Our country is at a crucial crossroads, politically, socially and spiritually.
Below we have linked to a statement from the president of our church’s association, Converge, calling us as Christ-followers to unity and prayer following the events that took place last week at our nation’s Capitol.
I realize that a variety of political viewpoints are represented across our Grace Point family, and for that I am grateful because it means that we are centered on the true foundation of Christ, and not a political ideology or party. As you read these strong words from Converge president Scott Ridout, I remind you of the calling of the Church to bear the light of Christ in the world, including the responsibility to speak Biblical truth into the events of our day.
If you’ve been around Grace Point for a while, you’ve probably heard about our FOCUS in Lebanon. Lebanon has faced a refugee crisis for the past several years due to war in neighboring countries. The coronavirus lockdowns made this situation even worse. Then in August, a massive explosion devastated the city of Beirut. The impact was so great that every window in Beirut shattered, but with those shattered windows came open doors that had been shut for months because of the lockdowns.
When the FOCUS team learned of the gravity of the situation, we knew that we wanted to give, and we knew Horizons would be a great steward of whatever money we were able to raise. Over the past few months, we have sent over $34,000. This money has gone to the Lebanon Crisis Fund, a fund set up to bring vital humanitarian aid and the Gospel message to those devastated by the explosion and the worsening economic crisis.
Horizons is the perfect ministry to help because, although they are an international organization, they have local staff that live and work in Beirut. They are trusted in the communities as authentic, caring people deeply committed to loving their neighbors and sharing the Gospel while giving practical help to people who are suffering tremendous loss and unimaginable poverty.
Almost immediately after the explosion, Horizons set up three strategic sites around Beirut which served as launch points for teams of staff and volunteers, logistical centers, and drop sites for food and supplies. Several local churches, whose own buildings had been severely damaged, joined Horizons to minister to traumatized people around the blast site. Roughly 65 indigenous partner churches serve with Horizons in Lebanon preparing food, repairing damaged homes, and giving medical care. Horizons volunteers and staff are often able to stay and visit in the newly-repaired homes to pray and read the Bible with people who may be hearing the Gospel for the first time. After seeing how the people from Horizons work with such love and faith to meet their needs, they often cannot wait for their new friends to visit again. Horizons staff reports many examples of people asking for Bibles, church recommendations, and prayer. God is using believers in Beirut to show that He is good, and the FOCUS team is so thrilled that Grace Point gets to participate in this firsthand.
One of our goals from the beginning of the FOCUS process was for Grace Point’s unique resources and gifts to be multiplied, and, although things look very different than we ever imagined, the FOCUS team is so happy to report that God is, in fact, multiplying what we have given.
Money from the Lebanon Crisis fund has also been used to purchase much-needed food (over 88,000 meals) and medicines. Please continue to pray for people who are hurting and for the Horizons volunteers and staff to be refreshed and used in mighty ways by the Lord.
It seems like little has gone according to plan in 2020…at least in our minds. That certainly has been true for Grace Point’s Middle East FOCUS (our 3 to 5-year mission partnership) as well. But we have an amazing God and nothing, not even a pandemic, can thwart His plans! It is such a comfort to know that God is always in control!
A few members of the FOCUS Implementation Team were scheduled to travel to Lebanon this spring for a ministry development trip. The purpose of this trip was to explore the various ministry opportunities that might be a good fit for Grace Point and to identify one or more opportunities for our first Lebanon mission trip this summer. We also were planning on in-depth meetings with Amchit Baptist Church, our potential church partner, to determine how we could come alongside each other in ministry and, hopefully, solidify an official partnership. We were disappointed and, quite honestly, rather discouraged that the COVID-19 travel restrictions prevented us from going on either of these trips.
God had other plans. Romans 8:28 reminds us, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” We knew that we could trust in God’s perfect plan, not letting discouragement win. We knew that we needed to keep the FOCUS moving forward even though it was going to look very different than we had anticipated.
