Article written by Dr. Bruce L. Hartman, posted on his blog October 6, 2019
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of
God and of Jesus our Lord.
2 Peter 1:2
On a recent Sunday in a refugee camp in Lebanon, 300 people of Muslim and Lebanese heritage showed up at a worship gathering (church), many saying they had never heard the story of Christ. These refugees were part of the 2 million people who have fled Syria and are now semi-permanent residents in refugee camps throughout Lebanon.
We all have read about war-torn Syria and the devasting impact of ISIS there. Many of its citizens have fled to other countries. After eight years of war, more than half of the pre-war population— eleven million people—have left their homeland. They are now nomadic people looking for a place to live. Many hoped that, by now, they could have returned to their native land, but after eight years, hope is abating that they can ever go home.
Time for change
In 2011, Lebanon adopted an open-border policy, and two million people flocked there. But things changed in 2014 as the amount of people fleeing to Lebanon grew. Their borders are now more tightly watched, and refugees now have to promise they won’t work and are required to pay for a six-month residency permit.
So here they sit, in tent communities, in the Bekaa Valley and southern Lebanon. Many have been there for all of the last eight years. There are few regulations controlling local practices. Many work without pay and the women are exposed to gender violence. The children are not allowed to go to local schools and after so long, many have fallen far behind.
There are no formal UN camps, and help only comes from the non-profits of other nations.
These are desperate people—three quarters live below the poverty line. Half live in substandard housing, and 75 percent do not have a legal residency. Women and children are the majority of those who reside in these camps. Husbands and fathers—the main protectors within the Syrian culture—have been lost to the war or have abandoned their families.
So why would 300 of them show up to a worship gathering, especially when you consider they are Muslim and, in their culture, Christians are not looked upon favorably? They came because of the wonderful work of an organization called Heart For Lebanon. Based in Asheville, North Carolina, Heart For Lebanon has set up a very sophisticated network of relief in Lebanon, paid for through the donations of many in our country.
Their vision states: “Driven by the compassionate heart for Jesus Christ, Heart for Lebanon exists to see lives changed and communities transformed.” They live this vision every day. They distribute mattresses, diapers, hygiene items, clothes, rugs, and food through their on-the-ground support network.
They also run a program called Hope On Wheels that provides a safe environment for children to play and learn, allowing them to just be children again. A majority of these children are orphans, and their only source of schooling is through this wonderful organization. They are trying to help these children lift themselves up out of poverty through education.
At the same time, Jesus is introduced to them through Bible studies and local chapels. Just attending a Christian church can be dangerous for them.
What is also remarkable about Heart For Lebanon, is that almost 90 percent of the money they raise goes directly to help the refugees. The remaining amount largely pays for the administrative efforts of organizing the relief and the cost to raise money. They have received a perfect four-star rating from a national charity evaluation firm.
There are many things we see and hear on the news about the refugees. They are desperate people and mostly the weakest of their society. These people aren’t marauding pilferers or criminals, they are just dads, moms, and children like those of us in America. They got caught up in a cruel game of power and lost their homes.
They all want to go home but can’t.
Thankfully, Americans are coming to their aid and trying to help, and donors are hearing the story of their plight and ignoring the image portrayed by some. They are giving of both their time and money.
Will, a friend of mine, told me about this organization, so I visited their facility in Asheville and came away impressed with the faithful commitment of the staff. They are sensible and humble people who believe in the mission of mercy that is requested of us by Christ. They blush when you say how wonderful they are. They are a connected team committed to the mission of service in the name of Christ. They aren’t looking for personal glory but for the glory of helping Christ tend the flock.
If you want to know more please visit https://heartforlebanon.org/
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman