Lebanon: “We remind one another the gospel because hopelessness is knocking on our doors every day”
The pastor of a church heavily damaged in the Beirut explosion one year ago: “Neither explosion, pandemic, economic collapse, nor revolution can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.
BEIRUT · 06 AUGUST 2021 · 10:00 CET
As Lebanon looks back at the explosion that destroyed thousands of homes one year ago, many express feelings of hopelessness and anger.
The country is going through a deep economic crisis, and many have left their homeland without expectations of change. Evangelical Focus contacted a church who was heavily affected by the blast of the 4th of August 2020, to learn about the views of Christians in Beirut during these difficult times.
Marwan Aboul-Zelo is the pastor of the City Bible Church of Beirut, which had its church premises very close to the port area where the explosion happened.
Marwan Aboul-Zelof. / CBC Beirut
Question. You were one of the closest churches to the port when the blast happened one year ago. What were the effects on the building and the church community, and how have you tried to recover during this last year?
Answer. Our church was heavily damaged because of the explosion. The entrance was destroyed, several walls fell down, and much of our property was damaged. We are thankful for the global church that came alongside us in our time of need; and through their giving we were able to rebuild the church and many homes and businesses in our neighbourhood.
“We are thankful for the global church that came alongside us in our time of need”
I guess you can say we are still trying to recover. It's been a long year in Lebanon with disaster after disaster (lockdowns, economic collapse, etc). We are trying to faithfully press on - and trusting that God will continue to build His church in all things.
Q. As you say, families and businesses in the whole neighbourhood were affected. What is the mood there in Beirut, and how can you give a gospel hope there?
A. The simple answer is hopelessness and anger - but it's deeper and more complex than that. There is still much trauma, shock, fear, anxiety, stress, hurt and depression. The uncertainty that comes with each day causes a sort of paralysis to most Lebanese. The people are tired of being resilient - they just want to live in peace. As the people of God, we know that the gospel of Jesus Christ addresses all of these things.
As a people with a living hope because of our living Christ, we first remind one another with gospel truths because hopelessness is knocking on our doors every day. We encourage each other with our glorious inheritance that cannot be stolen nor fade away. We are strengthened when we remember that we have been purchased by the blood of Jesus; and that neither death nor life, things present nor things to come, neither explosion, pandemic, economic collapse, nor revolution can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is the message we hold, and it's this message we must proclaim. This is the only and true hope for Lebanon and all peoples.
The kids room of the church after the 2020 port blast. / Twitter CBC Beirut
Q. How do you see the future of your church, your mission, and the city of Beirut?
A. The mission of our church, and the Church of Christ, has always been the same - and it will remain through all things. We must be about the great commission. We hold the only message that saves, and I pray that the gospel will always be the banner that we hold and proclaim.
Of course, I am mindful of the very real challenges and needs within our church and city - and so we are praying about how to continue and best serve our people and our city. The list of needs seems endless, and our capacity and resources are limited - so please pray for us and other churches to know how to minister well in the coming days and years.
A church service in the restored premises. / Facebook CBC Beirut
Q. How can Christians in other parts of the world pray for Lebanon?
A. Pray that believers would persevere in joy. We believe that God will keep his children until the last day, and also believe He sustains us through the prayers of the saints. Pray for the daily needs for each family.
Pray for the formation of a new and just government. That we would have competent and experienced leaders to bring stability back to Lebanon - there is a long and difficult road ahead of us.
“Please pray for us and other churches to know how to minister well in the coming years”
Pray that God would save the lost. That in the middle of their great suffering, their eyes would be opened to the One who suffered on the cross in their place.