The FOCUS Implementation Team has continued to meet regularly. Relying on God’s leading and direction, we began to explore some important questions. What does an effective Lebanon mission initiative look like when we can’t travel? How do we engage the congregation? How do we stay excited ourselves, not losing our momentum?
In June we held a Taste of Lebanon drive-thru event as a way to introduce Lebanese culture and delicious Lebanese food. A total of 152 meals were ordered from King of Falafel in Newtown, and $3,000 was raised for the ministry at Amchit Baptist Church. The event was quite a success and received very positive feedback. Be on the lookout for our next event!
In July we held our first joint prayer meeting over Zoom with a few members of our team, Dave Wolf and leaders of Amchit Baptist. It was a sweet and powerful time of unity which strengthened the connection between our two churches. We have also been able to deepen our relationship with Amchit through regular communication, sharing prayer requests and becoming more invested in each other’s lives. We were very encouraged to know that they have been attending our online Sunday morning services! That would have been something we never would have imagined, but it has been an exciting part of God’s plan.
In August, we established the Lebanon Relief Fund because of the deepening crisis in Lebanon. Their economy has totally collapsed, prices have skyrocketed, unemployment has soared and those fortunate to keep their jobs have found their salaries cut drastically. In a country known for its hospitality, people are struggling to feed themselves and their families, let alone celebrate and share with others. The pandemic exacerbated this crisis and the recent explosion in Beirut took it to even more desperate levels.
Our ministry partner in Lebanon, Horizons International, has a vibrant and powerful ministry network, as well as a trustworthy reputation. They have been working hard to address the needs of the people, providing humanitarian aid for churches to distribute to those in need (up to 3,000 lunches per day!) In addition, their teams have been spending their days assisting in the clean up after the explosion and taping plastic over some of the millions of blown out windows. God has opened up the door to even more service and outreach opportunities as they share the Gospel with those they are helping.
Also, the owner of King of Falafel (from our Taste of Lebanon event) wanted to raise money for Lebanon relief and asked if she could donate it through Grace Point because she knew we were a trustworthy organization. This connection with our local Middle Eastern community was beyond what we could have planned, but it was part of God’s plan.
In just two short weeks since establishing the Lebanon Relief Fund, thanks to the generosity of the Grace Point family, we have been able to send over $34,000 to assist Horizons in their work, with a portion going to meet the needs of the members of Amchit Baptist Church and their community. If you have already given to the Lebanon Relief fund, thank you! Because the needs are great and on-going, we will continue to receive and forward funds. If you would like to make a contribution, go to: http://giving.gracepointpa.org and select the “Lebanon Relief” fund.
Ephesians 3:20 reminds us that our God is a God “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” He has given us so many examples of this during these past few months, and we know that there are many more to come! We are humbled to be part of God’s plan, serving the people of Lebanon and sharing His love.
Where the Word of Christ dwells, the peace of Christ rules.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. -Colossians 3:15-16
Over the last three weeks, families have been enjoying FOCUS VBS – REFOCUSED with YOU in mind. Each week, families were provided with a gift box with activities, games, lessons and special items to guide them through VBS-at-Home. The gift boxes have served to encourage families in their faith and bring FUN into their homes in a new way.
We’ve heard that this unique approach to VBS has been extremely positive for families to learn together! We are grateful that we could serve our families in different and meaningful ways.
Here are a few things to celebrate and praise God for!
We had about 43 families participating representing about 84 children!
We had 11 of those families were guests of Grace Point or new to our church. We welcome them and hope that VBS-at-Home has been a special first experience for them with us.
Because of your generous donations, we have been able to bless families using half of our usual VBS budget and include more gifts than we could have previously. We praise God for your generosity making this possible. Thank you!
How you can continue to pray for VBS:
Pray that families would continue to be encouraged to have faith-centered conversations in their homes.
Pray that the seeds of faith that were planted would grow and that many kids would come to know and trust Jesus.
Pray that our guests might seek to know more about Grace Point so they can meet Jesus and be encouraged to grow in their faith!
