To a traumatized child, a teddy bear can make a big difference.
But as the handful of Lebanese evangelicals trained in counseling are emphasizing in the aftermath of the Beirut explosion, so can an ordinary individual.
“I don’t think the sit-with-a-psychologist model works with a communal culture,” said Kate Mayhew, country representative for the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Lebanon.
“A lay person might be fearful of doing harm. But there is a lot they can do.”
There is a lot that needs to be done.
An impact assessment conducted by Strategy& in the worst affected neighborhoods of Beirut found that 3 in 4 respondents were suffering anxiety two weeks after the blast.
Nearly 7 in 10 were experiencing disturbing dreams, and 6 in 10 reported difficulty doing household chores.
And according to UNICEF, 50 percent of its respondents said their children were showing signs of trauma and extreme stress. In the poverty-stricken Karantina district directly in front of the port, one child clutched a bag of distributed bread to his chest, rocking back and forth. Though by then…
This article was originally published at Christianity Today, on September 9, 2020. Please click here to read the full text.
Sitting at his desk in the second-floor office adjacent to the historic National Evangelical Church of Beirut, Habib Badr calmly filled out the wedding registry. It was a ritual the almost 70-year-old had performed countless times over the course of his 35-year ministry.
The next day, there would be a funeral. A stalwart member of his congregation, the former head of reconstructive surgery at the American University of Beirut hospital during the years of civil war, had passed away of natural causes.
It seemed there were more funerals than weddings these days, Badr thought. But the nostalgic church would always draw young people ready to exchange their vows, even from the scattered Lebanese diaspora, in imitation of their parents a generation before.
There was something special about the lighting. On a clear day, parishioners could see the distant snow-covered peak of Mt. Sannine, towering over the capital below. Three years ago, the church replaced its eight ordinary windows. Bracketing the sanctuary pews with translucent glass depicting the three crosses of Calvary above colored stones, they aimed to remind worshipers of the ever-present Rock of Ages, upon whom the church is built.
Lebanese evangelicals don’t prefer stained glass windows with human imagery, Badr said. This serves to distinguish them from original Catholic and Orthodox heritages.
“To the missionaries, we say, ‘Go home,’” a Lebanese Greek Orthodox bishop had publicly proclaimed a generation earlier. “And to the Protestants we say, ‘Come back home.’”
But for Badr and his congregants, they were already home. The National Evangelical Church, the oldest Arabic-speaking Protestant congregation in the Middle East, was formed in 1848. Badr’s grandfather Yusuf was the first native pastor, installed in 1890.
And as if to emphasize, the circular window high above the pulpit—installed in 1998—pictured a cross above Mt. Sannine, with an image of the church in the foothills below. Originally constructed in 1869, the architecture was a blend of Scottish and Lebanese styles.
Every Sunday, the symbolism would resonate: A Reformed church, nestled like any other Lebanese home into the rugged mountainous terrain.
Badr’s wedding thoughts were abruptly shaken by a small tremor. Small earthquakes periodically rattle the small Mediterranean nation two-thirds the size of Connecticut, so the pastor stood and prepared to momentarily take refuge underneath his office doorframe. It was not a moment too soon…
This article was originally published at Christianity Today, on August 20, 2020. Please click here to read the full text.
Our family was sitting down to dinner when the walls rumbled.
Assuming it was just an unusual surge of electricity preceding one of Lebanon’s frequent power outages, we readied to say our prayers.
And then came the boom, and the whole house shook.
“An earthquake?” I wondered, as we rushed our four children, ages 7 to 13, outside to presumed safety. But there we found neighbors, anxiously skimming through Twitter on their balconies, shouting out the news.
Beirut had just suffered one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in human history.
My nerves for my family’s security settled when I learned it was not an earthquake. But then the political nerves took over.
Was it an assassination? An Israeli strike?
Reporting for Christianity Today from Cairo during the Arab Spring, our family had become somewhat accustomed to instability. But that was my realm: attending demonstrations, visiting attacked churches. Yet there was always a sense that life carried on, like the ever-calm waters flowing in the nearby Nile River, where we would often board a felucca boat and float in peace.
Our year in Lebanon has been much different. Within two weeks of our arrival…
This article was originally published at Christianity Today, on August 7, 2020. Please click here to read the full text.