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Christianity Today Middle East Published Articles

Old Scars and New Wounds: Christians Comfort Lebanon’s Trauma

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.

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Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Pulse

God,

Can there still be life?

One month since the explosion, a search and rescue team from Chile believes it found a pulse.

Buried deep under the rubble of a collapsed building in Beirut, the dig requires utmost speed and all precaution.

Just like the rescue of Lebanon.

One month since the cabinet resigned, a reform or sanction president from France believes he has a plan.

With a schedule full of specific details, his roadmap requires difficult consensus and political sacrifice.

And to welcome his efforts, political leadership rallied to appoint a new prime minister.

Like the one before him, he is a political novice without popular backing. He pledges swift formation of a small cabinet.

Can he rescue Lebanon?

The protest movement rejected him as the next desperate patchwork solution of a discredited political class. But as their street mobilization wanes, they celebrated a civil society victory.

The World Bank pulled back funding for a controversial dam. Dismissing their fears over environmental impact, a politician lamented that Lebanon would one day need the water.

God, is Lebanon’s pulse at the level of thirst?

As inflation and poverty continue to plague, give each man his daily bread.

Give wisdom to the new prime minister. Increase his authority, as he follows your roadmap. Help him judge how it fits with the French.

And may Chile discover someone alive. But it now appears the pulse has faded. No survivors.

Thank you for hope, God, however fleeting. You rallied so many Lebanese behind them.

They long for a miracle. Give them living water. Give them new life.

Utmost speed with all precaution, God. Difficult consensus and personal sacrifice.

Keep Lebanon alive.

Amen.


Lebanon Prayer places before God the major events of the previous week, asking his favor for the nation living through them.

It seeks for values common to all, however differently some might apply them. It honors all who strive on her behalf, however suspect some may find them.

It offers no solutions, but desires peace, justice, and reconciliation. It favors no party, but seeks transparency, consensus, and national sovereignty.

How God sorts these out is his business. Consider joining in prayer that God will bless the people and establish his principles, from which all our approximations derive.

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Christianity Today Middle East Published Articles

A Beacon of Hope in a Broken Beirut

Image: P. Clarkson

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.

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Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: State of Emergency

God,

The nations encircle. The government falls. The army entrenches. The investigation begins.

Beirut still smolders.

There is great need for leaders, and Lebanon has many. Bless and guide them all.

The Christian president will not cede sovereignty, to allow outsiders assigning blame for the blast.

The Shiite speaker of parliament increases military jurisdiction, to quiet the streets.

The Sunni prime minister resigns his post, to protest corruption preventing reform.

But each sect has alternatives.

A Christian in opposition calls for early elections.

A Shiite in support accuses some of stoking civil war.

A Sunni in waiting backs an international probe.

There is another probe pending. A UN tribunal will soon give verdict on who killed his father.

While fallout continues over international peace. Two regional powers normalize ties.

God, the lines are sharpening. Too many crisscross the cedars.

Let truth be made known, whoever pronounces it.

Let order prevail, in each disciplined heart.

Let protest find outlet, till transparency comes.

God, shield the nation from foreign agendas. Welcome the aid, with all expertise.

But let every decision come from consensus. Let every decision conform with your will.

Hold accountable the guilty. Marginalize the manipulative. Redeem all repentant long given to cheat.

Lift up the nation through prayer and humility. Bring forth her leaders to do what is right.

At every level of leadership, God, give clarity. Give courage. Give conviction.

Give compassion.

Lebanon is truly a state of emergency.

Be its healer. Be its rescue.

Be its God.

Amen.


Lebanon Prayer places before God the major events of the previous week, asking his favor for the nation living through them.

It seeks for values common to all, however differently some might apply them. It honors all who strive on her behalf, however suspect some may find them.

It offers no solutions, but desires peace, justice, and reconciliation. It favors no party, but seeks transparency, consensus, and national sovereignty.

How God sorts these out is his business. Consider joining in prayer that God will bless the people and establish his principles, from which all our approximations derive.

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Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Three Explosions

God,

The city is reeling. And with it the system?

Whether from negligence or sabotage, hundreds of thousands are hurting.

You are a God of truth. If the reasons behind the massive explosion are not yet known, reveal them.

You are a God of justice. If the people behind the terrible suffering are not yet identified, expose them.

But you have not been idle.

You are a God of compassion. Beirut is healing through an explosion of kindness.

You are a God of righteousness. Beirut is heaving in an explosion of anger.

To what end?

For neither has evil been idle.

Dozens are dead. Thousands are injured.

A spirit of paralysis grips too many. A spirit of division seeds mistrust. A spirit of destruction animates several. A spirit of accusation seeks protection from fault.

Manipulation. Self-interest. Revenge. Hatred. Greed. Fear. Sin.

Me.

Everyone is guilty, God. All can be redeemed.

Some are more guilty than others. Bring forth the men who will lead with repentance. Promote women of principle who honor their charge.

But beyond individuals, there is something that binds them.

Is it the system? Must Lebanon sideline its sects, or are they its strength?

You are a God of order. Keep the nation from chaos and guide to consensus.

You are a God of freedom. Inspire authority to let loose inspiration; create an environment that honors its gifts.

Let there be a fourth explosion, God.

An explosion of blessing—of hope and of life.

And then, let it settle in quiet humility.

Bandage Lebanon’s wounds.

Build up its strength.

Sweep up its glass.

Imagine the message if all come together.

Amen.


Lebanon Prayer places before God the major events of the previous week, asking his favor for the nation living through them.

It seeks for values common to all, however differently some might apply them. It honors all who strive on her behalf, however suspect some may find them.

It offers no solutions, but desires peace, justice, and reconciliation. It favors no party, but seeks transparency, consensus, and national sovereignty.

How God sorts these out is his business. Consider joining in prayer that God will bless the people and establish his principles, from which all our approximations derive.

Categories
Christianity Today Middle East Published Articles

How I Explained Beirut’s Explosion to My Kids

Credit: Julie Casper

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.