Originally published in Mission Network News
Lebanon may be short on money, but it’s full of problems. An estimated 900 000 to 1.5 million Syrian refugees strain resources and infrastructure. Forced deportations, ongoing since April, send refugees back to Syria whether they want to leave or not.
Political leaders blame the refugees for many of Lebanon’s problems, especially the financial ones. The national debt is more than 150% of Lebanon’s economic output, or GDP. Yesterday, experts forecast another decline; the International Monetary Fund projects Lebanon’s public debt burden will rise to 180% of GDP by 2023.
Yet, hope remains. Heart for Lebanon’s Tom Atema says Syrian refugees are coming to Christ in droves.
“They’re exploding exponentially. They’re sharing their faith. They’re winning other Syrian Muslims to Jesus Christ.”
Heart for Lebanon helps these new believers become disciple makers. “We have around 600 people in our Bible studies each month [and] we’re running about 300 in our worship services each week, plus Sunday schools,” Atema says.
While positive, the growth described above also introduced a problem; Heart for Lebanon quickly ran out of room at its facilities. “We have outgrown our space twice now already,” Atema confirms.
Right now, Heart for Lebanon is finishing work on a brand new Hope Ministry Center in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. It will provide humanitarian aid for families and Christian education for 250 children, ages 5 – 13. The facility will “officially” open on October 1 – nearly a full year ahead of schedule.
“In the centre of the migration highway, we have been able to build – by God’s grace – a 54 000 square foot ministry centre,” Atema says.
“It has the purpose of training them (refugees) to such a degree that they will become irresistible ambassadors for Jesus Christ when they return to Syria.”
Heart for Lebanon’s new facility includes a warehouse for packaging aid items, a 250-seat chapel and training room, cafeteria, clinic, dormitories for mission teams, fellowship hall, and distribution area. The Hope Ministry Center will educate over 12 000 refugees each year and equip them with skills needed to overcome poverty.
The centre is a critical resource for this beleaguered population. While the Bekaa Valley is considered Lebanon’s most important farming region, it’s also home to approximately 350 000 of the poorest refugees in Lebanon.
There are “800,000 [Syrian] kids in the Bekaa Valley that have no education. If they’re eight years of age or younger, they’ve been born inside Lebanon with no birth certificate,” Atema states.
“We are focusing right now on a lot of those children, and the orphans, to give them a head start with the Gospel.”
The Hope Minister Center is fully funded and increases the ministry’s capacity three-fold. However, with increased capacity comes increased need. “We believe deeply that God gives us facility to facilitate ministry. And, to triple our ministry means we need a lot more resources,” Atema says.
Visit Heart for Lebanon’s website to learn more about specific needs and how you can help.
Most importantly, surround this project in ongoing prayer. Ask God to guide Heart for Lebanon leaders and give them discernment. Find additional prayer needs in the sidebar.
“We need wisdom on how [to] say ‘no’ to a lot of people who really need help, and say ‘yes’ to others,” Atema requests.
“That’s not easy to do when everybody’s in desperate need of the Gospel and of family care.”