By Sarah Jennings
Behind every young person who helping others, there is someone who helped them first. It could have been a mother who taught them about sacrifice, a teacher who pointed out their strengths, or a principal who gave them a chance.
On July 6th, Beirut Baptist School (BBS) celebrated the senior graduation of 64 students! It was a joyous night, not just for the students, but the whole community. To reach this commencement stage, these students faced above average challenges.
Perhaps this is why the graduation ceremony had a different presence this year. Students lost so much these last couple years in Lebanon – friends who emigrated, the financial stability of their family, or family members lost to COVID-19. Meanwhile, many parents took on more work to pay for tuition. Many of their teachers made difficult decisions to stay for these students, despite some of the hardest years of teaching, while inflation devalued their salaries. At every step though, the community kept praying, and our international partners gave generously, so that the lights could stay on.
Saydeh Younes, mother of graduating senior Samir Jabara and BBS teacher for the last 16 years, reminisced, “This graduation was the best ever. It’s not because my son was graduating, but because there was a different focus. In this graduation, you could sense the presence of God and his work through the graduation. From the beginning of the ceremony till the end… you could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, the presence of God.”
It took hundreds of people to get these students to graduation. And yet, they are graduating into a world that is even more unsteady. With this in mind, Alice Azar Wazir, BBS principal, urged the students to “Be Strong” in her commencement speech.
“In a world filled with challenges and hardships, be strong and clothed with courage. I’m not talking about the strength that is wrongly understood and applied. Not the strength that causes wars,” said Alice. “It is the strength that shapes your character. It’s the strength that is needed for the modern world or the weak, struggling country. It’s the strength that is clothed in courage and refuses that which is wrong and works to make injustices right.”
For Alice and the many other leaders at BBS, the work of educating students is about nurturing their mind, body, and soul. Samir Jabara, who graduated this year, has been witness to this ministry his whole life.
“They taught about God in chapel and in Bible sessions in class. They taught us in a way that kept our attention and used God’s Word in real life. They related it to our everyday life and made it interesting for the non-Christian students to want to learn and listen to it. This definitely had a positive impact on my faith,” said Jabara.
Over the years, the team at BBS has steered the school to not only be an academic institution, but also one of service to the community. It’s important that love is felt in practical ways too, like helping with repairs after the Beirut Blast or delivering food during Ramadan and Easter.
“They love everyone in the same way Christ loved, without favoritism. Even for those who have learning difficulties, we don’t have discrimination. All people are welcome, regardless of their background. This is something so unique at BBS – they look at people and do not judge by their religion, of their ethnicity,” said Younes.
The school has grown from 76 students in 1955 to over 1,300 students, even staying open during Beirut’s 15-year civil war. When the neighborhood changed from predominately Christian to majority Muslim background, some thought the school would close.
The school stayed open, welcoming new families from all backgrounds. In this time of crisis, the reaction will be no different.
“You can see the mission and the values lived out at BBS. Especially during this time during the pandemic and Beirut’s explosion, they stood with the community. They stood with their teachers, with the parents. They helped them on different levels – on the spiritual level, through prayers, and provided much more,” said Younes.
We pray that the doors stay open for decades to come, so many more graduating seniors can walk the stage with confidence – knowing they have a supportive family in BBS wherever they go.
A Lighthouse in the Heart of Beirut
In giving to BBS, not only are you investing in the lives of students and the Christian witness of the school, but you are investing in the future of Lebanon.