For over two years my family and I have been thoroughly blessed with the opportunity to serve in Beirut, Lebanon. We are thankful for the support and mission-minded leadership of the Iowa-Missouri Conference for making this possible.
From our home at the top of the Middle East University (MEU) campus, we can see the Mediterranean Sea reflecting sunlight just a few miles away. Between us and that Great Sea (as the Bible calls it) is the sprawling city of Beirut, home to over 2 million people including multiple thousands of Iraqi and Syrian refugees who fled from ISIS and the Syrian civil war.
MEU is the only Seventh-day Adventist higher education institution in the Middle East North Africa Union. The union’s territory is home to over half a billion people, and less than 4,000 of them are Adventists. The mission field here is vast, and MEU is a light on the hill in this city. Enrollment at the start of this school year is near 150, and approximately two-thirds of the students are not Adventist.
Students come from about 26 countries (including two U.S. students from the Iowa-Missouri Conference). Properly trained, these young people can change the world. “With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained…how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Saviour might be carried to the whole world! How soon might the end come—the end of suffering and sorrow and sin!” (Ellen G. White, Education, p. 271).
I serve as the pastor for the University Church on the campus of MEU, and our services are in English. I also pastor the Bouchrieh Church, a mile and a half down the hill. Its services are in Arabic. When I preach there, one of the elders translates for me. Virtually every Sabbath, the Iraqi refugees in attendance outnumber the members. They are nearly all Christian, and they church-hop to many different churches in the area so that they can become known and hopefully receive much-needed assistance from each church. Many of the refugees are not able to find jobs, so they depend on the churches to help them.
The University and Bouchrieh churches, with the help of some privately donated funds, regularly provide the refugees with food, clothing, and other necessities. Some of the refugees have been attending our church regularly for a few years, and we pray and claim the promise that God’s Word will not return to Him void (Isa. 55:11). Please join us in praying for these refugees to bravely accept and follow Jesus fully in baptism and joining God’s remnant church, which also means leaving behind the unbiblical traditions their families have been steeped in for centuries.
Lastly, please pray for us as we begin a cycle of evangelism here, in partnership with It Is Written—which will culminate in a prophecy series in March of 2019. Our process will be similar to what was done in Kansas City earlier this year.
We thank God there is freedom in this country to have these meetings. Please pray that we can reach our two target audiences: the native Lebanese and the foreign refugees. God is already preparing the soil. This past summer, student literature-evangelists went door-to-door and sold thousands of books throughout Lebanon, earning thousands of dollars for their tuition. Later this month and in October, our health ministries team will begin a Breathe Free stop smoking program and a cooking school. In 2019, It Is Written is planning to bring medical professionals, and Andrews University is planning to bring physical therapy students to help meet the practical needs of the people here.
In some ways, outreach here is similar to outreach in the U.S. Though they speak different languages and represent different cultures, they are still people who, just like us, long for peace that can only be found through the grace of Jesus Christ.