Summer is in full swing, and for many of us, that means… beach vacation. My family recently returned from an awesome time at the beach. Every morning our kids would wake up early, run to the window overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, as if to make sure it was still there, and then immediately begin the process of suiting up for a day in the sun and sand.
Late one morning, after spending a couple hours playing in the surf, chasing seagulls, and building sand castles; the sun and breeze quickly and unexpectedly shifted to dark clouds, strong gusts of wind, lightning and sheets of heavy rain. The environment on the beach changed as quickly as the weather. The peace, fun, and calm immediately gave way to chaos as parents frantically snatched their children from the water. Someone’s beach umbrella caught by the wind sailed down the beach like a missile. Cracks of thunder sent panicked children and families running for cover, seeking refuge from the storm.
My family, covered in wet sand, grabbed our chairs, cooler, and towels and ran frantically back to the safety and security of the condo. When all was said and done, the damage assessment revealed we lost one $10 beach towel, one $3 inflatable raft, and a plastic shovel and bucket. The storm and all its rage cost us an afternoon on the beach, $18 in beach supplies, and a condo full of wet sand. In less than an hour we were cleaned up, dry, warm, and completely safe from the storm that raged around us.
I know it seems silly to even compare that experience to the realities facing children and families affected by the horrors of war, natural disaster, or oppression. It’s silly because a moment of panic we might feel running from a storm, while real in the moment, is but for a moment. Imagine fleeing from armed men seeking to destroy your community, bombs leveling homes around you and rocking your neighborhood, coupled with the fear that your husband or son would be forced to fight for a cause not their own.
That is the reality for millions of refugees forced to flee Syria from a war that has continued for over 8 years. Nearly 2 million of these refugees fled the storm of war in their community in hope of finding refuge; a safe place to wait out that storm. Years later, many of them still wait… they live day to day struggling to survive. They wait… without the hope of a God who loves them, or the knowledge of purpose in their suffering.
We, as followers of Christ, have an amazing opportunity in the midst of their waiting. We have the opportunity to provide refuge. To unconditionally and holistically serve them as they wait out this horrific storm. In providing for their physical needs, helping to educate their children, we show them kindness and dignity and are able to build relationships that lead to the discovery of truth.
Today, Heart for Lebanon hosts 1,683, mostly Muslim-background men and women, in regular bible studies, weekly worship gatherings with nearly 500 adults in attendance, and thousands of children experiencing and learning about the love of Christ through children’s programs and education. If you have ever partnered and supported Heart for Lebanon, your story and the story of these families are connected!
Families are experiencing refuge from the storm. People are finding purpose in their season of waiting. They are being prepared for a day when their dream of returning home becomes a reality, and on that day, they will return home as followers of Christ equipped to lead their community, rebuild their country, and to spread the message of hope in Christ. God is moving in powerful ways in the midst of this tragic storm, there is so much opportunity, so many people who need refuge.
We have the infrastructure in place to more than double the number of families we serve over the next 18-24 months. Imagine the impact over 3,000 equipped and mobilized disciples of Jesus will have on the Middle East. The scope of their ministry will be generational. Their waiting will have had great purpose… eternal purpose.
To our amazing partners, thank you for investing in this incredible movement of God to bring hope in a hopeless place. For others taking time to read this, we invite you to engage in an unprecedented opportunity to join the work God is doing in the lives of these of these families and to be a refuge to reach some of the darkest places of this world.