Amid economic chaos and loss mixed with physical disaster, we witnessed an amazing contrast between the true, living church and the nominal Christians of Lebanon. The true church is flourishing as a sense of despair and palpable darkness overwhelms the rest of the population. We heard from several Lebanese citizens that they felt they were living in hell. Yet the hell of circumstances in Lebanon is enabling the true church, our partners, to stand in stark contrast as the light, fragrance, and hope of Jesus Christ!
The trip to Lebanon on September 19, 2020 had an eerie sense to it. Airports were mostly empty with many services closed. People were covered up and distanced. Arrival in Lebanon meant passing through a cattle line of Covid-19 testing. When traveling to Tyre, our final destination, we heard loud speakers announcing “COVID is here, stay home”, and when we arrived, we did not have the rooms we were expecting. Yet true to His word in Lamentations 3:23 “(His mercies) are new every morning” we awoke Sunday morning to a beautiful sunrise over the Mediterranean Sea, and our incredible witnessing of His church in action had begun.
Our time with Mohamed Yahmoud and the Trye Church family was incredible. Not only was the worship amazing on Sunday morning, but we were able to witness how the Lord is using Mohamed to reclaim the land of Southern Lebanon. The Tyre Church has 100 Syrian refugees working on multiple farms, raising and miking 100 cows, tending hundreds of goats, sheep, pigs and chickens, growing vegetables, and tending olive and pine trees. According to Mohamed, the farming operations not only employs 100 refugees, but it also produces a 30% gross profit. Most recently, the Tyre church has acquired a hospital building in Southern Lebanon and has begun construction on a retreat center in the mountains northwest of Tyre. The Tyre church is interwoven into the city of Tyre and both seem to be prospering. The Tyre Church meets not only on Sunday morning, but also every weekday morning for prayer and every evening for fellowship.
While in Southern Lebanon, we were also able to meet with Chris Todd, who is seeing incredible opportunity to share the love of Christ and Pastor Pierre, who is diligently tending his flock, and training them to be disciples of Christ.
We traveled form Tyre to the Bekah Valley to visit Pastor Jihad and the True Vine Church in Zahle. It was heartwarming to be able to stay in the church guest house, which was clean, quiet, and safe. The True Vine church is impacting the southern Bekah Valley in a similar manner as the Tyre church in Southern Lebanon. The True Vine church now has a beautiful vegetable farm that employs refugees and helps feed 600 refugee families that depend on the church for provision. The True Vine church also has a complex amid a refugee camp that provides an incredibly peaceful space with a school, medical facility, and a general store.
Pastor Jihad seems most encouraged by the fact that he has finally seen 11 native Zahle families come to faith in Jesus Christ. We met two of these new believers who are successful businesspeople and on fire for the Lord. They are sharing the good news with coworkers and drawing many into the family of Christ. They also are pushing Pastor Jihad to expand the church’s outreach, including an incredible ministry to the recent bombing victims in Beirut. The True Vine church sends teams of two evangelists several days each week into neighborhoods that were damaged or destroyed by the recent explosion. We were able to travel with one team in Beirut and witness the inspired way this team shared the good news and love of Christ with bombing victims, invited them into a relationship with Jesus, prayed with them, and blessed them with a financial gift. We were blessed with the opportunity to witness two families pray to receive Jesus.
Our final stop was in Beirut to visit the Lebanese Society for Education and Social Development. One of the most rewarding conversations at LSESD was with Aliah Aboud, who shared with us the effort to assist displaced foreign workers. With t
he devaluation of Lebanese currency, families that had employed these foreign workers as maids, cooks, nannies, etc. can no longer afford to pay them, so these workers end up on the streets. LSESD has a ministry that shelters and assists these displaced foreign workers.
An interesting observation shared with us by Aliah was that the churches like True Vine and Tyre, that had been helping refugees, seem to be the same churches that stepped in to help the bombing victims in Beirut. The encouraging aspect was that members of some of the main line churches in Beruit were coming out to assist the churches helping the bombing victims. And testimony that this service created was starting to affect and mobilize main line churches!
While our trip was encouraging, the ongoing needs of the Lebanese are immense. With the government failing, the currency devaluing, and the constant threat of another explosion, the population has taken to saying, “Anything can happen.” It is our prayer and mission to assist the local ministries with whom we partner in seizing this opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ. The American dollar goes almost eight times further in Lebanon than it did 6 months ago. We believe it is a great time to invest in and support the Church in Lebanon, as the Lord seems to be calling his people, “Come with me from Lebanon, my bride, come with me from Lebanon. Descend
from the crest of Amana, from the top of Senir, the summit of Hermon, from the lions’ dens and the mountain haunts of leopards.” Song of Songs 4:8 NIV
Kalim and Courtney