugees program up to that amount will count toward the challenge and can be given online at www.Christmas4Refugees.org.

Double your gift today!

 

Why a Christmas program in the “West Bank?”

Declining Christian population:  In 1950, Bethlehem and the surrounding villages were 86% Christian.  Considering over 1,000 years of on-again, off-again occupation by Muslim armies and constant war, the fact that Christians remained the majority until recent times is a miracle of Biblical proportions!

That majority ended after President Bill Clinton pushed through the Oslo Accords in 1993 and 1994.  This agreement handed the administration of the area over to Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization.  Life there became more and more difficult for Christians.

At the entrance to the Grotto in the Church of the Nativity which is the traditional place of the birth of the Lord in Bethlehem. Over the past three decades we have visited the Church of the Nativity many times and have seen first hand the Christian population decline as Muslims grew in strength.

By 2016, the Christian population in Bethlehem had dropped to just 12% and is even less today.

Throughout the greater area, referred to as the “West Bank,” Christians now account for less than 2% of the population.  That is a huge drop from the 1970’s when the Christian population was still at least 5%.

In Bethlehem today, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, there are less than 10,000 Christians.  That’s less than those living in Ankawa, Iraq where we have held Christmas programs in the past.

The Saudi Investment Bank gave Muslim Palestinians loans of 200% of the market value of houses so they could buy Christian homes and thus turn the area into majority Muslim, which is now the case.

The Christian population in the West Bank is no longer self-sufficient.  By this I mean a Christian businessman can no longer count on supplies or repairs from other Christian businessmen.  The amount a Muslim will charge a Christian for any service is higher than that charged to a Muslim.

 

Muslims now own over 90% of the businesses, including those selling souvenirs to Christian tourists!  The jobs do not go to Christians.

The Christians who remain living in and around Bethlehem need our help.

Assisting Christian families in the Bethlehem area with a Christmas program for their children will raise spirits and bring both aid and hope.  Rather than being a tourist attraction for Western Christians, these beleaguered families will know that they are cared for by Western Christians.  The program will also bring cash to the financially strapped Christians in the area.

Many Western Christians go to Bethlehem to take a spiritual experience back home.  We want to go to Bethlehem to help Christians know we also care about their spiritual well-being.

My wife, Nancy, and I will drive from Amman, Jordan to Bethlehem to help administer a Christmas program for the children …. IF …. we can raise the funds.  If we can, I would like to make this a tradition of having a Christmas for Refugees program for the Christians of the West Bank, who are now refugees in their own homeland.

Diapers for Refugees?

We are fully funded for the year:  Over the past two months we have been pushing to fully fund the Diapers for Refugees program for the remainder of 2018.  I am happy to announce that the Diapers for Refugees program is now not only fully funded but the total funds raised went “over the top.”  Overall about $15,000 was donated by generous supporters above and beyond what was needed for 2018!

Because of this, we are expanding the Diaper program to Jordan, at least for now.  There are no overall plans as yet for 2019, because there is just no way of knowing exactly where the needs will be, but there was an urgent need in Jordan that we had the available funds to fill.

Our ministry partner in Jordan called me about special needs diapers for elderly adults who are Syrian and Iraqi Christian refugees now in Jordan.  In addition, in some areas of Amman there are Christians living in situations where there is no water available the wash cloth diapers, only for drinking.  After working out details, we have been able to supply the diapers requested.

Direct from a wholesaler in Amman, Jordan we purchased 1,200 packages of diapers with an average of 42 diapers per package for distribution to Christian refugee families with infants and toddlers.  We also purchased 265 packages of adult special needs diapers for 17 elderly refugees with diabetes.  We were able to secure these for just 60 cents per diaper. We bought 265 packages for $9.00 each.

These are extraordinarily good prices for Jordan, a nation where a cup of coffee at the Starbucks in the mall costs $3.00.  Of the four nations where we work in the Middle East, it is Lebanon that is the most expensive followed closely by Jordan.  In the war-torn nations of Iraq and Syria, the costs are somewhat lower, and we can accomplish more per dollar.

Capitol Hill

Time running out on HR-390:  No one at the Religious Freedom Coalition has forgotten about HR-390.  Just this week I was in contact with Senator Rand Paul’s office to find out if he was able to move Senator Corker back toward the original language of HR-390 that would help Christians in the Middle East and not just set up endless commissions to place blame on who started the war.

Senator Paul is on our side but Senator Corker, who is leaving the Senate, wants to leave his mark behind and won’t budge.  Please pray we can still get something done on HR-390!

William J. Murray, Chairman

Double your gift today!

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