We Are Engaged In An Angry Culture

There’s a lot of uncertainty and gloomy forecasts right now about the future. In Lebanon many people are angry at the government for failing them.  They’re angry because of what the economic crisis means for their daily life, today and for the future. Anger in the streets of Lebanon has forced 4 prime ministers to resign in 2020 and new cabinets to be formed; the situation today is still as bad, if not worse, than in October of 2019. 

In the last year Covid-19 plus 4 other crises hit Lebanon leading many to be uncertain. It is in this environment in 2020 where the ministry of Heart for Lebanon expanded. 

The truth is no matter what the crisis of the day was or is, we have done our very best to “love others as Christ has loved us.” For us it’s an attractive lifestyle that shines out because it is different from everyone around us who is mad, upset, or uncertain. In 2020 we have had more opportunity to deliver compassion than in our 14-year history. In 2020 we did our best to love people without agreeing with them. We honored and respected the people who came across our path without conforming to the norm.

We are not perfect, but we do our best to follow Jesus’ instructions to us. I am excited to say that I am grateful that during 2020 our ministry has grown over 1/3 from 2019.

Life has never been easy, and it’s no different today. My desire here is to encourage you to look back over 2020 through a positive lens, the lens of what are you grateful for.

When I look back over 2020, as we have tried our best to love others unconditionally during the uncertainty of the many man-made crises, God has done a work beyond my wildest dreams.

  1. Just think, on August 4th a devastating explosion took place, changing the lives of thousands forever, yet we have the privilege to partner with 27 churches and 6 Christian schools at a depth that might never have happened. This already has led to churches more than doubling their influence, schools have been able to stay open and continue to develop Biblical servant leaders. (This during an economic crisis that in many cases would have put many of these schools out of business.) Between both the church and school partnerships, our ministry unexpectedly is ministering to an additional 1,000 families over the last 3 months. (See more about that here.)

When you make a commitment to show hope, and when you keep that commitment, you build trust. We have never confused the two because the two are not the same. However, today as we work through churches, it’s the local church that is getting the credit for this work NOT Heart for Lebanon. Yes, it’s our privilege to extend (or loan) our influence to and through local churches and schools so they can lead and minister to more people. Who would have thought this would have happened in 2020? 

  1. To see the refugees who attended our two Hope Evangelical Churches take up an offering on their own for the community in Beirut. It’s not the amount they gave that matters; it’s their heart that I am so grateful for. A heart of gratitude that shows a spiritual depth we might not have seen if it was not for the explosion of August 4th.
  1. To see the refugee community volunteer to help clean up, repair homes, and listen to people’s stories to the people affected by the explosion not only brought a tear to our eyes, it was humbling to see. Again, it shows a spiritual depth we did not realize before this year of “crisis”.
  1. During the pandemic we continued to hold Bible Studies and Worship gatherings via Zoom and WhatsApp. In fact, they grew so much that when we were able to meet in person, our 3 Worship Gatherings grew in number. It was during this pandemic where we witnessed children on their own share their faith, taking what they had studied and learning with others in the tent settlements, one more sign of spiritual growth. In fact, many people in our Spiritual Formation environment have come to us and wanting to show the world they were Christians. During the month of October, 18 individuals showed the world around them that they are serious followers of Christ by obediently participating in a baptism service at our Hope Ministry Center in Zahleh. 
  1. Today we are able to have over 85 adults in our Discipleship/Leadership Development program (with an all new 3-year curriculum that our team developed and wrote during a pandemic and 4 other crises). This level of discipleship is focused on value-based leadership training because we have a servant-leadership deficit in the Middle East. Today we have a unique opportunity to teach a new leadership culture. 

You see, for me, looking back over this year through a different lens is not making me angry – it is driving me to be grateful. Over the years I have learned that even in the mist of multiple crises we face, God is at work.  

When I am grateful for what God has done it refocuses my attention on what really matters in this moment. It lifts me to higher levels of appreciation, thinking, and acting.

In just a few short weeks it will be 2021; a new year in which I cannot wait to see what God does.

Tom Atema
Heart for Lebanon Co-Founder

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