A Message from the CEO
During the last year, Lebanon faced a trifecta of calamities: The mass uprisings, the Coronavirus pandemic, and the explosion at the port of Beirut on August 4th, 2020. These came on the heels of a decade of extreme humanitarian turmoil and were defined by an ever worsening economic, financial and social crisis throughout. The emerging economic crisis, rising unemployment, and dysfunctional public services prompted mass demonstrations that erupted in October 2019 to denounce chronic government corruption and mismanagement, which, in turn, exposed the extent of the country’s economic woes and precipitated the collapse.
The subsequent Coronavirus pandemic made a bad situation worse. Lebanon’s health-care system was strained to the limits by the rising number of Coronavirus infections and many of Beirut’s hospitals were overwhelmed due to the country’s poor infrastructure and drained resources. Through it all, the prices of food and bare necessities soared. The value of the country’s currency plummeted, and its crumbling power system plunged the capital of Beirut into darkness for hours at a time.
However, no modern catastrophe can match the giant explosion that occurred at a warehouse in the port of Beirut, sending a shock wave through the capital on August 4th, 2020. One of the biggest non-nuclear explosions in modern history was the result of the detonation of approximately 2,750 tons of improperly stored ammonium nitrate. The blast led to some 204 deaths, as well as more than 6,500 injuries. The homes of tens of thousands of people were damaged, in addition to hospitals and infrastructure.
In the midst of all this, the Lord brought David to our minds when he said, “and now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you” (Ps 39:7 ESV), and we realized that the answers to prayers and empowerment comes from God alone. As such, He empowered us to look at Jesus. During this turmoil we needed to be His heart, hands, and feet. It was time for us to shift the focus from ourselves, our dreams and our plans for the future: Do we want to be like the priest or the Levite, ignoring the plight of our blighted countrymen, or do we want to be like the Good Samaritan, bandaging their wounds and footing the bill? With His guidance, we opted for the latter.
Secondly, God humbled us as a people. Though Lebanon had faced a fifteen-year civil war in recent history, never before did the Lebanese find themselves so helpless. We had no choice but to go back to the drawing board and seek God’s wisdom and guidance in addressing unique situations that have rarely, if ever, happened before. The dark clouds over Lebanon forced us to look at the things we had taken for granted and made us grateful for God’s provision and care.
Thirdly, we were reminded to look at our history. After the Lebanese civil war of 1860 and after World War I, American missionaries in Lebanon and Syria had the vision of responding to war with education. Following their example, the Lord entrusted us with the Beirut Baptist School (BBS) in 1955, the publishing house Dar Manhal al Hayat (DMAH) in 1957, and the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) in 1960, through which we hoped to combat the darkness by teaching the truth about Christ, the true Light of the World. Later conflicts led LSESD to see the need to begin to provide relief, first to those affected by the 2006 War via what was then called Baptist Aid. The Baptist Children and Youth Ministry (BCYM) was also established in 2006 to provide relief specifically to affected children and youth. Later LSESD’s relief ministry was officially founded as Middle East Revive and Thrive (MERATH) in 2011 with a focus on individuals displaced by the 2011 Syrian War. Finally, a growing awareness of the inequalities and discrimination faced by children with special needs moved LSESD to establish the center for Smart Kids with Individual Learning Differences (SKILD Center) in 2011. After more than sixty years of on the ground operation, we have realized how important each of these ministries is as they all contribute something extremely valuable to the surrounding community, and we would not be who we are today without any one of them.
In response to the year’s various crises, each of our ministries jumped in headfirst to provide relief to the surrounding community hand in hand with the local church. Everyone pitched in, teaming up with one another to make sure that all bases were covered. Many of our staff members actively offered a hand of assistance to the relief and development arm of our ministry (MERATH), which distributed hygiene kits, ready-meals, and food vouchers to those impacted by the ailing economy and the explosion. A number of people with damaged homes were provided with shelter and medical care at ABTS. BBS’s counseling department teamed up with ABTS to provide psychological trauma relief to the adults, and SKILD created a trauma relief program for the children and provided booklets to the teenagers. BCYM reached out to the children and youth who were most vulnerable during these difficult times by providing counseling and devotional videos to distressed children and to those they could with the Camp in a Box. LSESD was also grateful and blessed to have been able to provide Christmas meals and gifts, food vouchers, and COVID-19 trainings this past year as well as to rebuild several homes and schools affected by the blast. In a sense, albeit tired and stretched thin, this year has revitalized our ministries and the local church.
I would also like to thank all of our partners across the world, the LSESD board members and our sister ministry, the Middle East Baptist Outreach (MEBO), in the US for all of the assistance and support that they have provided us with. The relief work we carried out this past year could not have been completed without the help of our faithful partners (both internationally and locally). They whole-heartedly helped out in feeding the hungry, repairing damaged homes, providing medicine and medical supplies, in addition to providing a plethora of other assistance that was needed. And of course, we are deeply indebted to each team member under the LSESD umbrella. We truly could not have survived this year without all of you!
Finally, God has turned our attention to the future. Many challenges remain ahead of us. The current crisis had forced many young talents to leave the country and seek a better life outside Lebanon. This poses a problem in identifying future leaders who can assume the responsibility that the current, older generation of leaders have been assuming for a long time. We want Lebanon to continue to be “the City on a Hill” offering a beacon of hope to the Middle East. We value our current collaborationwith local churches in assessing future needs that will require the Church’s support, for we need all the support that we can get. Not only that, but we also want to continue to support local schools who are raising up Lebanon’s next generation of leaders in the hopes that they can create a better future for Lebanon.
Our 2019 | 2020 Impact Report describes each of our ministries in greater detail and how the Lord used us to serve our neighbors, regardless of social status or religion. We are grateful for your continued support and prayers for Lebanon as a country and a people. We have no choice but to win our country back despite all the difficulties and challenges. Is there hope amid the rubble? Yes, because “there is balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole” and our God has not forsaken those who seek Him. Our role as the Church is to plant those seeds of hope and healing that God has given us to help provide a brighter future for for the communities we are serving.