GOD IS AT WORK… CMS designer Dan Misson travelled to Lebanon to meet people in mission and see what God is up to in a fragile country.
Travelling to the Middle East has never been on my bucket list. I’d never pondered the possibility of visiting an area that could be considered unstable, unsafe and with a major refugee crisis.
So you can imagine the anxiety I was feeling leading up to this trip – also because I was doing interviews for the first time, and as CMS’s senior graphic designer this felt beyond my experience.
However, as soon as we arrived at Beirut airport, I was taken aback by the warm welcome from the Lebanese people. The anxiety started to subside and I knew the next few days were going to be an encouraging and impactful visit with people in mission. We arrived at our accommodation at 11pm.
We made an early start, leaving at 8am to travel two hours north to Zgharta for a full day, meeting and interviewing local partners Emil and Reem.
Emil and Reem started a school for Syrian refugee children in their own home.
They currently teach 80–120 pupils, offering basic education as well as introducing children to the gospel.
Emil and Reem have a passion to bring hope and healing to thousands of refugees.
Reem said, “I have nothing, but God is using me and many people need to know about God’s love and to experience the beautiful relationship with a God who cares.”
Seeing what God is doing through Emil and Reem was an inspiration and a challenge in so many ways.
We met a 15-year-old called Rahaf.
She told us, “If it wasn’t for Emil and Reem, who are like family to me, I would have been married off at 12 years old.”
However, she now has hope for the future and dreams that one day she will be a doctor.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was when Rahaf invited us, along with Emil and Reem and their children, to meet her family and have tea with them.
If you know a little about the history of Syrian and Lebanese people in regards to the civil war, which really is still in the hearts and minds of the people, then this was an iconic moment of Syrian and Lebanese families sitting together. A powerful image of what God is doing in Lebanon.
And it’s not every day you can perform a couple of magic tricks for a Syrian family.
Today we headed to Mansourieh to interview mission partners Audrey and Colin Gibson.
They work for the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD), which helps to provide for the basic needs of vulnerable individuals and families.
Audrey works at the pioneering SKILD centre (next picture), part of LSESD, where children are assessed for any special educational needs.
Colin liaises with local and international partners to ensure that LSESD can be effective and adequately financed.
Audrey told us, “I would love to see greater support and awareness for parents of children with educational needs – there are still taboos around special needs.”
We then got to meet Alia who is LSESD’s director of development and public relations.
She shared with us the challenges the church faces in Lebanon. Despite a history of conflict and violence, “God is healing and transforming our churches – Syrian and Lebanese are now integrating into one community – not because they took a decision to forgive and forget, but because God is working in their hearts.”
Audrey and Colin once said, “The needs in Lebanon are huge, but so are the opportunities to show God’s love for people.”
I definitely glimpsed God at work among people in Lebanon and saw how the church is growing despite the challenges.
Our last day.
We went to interview mission partners Phil and Sylvie Good.
They live in Burj Hammoud, a poor area of Beirut with many Syrian refugee families (main picture, top).
Being with them and watching how they interact with people in their community was a real joy.
They work with Resurrection Church Beirut, a congregation of over 700 families – a third of whom are Syrian refugees.
They also provide support for the Life Center church, which likewise serves Syrian refugees.
We sat down with the pastor, Said, who told us:
“All the members of our church are from a Syrian background, and when the Lebanese community realises we are supporting Syrians, they don’t like it.
“But Jesus taught us to help the stranger.”
Said preaches the gospel in a land that is still healing from civil war.
There is a long way to go, but God is working through his people.