Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Lebanon: Forgiveness

Syria occupied Lebanon from the 80s until 2005. Now it's Syria that it's in turmoil and the Lebanese have a choice: To forgive or to get vengeance.

In the 1980s, one of the pastors of our host church in Beirut says the Syrians would hammer the Christian communities with artillery shells when they refused to fall in line with Syria's political wishes. He said his family would huddle at home, cowering as bombs landed all around. During one stretch, 3,500 shells a day landed in Jounieh, a Christian enclave next to Beirut. Do the math to figure out how many explosions that is per minute.

The shrine to the assassinated PM

The Christians from Tent of Praise host the Bethel team and share their faith with the Syrians. The Christians pass out memory cards for cell phones with sermons from Muslim converts and the gospel read in Arabic for these suffering Muslims, many who can’t read. The men plug the cards into their flip phones, testing the memory cards to make sure they work. People pray. Food packages are distributed.

These aren’t just old wounds. In 2005, Syria is believed to have orchestrated the assassination of the popular Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri. The bomb that killed him was so big it blew a crater 30 feet deep into the street. The shock waves were felt throughout the city. The heavily armored car transporting the prime minister and the vehicles making up the large security detail were vaporized.

Christians haven’t forgotten these offenses. But they’re choosing to forgive. Helping the Syrians is an act of humility and love. The small church in Beirut has paid for much of the supplies themselves, and they don't have much to give. It's sacrifice to break unforgiveness.

At another camp, a Bethel student asks to pray for an old man, probably a Sunni Muslim. The student feels the Spirit moving. His hand gets hot. The old man notices too, staring at the hand on his shoulder. The student speaks faster, feeling the Spirit pulling words out of his heart through his mouth.

The student calls the man’s spirit forward. The old man, broken but still proud, starts to cry. The student’s words come out fast, outrunning the translator trying to keep up in Arabic. But that’s okay. It’s the Spirit speaking -- right to this old man's heart.

Bethel students pray for Syrian refugees
The American missionary doing the translating is moved. He’s been in Lebanon for almost 35 years straight. “This is what we’ve been missing,” he says. “We need more people moving under the power of the Spirit. That’s what short term teams bring. They come in fresh, full of faith. They have a breaker anointing. They pray without inhibition.”

The Lebanese church needs people walking out their faith over the long term, even when they see little breakthrough. Muslims openly confess a love for Jesus only after considering the huge sacrifice they’re about to make. Sometimes things don’t end well for converts.

But the local church also needs others with fresh legs and hearts bringing in hope and faith from abroad. Both groups move with the Holy Spirit.

Sacrifice by those who have been hurt. Fresh passion from the outside.

It’s the Holy Spirit using teamwork to bring hope.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, Andrew. You give a real feeling for what it is like for Christians - and Muslim converts - in Lebanon right now. It is great to see the Spirit moving.