By Tom Atema
One month ago today, on February 6, 2023, a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake, with a series of strong tremors and aftershocks, devastated southeast Turkey and northwest Syria. Weeks later, the death toll has passed 47,000 and continues to rise.
Mid-morning on February 6th we realized that, while no real damage had hit Lebanon, the effects of this earthquake would hit us in Lebanon. The Syrian families we are serving starting sharing about loved ones who had died, while others had invited their families who don’t have shelter to come and live with them in Lebanon. The children in our H.O.P.E. (Helping Overcome Poverty through Education) Program feeling the aftershocks were terrified.
As I prayed and was a part of some “What can we do to help?” conversations, we began to see that Heart for Lebanon had once again been well positioned for such a time as this!
Years ago, when Camille Melki, our CEO, led the ministry of Mediterranean Bible College, he helped trained men and women in Syria to minister in Syria. Then starting in 2001, I began leadership training for Pastors and Christian leaders from Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon. All this to say – we already have a network of Christian leaders in Syria that are doing ministry.
We realized we had roughly 10,000 blankets in our warehouse we could give to the relief effort through our network. We also had winter coats, gloves, hats, health kits, etc. Within 3 days volunteers in our Hope Evangelical Church – Zahle had every item packed and ready to help those in deep despair. We were ready and we responded.
The first step, or short-term level, in any natural disaster is take care of the physical needs of those effected. And we were well positioned to respond to the earthquake victims, and we did. The second step, or the mid-term level, is to care for the emotional needs of the people affected. Here as well, we were ready with a well-trained team of caring teachers who today are helping the children and their families in Lebanon dealing with emotional loss. Again we were ready to respond, and we are.
The third level in a natural disaster like this earthquake, is long term help. Because we have just ended year one of our Missional Leadership training, we are ready to respond when the time is right to the long term needs of the effects of this disaster in Syria. Missional Leadership Training is a program training men and women to be solid, well-equipped ambassadors for Jesus Christ wherever He sends them. Our prayer is that many will go back to Syria, and copy our strategic model of unconditional, holistic ministry when the time is right.
Because of your prayers and financial investments, we are responding on all three levels for the ministry opportunities at hand.