Having been encouraged by a friend to attend, on Saturday, January 11th Rana set off for the Family to Gather event that was taking place at the ABTS Moore Conference Center that day. Hoping to find support in the midst of the political and economic crisis happening in Lebanon and keep her family strong despite all of the uncertainty and anxiety it produced, she brought her husband, nursery-aged son, and 8-year-old daughter along with her. What happened for her family there, however, was beyond what she could have hoped for.
Over the previous month, Rana had noticed her daughter, Anna, having some trouble. She didn’t understand what was wrong but thought the children’s event might be helpful for her to take part in anyway. Guided by BCYM (Baptist Children and Youth Ministry) staff members, Anna was instructed to draw a picture of a Mr. Worry (see photo) who represented her fears and anxieties. Her drawing spoke of a friend who had been bullying and distracting her in class. As an A+ student, Anna was struggling with anxiety that she would fail her class.
In order to combat these fears, BCYM leaders taught the children to pray to Jesus whenever they felt afraid and He would be with them. Later, Anna shared with her mother what she had learned at the children’s event, so Rana, discovering the reason for her daughter’s anxiety, suggested that they pray for her friend, Leen, asking Jesus to make her a better person and to let them reconcile.
The following Tuesday, when Rana picked her daughter up from school, Anna exclaimed, “Mom, the most amazing thing happened today! Leen said, ‘Let’s not fight anymore. I want to make up with you. Let’s play together during recess!’” The two girls have been playing together since.
For Rana’s family, the Family to Gather event was very a fruitful experience. Now their mission is to find a Sunday school for Anna so that she can take part in these kinds of activities every week.
Rana’s family was not the only family to be deeply impacted by the Family to Gather Event. One of LSESD’s own employees, Dana Haidamous, was so encouraged by the training that she has started implementing the teachings at home with her own family.She shared that she has become more perceptive of her children’s changes in behavior now that she knows the different ways that kids react to stress and has started trying to implement the techniques suggested to help kids deal with stress in trying times. She also stated, “My husband and I were so comforted to know that it’s better to share with our kids and deal with the situation together through prayer and talks rather than shield them and leave them to deal with the situation from what they pick up in the house or outside.” She is not alone. Many families learned practical techniques for improving communication within their own families and more positive ways of coping during stressful times.
The event hosted separate sessions for adults, teenagers, and children, each providing relevant, useful, and age-appropriate strategies for dealing with stress. Dr. Smyrna Khalaf and Pastor Bassem Melki from ABTS (Arab Baptist Theological Seminary) taught parents how to understand their children’s perceptions of the world and reactions to stress. Emphasis was placed on letting children know their importance and not being afraid to show vulnerability in front of them; after all, Jesus is the ultimate superhero, not us. Bassem also highlighted the cultural sins that are a part of everyday Lebanese life such as: masking emotions, denial and lying; nagging, envy and gossip; and judgement along with a lack of grace and mercy.
Meanwhile, as a way to reach out to the younger population, a joint team comprised of YFC (Youth for Christ) and SKILD leaders guided teenagers through talking about anxiety and stress and provided them with coping skills such as relaxation breathing techniques.
What made the event a success was the combination of different age groups and the holistic aproach of strengthening the whole family. Additionally, multiple Christian ministries united in this time of crisis to serve the Body of Christ.
A total of over 200 participants from 26 churches from across the evangelical spectrum attended the event, which served to draw family members closer together, open up communication lines, and teach them how to trust God in times of adversity.
By Emily Hoppin
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