Dear friends,

We greatly appreciate your concern and prayers. Lebanon has recently had more than its share of challenges, including:

  • A serious refugee crisis as Lebanon hosts around 1.5 million Syrian refugees such that 1 in 4 people is a Syrian refugee, and 1 in every 3 is a refugee. As a result, Lebanon today has the highest per capita concentration of refugees in the world;
  • A liquidity crunch that started in August 2019 whereby Lebanese banks restricted withdrawals such that depositors no longer could access their own savings;
  • A series of about 100 forest fires that broke out on October 13th, 2019 and spread over large areas of Lebanon’s forest;
  • A deepening economic crisis led to an uprising on October 17th, 2019 as Lebanese people hit the streets in peaceful non-sectarian and non-religious demonstrations, leading to sit-ins in major parts of the country in a unified call to bring to an end the current sectarian-based political system! This was followed by on-off clashes (still ongoing) with the authorities as rioters infiltrated the protests.
  • With the uprising came road blocks and increasingly restrictive bank measures that crippled the economic cycle and the country as a whole and led to the closing of businesses and the laying off of employees; not to mention a downward spiral of the local currency;
  • In February 2020 came Covid-19 and a lockdown starting March 15th that further impoverished the Lebanese people.

The compounded crisis left over 50% of the population living below the poverty line, with one out of every three Lebanese unemployed, and one in five saw their salary being reduced since October 2019.

It is within this context that this week, on August 4th, 2020, a massive explosion ripped our country leaving over 150 dead, over 60 still missing, more than 5,000 injured, and 300,000 homeless, not to mention the thousands of buildings that sustained material damages – including LSESD’s Beirut Baptist School and the GateWay Bookstore.

Crisis after crisis, LSESD focused on strengthening the witness of the Church and set out to respond in partnership with local churches.

  • Please click here for a brief on our response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • We similarly set out (see video) directly following the Beirut explosion to provide food and hygiene items to affected families, in addition to shelter at our seminary’s guest house to families who have lost their homes. We are in the process of assessing the cost of rehabilitating partially destroyed homes, as well as preparing for winterization, trauma counselling… In the meantime, the situation of the families seeking shelter at our seminary is heartbreaking to say the least! They have lost everything! Many of them have nothing with them but the clothes they’re wearing! We are providing them with food, hygiene items as well as much needed medication for those with chronic and other illnesses.

The needs are huge, and we are grateful to God for His provision and for the opportunity to serve and be the hands and feet of Jesus amongst the vulnerable, the broken and the now destitute.

In parallel, and also on the ministry level, what we have yet to address are the material damages sustained by:

  • Beirut Baptist School (BBS). The new academic year is round the corner and we need to repair the damage [broken glass, doors, ceilings…] by September 2020. We have no choice but to repair the school in time to ensure a safe learning environment for our 1300 students (Kindergarten to High School), keeping in mind that over 90% of our student body come from Muslim families, and that all students attend weekly Bible study and chapel. BBS is an amazing lighthouse in a majority Muslim part of Beirut, and it may be these students’ only opportunity to come to know Christ and/or learn about the Christian faith from Christians. So it is important that our students be able to resume their education at BBS.
  • The GateWay Bookshop. A Christian bookshop directed by faithful Christians and which includes a lounge where people come and pray, share testimonies… We cannot resume this ministry before repairing the material damages incurred.
  • The homes of 49 of our staff members – mostly educators at the Beirut Baptist School. With the current economic crisis, there is no way that those people can afford to repair their homes on their own. In fact, for several months now, our BBS teachers have been receiving only a portion of their salaries particularly since the parents of our BBS students have themselves been affected by the economic decline and the COVID-19 lockdown and were unable to settle their children’s tuition fees. Standing by our staff in their hour of need says a lot about our faith, especially since a considerable number of them are Muslims who chose to hang in there with BBS because of their appreciation for the Christian faith.

These new and emergent needs are over and above our ongoing response to

  • Syrian refugees in Lebanon (basic needs, education, psychosocial support, livelihoods, programs for children and youth…)
  • Vulnerable and internally displaced people in Syria (basic needs, psychosocial support, Sunday schools, children programs…); and
  • Vulnerable and food insecure Lebanese affected by the declining economic crisis and the sharp devaluation of our local currency from LL 1,500 to the 1US$ in February 2020, to LL 8,000 to the 1US$ and reaching LL 10,000 in June 2020. Needless to say, prices have skyrocketed and the middle class is now almost completely dissolved particularly as many have lost their source of income, others are receiving only a portion of their salaries (that have already lost about 80% of their purchasing power because of the devaluation of the local currency). Which is the very reason we have also launched
  • programs focused on our churches – over and above the wider community – to provide food vouchers and medical support to at-risk members of our churches who have been affected by the overall crisis.

There is much pain and suffering, discrimination and marginalization, also hopelessness and despair in Lebanon today. There is a huge role for Christians to play particularly since justice is often times associated in scripture with righteousness that delivers the poor and the marginalized. Justice that is inclusive and involves love and compassion, and is built on the teachings of Jesus.

Please keep our people and country in your prayers. Pray as well for our team and ministry as we respond to current and emergent needs. May God be glorified in our response.

Pray as well for God’s provision for all of the above, including the funds needed to repair the damages sustained by both our ministries that they may resume their service in time. Same for the homes of our 49 team members.

 

Grace and peace,

Alia

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