Heaven gained two of its best in 2018. Dear friend and partner Sam Moore and renowned Theologian, friend and Pastor Ghassan Khalaf. Both men of God were dear and near to Lena and I in our 20+ years of ministry at LSESD and I look forward to reuniting with them in heaven one day. The LSESD family was deeply saddened by the earthly losses of both but joyfully celebrated the lives and legacies that they left behind.
Christianity can be heard as words said or sung in church and shared with others. But for us to be effective witnesses, our Christian faith must be visualized. Our actions and our lives should reflect what we believe in, so people can see Christ’s image in and through us.
Through our words and actions this year, LSESD has strived to stand up for what we believe in and collaborate with others to make it a reality. Our advocacy and special needs program is a prime example. Through the work of SKILD and Beirut Baptist School (BBS) we are tangibly contributing towards an inclusive Lebanon that promotes diversity, respect and quality education. None of this would have been possible if it weren’t for our partners, friends and loyal supporters. The perfect illustration of this was evident when a group of talented students from BBS, both those who had special needs and their peers, presented the National Anthem at a ceremony at the Presidential Palace, representing what it means to provide equal opportunities towards an inclusive Lebanon.
The way our church partners have responded to the massive needs of those displaced by the war in Syria is also the epitome of ‘visual’ Christianity. Their willingness to welcome the distressed, to serve practically and sacrificially desperate families has been astounding and it has been a blessing to many. People from all walks of life are coming to the church and knocking on its door, and many are finding the help they need during these very troubling times. They are also finding hope to carry on, despite the losses they have suffered and the often dangerous and precarious situations they still live in.
Also, the way in which graduates from the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary are returning to their communities to become local pastors and ministers is a testimony of visual and measurable impact. The Middle East is strengthened when leaders thrive in their indigenous communities to share the message of the Gospel. Another way in which LSESD strives to equip and empower leaders is through providing new literature written in Arabic that will motivate timely conversations in our culture. One of the latest publications that Dar Manhal el Hayat put out was written by a Sunni sheikh who wrote about the lives of American missionaries that lived in his home-town. I urge you to read more about this unique book launch here.
There’s a lyric from the wonderful hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” which sums up well the approach that LSESD and our partners have taken as we have supported those affected by the Syrian war: “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” Of course, in the hymn this is pointing to the way that God sustains and blesses us, but we are wanting to show that in a visual, practical and loving way with those who don’t know Him. We are looking to meet their short-term needs this winter season, to help them through the next week or month with the essentials they need – to give them “strength for today”. But we are also wanting to equip them for the future, through things like education programs and livelihoods training, to give them “bright hope for tomorrow” and therefore our Christmas appeal this year focuses on both winterization and education, through efforts carried out by MERATH.
On a more personal note, my family has sensed God’s protecting and guiding hand this year in many regards. Lena continues to serve in the prison ministry and to be a stronghold of support to our family and to the ministry at large. Our eldest son Nicholas recently moved to Germany as a third-year engineering student and has gotten involved in serving the refugee population there.
And, Christopher, our youngest son has found new meaning in beautifully expressing himself through art. For those of you who know us well, you will know that this is a big improvement for him and we have truly seen God’s hand at work in his life. As we all strive to keep our faith visual in this new year, I would like to share with you a personal visual representation of God’s faithfulness through Christopher’s painting that you can see attached with my message.
May we seek to be more generous, bolder in our faith and more like Him in everything that we do. Thank you, friends, for standing with us in empowering the local church in the Middle East and serving its communities.
God bless you and your families,
Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!
Chief Executive Officer
Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD)