By Tom Atema
Lebanon is significant in the past, today, and for the future. Let me tell you why…
But first, did you know that Lebanon was the home of the Canaanites/Phoenicians and their kingdoms?
Did you know that Lebanon is within the Promised Land? Moses and Joshua both mentioned Lebanon when talking about the Promised Land and its boundaries. (Please check out Deuteronomy 1:7, 3;35 as well as Joshua 1:4 for yourself to see.)
This correlates with what we read in Deuteronomy when God says to Moses “Every place where you set your foot will be yours: Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea.”
Later, when Joshua led the conquests to take parts of the Promised Land, the Valley of Lebanon was included as one of the regions that was taken (Joshua 12:7).
In 64 BC, the region came under the rule of the Roman Empire, and eventually modern-day Lebanon became one of the Empire’s leading centers of Christianity. The New Testament scriptures provide us with the supporting evidence that Jesus himself visited areas that are part of modern-day Lebanon. The author of the Acts states that those who had scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen, traveled as far as Phoenicia (Lebanon), Cyprus, and Antioch.
Lebanon is also significant because it is mentioned in reference to the future. When Jesus returns, He will set up His kingdom and rule for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:4). Isaiah says, “The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the juniper, the fir and the cypress together, to adorn my sanctuary; and I will glorify the place for my feet” (Isaiah 60:13). Lebanon’s natural resources have been valued for thousands of years, and they will again be contributing beauty and richness in the future millennial kingdom. Today’s crises will not last forever.
We know the Biblical significance of Lebanon past and we know where the nation is headed in the future from God’s perspective. So, what about today? Is Heart for Lebanon bridging this gap between the past and the future, and if so, how?
I could share with you many stories of life transformation and every story is worth celebrating. People, mostly children and ladies, have moved from despair to hope just through Heart for Lebanon’s ministry alone. God continues to do amazing work in Lebanon despite political turmoil and many deepening crises. Heart for Lebanon has seen an extraordinary number of people show an interest in the story of Jesus.
Camille, the Co-Founder of Heart for Lebanon, says it this way: “We see people in the hundreds coming to participate in our weekly Bible studies. Our church communities are packed full of Kurds, people from Muslim backgrounds, individuals from Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. We have refugees and locals, traditional Christian communities, Armenians, you name it. Everyone is coming together.” God is on the move and there is no question that this should encourage and motivate all of us to be where God is working.
However, as encouraging as these individual stories are, no matter how excited I am for the multiple Bible studies, the multiple church environments, the people in our Missional Leadership Program and the growing outcomes for each, we must ask the question what is making this explosive growth happen? Of course, we cannot and will not discount the role the Holy Spirt has in all of this. What is so rewarding for me to see, is where our Ministry Team is today spiritually and professionally. Their personal and spiritual growth, which go together, is so very encouraging and rewarding to see. I believe it is a large reason for our growth.
In 2006, when Heart for Lebanon started, Camille and I decided we did not need “core values” as ministry. What we really needed was “Core Principles.” We began to lay them out and one of our Core Principals is: we will add value to people.
This begins with adding value to our Team first. From day one, the way we offered to add value was to encourage, support and pay for our team members to pursue the next level of education. The rewards of this one core principle are tremendous. Some have earned their bachelor’s degrees, and now some 15 years later, some have received their master’s degree. We have a team member who just received a Theological degree, one who received a Doctorate, and in a few weeks one who will be Ordained as a minister of the Gospel.
This one Core Principle, “add value to others,” lived out by encouraging and helping our team grow better though education, is paying dividends. Why? Because its more than gaining head knowledge; it has also allowed them to expand their capacity, which has increased our capacity. The results we see today have a direct collation to the value we have placed on helping our Team get better through the next level of education for them.
Let me share 5 benefits of Team members gaining a higher education that I have personally seen that benefit the entire operation in Lebanon.
- Each person no matter what educational level they have achieved are required to go through many types of assignments, discussions, courses and more during their time in higher education. Therefore, they gain a wonderful skill set that translates into the workforce as increased capacity.
- More Productivity: Because our team members continue to work during their education season they have more on their plate, they learn to succeed and persevere through it. They know how to manage their time and talents better. I have also noticed that their productivity is at a whole new level.
- Better Communication: Students are required to turn in written assignments for their studies and also to their supervisor. They learn to work in groups, participate in discussions and/or present in front of others. This leads to excellent communication skills, both written and speaking.
- Confidence Builder: As our team has gained a higher level of education, I have noticed that they think more strategically. During their education they are taught to ask questions, reflect and analyze — all critical skills that build a new level of confidence for greater success.
- Identification of Skills: What I have also noticed is that as they gain a new level of education, some have skills that they had not yet discovered. Their education stretched their mind, exposed them to new topics and pushed them to do better. As a result, team members have moved into new areas that have increased their “I love what I do”. They are happy and feel more energized and rewarded. May times they had no idea these new skills were inside of them.
What I know is this: when your team gets better – everyone wins. When the team gets better the Law of the Harvest kicks in which is a theme for another blog.
One last thing to think about, God added value to us, why should we not add value to others, starting with our team first? It’s a stewardship issue, is it not?
Co-Founder of Heart for Lebanon