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!

Update from Lebanon – August 24

Grace Point,

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.

Horizons Ministry Partner

Source: Horizons International Facebook Page

GP Responds – Lebanon Relief

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.

To see our ministry partner in action, be sure to follow Horizons International on Facebook.

Thank you!

If you have any questions, please contact our Middle East FOCUS Team Leader, Denise Nichols at focus@gracepointpa.org.

Image sources: https://www.facebook.com/HorizonsPDE

Flag of Lebanon

21 Days of Prayer for our Lebanon FOCUS

Please join us in PRAISING God for His clear leading in choosing the Lebanon FOCUS, as well as unanimous support from FOCUS Selection team, elders and staff. As we pray, ask God to do something through us that is beyond us!

Below are prayers for the next 21 days, as we pray for Grace Point’s new missions FOCUS Lebanon and Syria. To learn more about our FOCUS, visit our website.

1. Pray for the formation of the FOCUS Implementation Team that God would bring together the right people and the right gifts.  Pray for wisdom, humility and discernment.

2. Pray that the FOCUS Implementation Team would be spiritually prepared for the work ahead of them.  Pray that they will have unity and be spiritually discerning, trusting in God’s plan and not their own.

3. Pray for a growing vision and passion in our congregation to reach people for Christ worldwide.  Pray for a deepening of our commitment to missions, both individually as corporately.

4. Pray for unity among our congregation we embark on the Lebanon FOCUS. Pray that this will be a church-wide effort, involving everyone in some capacity- whether on trips, through financial support or through prayer. Pray that we can use the gifts of the congregation through a wide variety of potential ministry opportunities.

5. Pray that God is glorified with every aspect of our FOCUS and that our primary goal always remains to glorify Him as we reach others with the gospel and minister to their needs. Pray that we remain committed to evangelism and disciple-making as our priorities in developing potential ministry opportunities.

6. Pray that God fills our hearts with a deep, genuine and sacrificial love for refugees both in Lebanon and at home. Pray that God fills our hearts with compassion for others, particularly those that have been displaced from their homes.

7. Pray that we would view Muslim people the way that God does, as people desperately in need of Jesus, worthy of His love and worthy of our love.

8. Pray for our pastors, elders, staff and other leaders as they help facilitate our FOCUS. Pray for wisdom in leading Grace Point as we embark on our FOCUS.

9. Pray for victory over the spiritual warfare that we will face as we seek to bring the light of the gospel to darkness. Pray that we would all wear the full Armor of God against the enemy’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:11-18)

10. Pray that God uses the FOCUS endeavor to change our hearts and to grow to become more Christ-like. Pray that we can learn through the example of those facing such tremendous hardships yet find their true joy in Christ rather than their circumstances.

11. Pray that the FOCUS strengthens GP families’ interest and commitment to missions. Pray that through the FOCUS, we help teach our children to love others the way God does. Pray that we engage the entire family well, including children and teens.

12. Pray that we continue to act in obedience to what God is calling us to do and not be distracted by fear.

13. Pray for peace in the region. Pray for our enemies. Pray for political leaders around the world and the de-escalation of the current conflict. Pray that differing political views do not interfere with our goal of reaching others for Christ.

14. Pray for the believers in Syria, both for physical protection as well as the hardships that they face. Pray for the believers in Syria as they seek to share Christ with non-believers.

15. Pray that God would enlighten the hearts of Muslims who are searching for spiritual truth, that they will come to know and experience Christ.

16. Pray for a hedge of protection around the Syrian pastors who put themselves and their families at great risk yet are courageous enough to continue their work for God’s kingdom.

17. Pray for the Syrian refugees in Beirut as they face many hardships. Pray for them as they face persecution from their families for having converted to Christianity. Pray for all who have recently come to Christ that God would strengthen and encourage them as they face hardships, persecution and family tensions.

18. Pray that we can be an encouragement to those we will minister to, both directly and indirectly. Pray that we are sensitive to cultural differences.

19. Pray for the spiritual development, strength and growth of the potential partner church and ministries in Lebanon. Pray for resolve and steadfastness for the other churches and missionaries that are working faithfully in Lebanon/Syria.

20. Pray for the local church that we will be partnering with, that God will show us how we can best come alongside them in ministry. Pray for humility as we seek to learn from them as well.

21. Pray for Horizons International (our on the ground partner in Lebanon) as well as Ananais House (our on the ground partner in Syria). Pray for Ellen Livingood and Kinship Network in coordinating missions efforts in Lebanon and Syria involving other North American churches.