Last week, we received the update below from one of our partners working on the ground in Lebanon. Please continue to pray for the people of Lebanon and our ministry partners. You can give to support our Lebanon Relief Offering by going here and selecting the “Lebanon Relief” fund: http://giving.gracepointpa.org
Here’s the update:
People are still very traumatized. The psychological shock seems to just be setting in. Many are injured and/or have lost so much.
The four most important hospitals in Beirut were destroyed.
The Horizons International teams have shifted to doing primarily building restoration. They are going to apartments and offering to replace glass and doors, mostly with plastic. While/after they do repairs, they share the Gospel and pray with the people.
Five people recently accepted Christ in one neighborhood.
Meanwhile, the churches are still focused on distributing sandwiches—approximately 2,500-3,000 per day! Horizons is providing some of the ingredients or money to buy the ingredients. The church members and their volunteers are making and distributing them.
Horizons also is distributing 100 food portion packages to each church.
Prayer requests: The teams really need rest. They are working long days in hard places. They are facing much pain and tears as they go from apartment to apartment, so it is psychologically very draining. It is hard to keep going.
The situation in Lebanon has reached catastrophic levels. The economy has totally collapsed in recent months, leaving many without jobs while prices have skyrocketed. There is widespread desperation as many, many are going hungry, either unable to find or unable to afford food for themselves and their families. The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified these issues and the devastation caused by the recent port explosion in Beirut has further compounded the magnitude of the desperation they are facing.
In recent days, we have had many conversations focused on the burning question of “What can we do to help?” in the midst of such the desperate situation that Lebanon is currently facing. Prayer and generosity are needed as never before.
The consistent answer from our ministry partners is that humanitarian aid is the highest priority at the moment.
Join us in supporting disaster relief efforts in Lebanon. Since last week’s explosion in Beirut, the country of Lebanon has plunged even deeper into turmoil, crisis and desperation with many people struggling to find food, receive medical care and rebuild their homes.
In an effort to help meet practical needs, we have established a Lebanon Relief Offering, to which you can give to financially support the relief efforts in Beirut. All funds collected through this offering will be sent to one of our ministry partners, Horizons International, who will provide food and supplies to help families in Beirut. You can give online and select “Lebanon Relief” and all funds will be sent to Horizons International. Grace Point’s online giving link: http://giving.gracepointpa.org
Middle East FOCUS Team Commitment
Additionally, through the gutsy generosity already demonstrated by a donor in our church, our Middle East FOCUS Team will be immediately sending a significant donation to assist with humanitarian aid through Horizons International. Together we hope to make an impact for God’s kingdom while also meeting practical needs for many who are hurting in the midst of this disaster.
We will designate a portion of the funds towards relief work and humanitarian aid. In Beirut, Horizons is now mobilizing teams that each day make sandwiches, hand out food and water, and go from apartment to apartment with rolls of plastic and tape to help residents cover some of the millions of windows that were blown out in the explosion. The long hours of work are exhausting, and desperate people can explode in anger when food runs out. But there are also many opportunities to pray with people and God’s love is shining at this dark time.
The remaining amount will be sent via Horizons International to our intended partner church, Amchit Baptist Church. These funds will provide humanitarian aid for those suffering in their congregation as well as those in the surrounding area. It may also provide assistance for the church’s operating needs as their bi-vocational pastor (fully un-paid volunteer) was just let go from his “day job.”
Continue to pray for the people of Lebanon and for our ministry partners working around the clock to help their community in this terrible situation.
Join together with other Grace Pointers in committing to one hour per week of focused prayer for our church and our world. This is an important way to set our hearts and minds upward (Colossians 3:1-2).
Worship God for who He is and what He has done. (Psalms 37, 100, 136, 145)
Confess your own sin, and confess on behalf of our community and country. (Psalm 51, Daniel 9)
That Grace Point will be a bright light for Christ in a dark world. That our church will keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. That our country will turn back to God and honor Him. That our leaders will have wisdom to lead during this challenging season.
Pray that God’s Kingdom will come and His will be done. Pray that our hearts will be humble and obedient. (Isaiah 40, Matthew 6:10, 1 Peter 5:6-7)