Middle East FOCUS Update: Lebanon Relief

Written by Brenna L., Middle East FOCUS Team

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. 

Middle East FOCUS Team Update

By Denise Nichols, Middle East FOCUS Team Leader

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. 

A joint prayer time with Amchit Baptist Church.

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.

We can’t wait to see what God has planned next!

The JOY of Face Masks

As you seek to put into practice putting Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last (the path to JOY!) with regard to face masks, here is some further reading that captures the heart of our leadership on this topic.

This follows our July 5, 2020, message on “What Would Love Do” specifically relating to Face Masks!

4 Reasons to Wear a Face Mask, Even if You Hate It from The Gospel Coalition

While Some Try to Politicize Wearing Face Masks, for Me it’s a Spiritual Practice from Baptist News Global

Church, Don’t Let Coronavirus Divide You from The Gospel Coalition