Once again, the Middle East is in a major crisis. The situation in our region is heartbreaking. The violence, hatred, destruction, and the killing of innocent civilians is unacceptable. Our prayers are that this ugly war ends soon, and that violence will cease forever. The Middle East needs Jesus!
Lebanon is not immune from the negative effects of all that is happening in Gaza and Israel. Skirmishes along our southern border are taking place every day. Hezbollah and Israel are having daily exchanges of fire,and those seem to be increasing. Tension is on the rise; people are fearing for the worst.
In every crisis that Southern Lebanon has had in the past – and is going through today – people are asking questions: Why are we going through this? Who is ultimately in control? Does God exist? And if so, does He care for our miseries? These questions, and others, give us a golden opportunity to step in and try to address the fears and worries people are experiencing. As a faith-based humanitarian ministry, this is our “Esther Moment” for our generation. We are called to bring the love of Jesus Christ in tangible and meaningful ways to those who are suffering the most.
People in Southern Lebanon are thirsty and searching for the truth; truth they once thought was found in radical Islam. They are noticing that anger and frustration against everyone and anyone that might think differently than they do, is not satisfying and only leads to more hatred and violence. Please keep in mind a vacuum has been created between what they see and what they are told. People are searching for answers. What they are looking for is something other than more radicalism. The Gospel of Jesus Christ can and will fill their hearts with love, dignity, and purpose.
Our team is doing well; all are safe and so are their families. No doubt everyone is overwhelmed by requests for help and by the unending violence and spirit of hatred. Yet again, we are confident that this is our moment in history to show Christ’s love unconditionally. We are praying, preparing, and responding as needed.
The current conflict has made our ministry even more relevant to the communities around us. Most urgent is the need to meet people at their “crossroad of despair” and to answer the growing number of questions that are arising – every question is a “Jesus question” – and our team is ready and actively answering each one; leading individuals and families from despair to hope in Christ.
In the last few weeks Heart for Lebanon has increased its emergency response to address the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of many families. We have launched a relief operation from our Ministry Center in Ghazieh to serve 500 new families who fled the border villages. We are working with 9 different municipalities to care for the internally displaced families.
The Hope ministry Center in Ghazieh is strategically located and our team is professionally equipped to serve. This is giving Heart for Lebanon greater credibility with the surrounding communities. To date, twenty-two thousand individuals have fled their homes and villages at our borders with Israel. We believe this number will continue to increase and that Heart for Lebanon will need to further increase its emergency response. We also believe, this crisis, like the ones before, will have a long-lasting effect on our economy and on the mental/emotional wellbeing of our people. This crisis will eventually result in greater physical needs and deeper spiritual thirst; two needs that we should be prepared to address long term.
As a reminder, Lebanon is the host of a large refugee population of Palestinians and Syrians. The reality is 2.5 million Syrian refugees live in the country of Lebanon plus an additional 700 thousand Palestinians refugees.
Heart for Lebanon already has a unique and ongoing ministry in Southern Lebanon. Our ministry has a footprint and a reputation in part because of our relational engagement with each person and family we serve in 56 villages, 3 large cities and several towns. Each one of those villages and communities have at least one if not many homes that are receiving physical care from Heart for Lebanon. They also receive ongoing relational engagement visits that help with the emotional needs and draws us into a conversation about Jesus Christ.
All in all, 450 adults and a score of young children participate in one or more of our weekly Bible study/Discipleship classes or take part in our Sunday worship gathering at Hope Evangelical Church Ghazieh. Our worshiping community consists of individuals from a Kurdish, Arab Sunni, Arab Shia, and nominal Christians (Orthodox, Maronite, Catholics, and Evangelicals). It is humbling to see such a diverse ethnic community; folks who had no clue who Jesus was are currently worshiping our Living Lord side by side.
It’s in our church environment where spiritual gifts and talents are discovered. Some have the gift of leadership and become students in our Missional Leadership program. We lead a holistic ministry. Our goal is not only to care for people’s physical and emotional needs but is also to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them and to prepare Missional Leaders after God’s own heart, willing and prepared to share the Gospel in their area of influence.
On behalf of the Heart for Lebanon Team, thank you for your prayers and for standing with us during these uncertain times. Thank you for joining us in leading people from despair to hope. We are grateful for all that you due for the work of the Kingdom!
On behalf of the entire heart for Lebanon Team,
Camille Melki & Tom Atema
This report was submitted on 10/30/2023.
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