INTERVIEW: Lebanon behind the headlines

Pete* has spent eight years as an educator in Lebanon. The nation has seen more than two million Syrian refugees relocate there in response to the ongoing conflict in the neighbouring country. This amounts to nearly half of the local population.

As with all our workers crossing cultures to share Christ with Muslims, Pete is keen to keep a Kingdom perspective – and shares where he is seeing God at work, changing lives, behind the scenes.

How have you seen God at work?

Behind the headlines, there are a lot of encouragements. The church is growing here. It is legal to be a Christian. You can go to a public church. There are also house churches quietly growing, especially among Muslim families. Many are wanting to hear about Jesus and some are coming to faith.

How has Syria’s civil war impacted the Lebanese Church?

The civil war is tragic and many refugees are arriving here and in other nations. Christians are helping them and Muslims are responding positively. Some are coming publicly to the churches; I’ve seen a veiled woman with her children singing songs to Jesus.

There are a lot of sad things about the conflict but it’s almost as if God is saying, ‘I’m still God despite the chaos’. As people, it’s not the way we would have done things, but God is clearly at work. In a small way, He is redeeming some of the sadness and bringing good things from it.

Are cross-cultural workers needed in Lebanon?

Although there is a sizeable Christian presence in Lebanon there is only a small percentage – I would estimate as little as 1%** – who truly know Jesus as Lord. The sort of person who would encourage the fellowships here is someone with a humble empowering attitude, willing to come alongside and ask, ‘How can we help you?’ There is plenty of opportunity for ministry. Churches are doing what they can but there is a vast need among Syrians.

Another area is the need for training to help some churches to go deeper in faith. Come and help equip believers to grow in the Word.

“The civil war (in Syria) is tragic and many refugees are arriving here and in other nations. Christians are helping them and Muslims are responding positively. In a small way, God is redeeming some of the sadness and bringing some good things from it.”

What advice would you give someone looking to serve there?

It’s fundamental that you have an active walk with Jesus. You don’t have to be a super-Christian but you need to know Christ personally and know your Bible. Arabic is the heart language for Lebanese people even though many in the population speak English, so a willingness to learn Arabic will help your relationships go deeper.

Practically, the country is not as organised in comparison to European nations, so you need to have a flexible approach to life. Expect power cuts, and shortages of some modern perks for example.

*Name has been changed and library image used for illustrative purposes only.
**According to mission researchers Joshua Project, 0.7% of Lebanon’s population are evangelical. Out of the twenty-six people groups in the country at least eight are unreached including Kurd, Druze, Alawite and Bedouin.

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