What a powerful experience in Beirut, Lebanon, This was my first time to this special place in the world. Honestly, I was a little uneasy about the trip, but not as uneasy as my wife :). However, the opportunity to help train pastors from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq was a call I could not ignore. God had truly had a plan and a purpose.
Meeting these pastors and leaders from these Middle Eastern countries was deeply rich and meaningful. These are the pastors and leaders on the front lines of ministry – many literally risking their lives for the Gospel. Every pastor had a story. A story of persecution. A story of endurance. A story of God’s protection and His never-ending grace. These men and women have been shot at, run into by cars, had to flee their countries for a period of time and yet they continue to serve, to pray and to love “their people.” There is a passionate desire people come to know Christ, and they will understand God has them where they are for this purpose. Servants like these are my heros – Kahli (who pastors the largest church in Jordan and just launched a church plant in Iraq), Camille (who leads Heart for Lebanon in Beirut), Mariaf (who leads Youth For Christ), and the list goes on. These are friends and brothers for whom I am most thankful!
One of the highlights was a special prayer time we had for the pastors and leaders from churches in Syria. Such a powerful picture of Christ’s love as pastors from other countries surrounded their brothers and sisters in Christ, laid hands and prayed over them. The room was full and the Spirit was Presence. As I led this prayer time over these faithful servants, I asked God for His protection, peace, Presence and purpose. You could literally feel God’s Spirit. People were praying in different languages, and yet everyone understood. Tears and sobs for loved ones who were in danger and yet resolve to stand firm in the Lord come what may. As one person said, “It is in times of persecution that the church truly grows.” God is Sovereign. Our faith, hope and future is in His hands.
In addition to working with these pastors and lay leaders, we had the opportunity to minister to Iraqi refugee families. Through this amazing organization, Heart for Lebanon, we made home visits to Iraqi Christian families who had to leave their homes because of Islamic persecution. As we sat in these meager one to two rooms “apartments” (some with up to 11 family members staying together), we heard of struggles and fears. Yet, we also saw people who were just like us. Moms and Dads doing their best to take care of their children and parents after losing everything after having to flee their homes and country. Heart for Lebanon gives out food, diapers and medical supplies to over 550 Iraqi refugee families every month. Along with this, now they are ministering to over 200 Syrian refugee families. I wondered what it would be like to have to “start over.” To take my family and have to leave my house, job, loved ones since people were threatening to kill my children because of my faith in Christ. May God be their Provider and their Shelter.
The religious and political implications of this region are so complicated (for example think about the Palestinian issue alone in Lebanon and Israel). Here in Lebanon, there is a caste system based on religion. We had coffee (strongest coffee ever!) in a Gypsy tent. These are the poorest of the poor in this region. Essentially no rights. This is a place (like most of the world) where there are definitely the “haves” and the “have nots.” While society distinguishes based on your ethinticty and where you are born, I am thankful for a God of grace for all! God loves all people, and this is still the most powerful and captivating force for change in the world!
Overall, like a mission trip, when God calls you to go serve, you are the one who was changed. My understanding of the Middle East will never be the same. My respect for the Christians facing persecution will be more personal. My time in prayer will be more intentional. Also, I have a deeper appreciation for the power of investing in the same place over time. I came to Beirut with
Tom Atema (one of our core team members and leaders at RHCC) as well as his dad. Tom Sr. has been investing in Beirut for 10 years now. Through the war in 2006 to assinations of government officals, Tom continues to faithfully come and train leaders. You can see the difference. This country will never be the same because a new generation is being raised up in Christ. Also, people like Tom Sr. has been investing in Beirut for 10 years now. Through the war in 2006 to assinations of government officals, Tom continues to faithfully come and train leaders. You can see the difference. This country will never be the same because a new generation is being raised up in Christ. Also, people like
Kim Tone. Kim who is from our church is here working with Cru. She just committed to a long-term appointment. It was so good seeing her and celebrating what God is doing through her ministry here. Whether a place like Beirut, South Africa, Moldova, Brazil, or other place, I encourage you to find a country in the world and invest! Be involved in God’s church here in the States, and along with your ministry here somewhere else in the world! Lebanon is called the “Gateway to the Middle East,” as God transforms lives there so many other people are being impacted. It is not safe or easy, but God is our Protection and our Provider. He draws us to Himself and then sends us out for His glory! Let’s change the world together!