God has called Middle East Lutheran Ministry, LHM's ministry center in Lebanon, to play an active role in refugee outreach and relief in the Middle East. Millions of families and individuals have been displaced by the violence and conflict that is crippling this region.
Informal refugee camps pop up anywhere vacant land is available - in this case in a suburban city in the Bekaa Valley region.
Lutheran Hour Ministries is responding by providing food and medical supplies to these desperate souls. By acting as the "hands and feet of Christ," doors are opened for Lutheran Hour Ministries to begin conversations and share the Gospel with these refugees.
Fadi Khairallah, director of Middle East Lutheran Ministries, right, assists with necessary relief materials from Lutheran Hour Ministries and The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod to destitute people living in poverty-stricken refugee camps and shares the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In the past 12 months, MELM has ministered to 10,290 people in Lebanon and Iraq. These numbers include:
- More than 3,000 Christian families
- More than 1,250 Muslim families
- More than 4,400 children, including 375 infants and toddlers
Refugee children, pictured with Fadi Khairallah, hear the Gospel proclaimed and receive small gifts for Christmas.
The refugees that Lutheran Hour Ministries is working with have experienced the horror of Syrian civil war and persecution from ISIS. Syrian families have seen their houses destroyed and family members killed, and are now forced to subsist in make-shift refugee camps while they attempt to determine their future. Tens of thousands of Christians in Iraq were forced to leave everything and flee to Lebanon to escape ISIS. More than 350,000 Christians living in the Kurdish territories of Northern Iraq were given a 48-hour ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay the gizya (a high per-person tax) or leave. The only other outcome was certain death.
Necessary relief materials from Lutheran Hour Ministries and The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod are distributed to Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Old tires on the top of the tents hold the tarps in place during the windy winters.
It's hard to imagine living through situations like millions are facing. The darkness that these souls are facing awakens a hunger for the light of Christ. The following account of a man named Miran shows the opportunities that we have to help change lives with the Gospel:
"I witnessed the brutality of extremist groups like ISIS, who carry out horrific acts in the name of Allah. I have noticed that you have provided our camp with food for two different times and you do not request anything in return. You always speak about Christ's love and that you support us for the sake of Christ."
Katia Sahyouni, Middle East Lutheran Ministries staff member, shares God's Word with Syrian refugee children in the Bekaa Valley region. Over 40 percent of refugees in these camps are children, living in poor and unhealthy vacant areas.
MELM provided Miran with a Bible to study the life and teachings of Christ. He was glad and enthusiastic for the opportunity to read the Bible, but told us, "This is great, but I have to tell you that I cannot leave my religion and become a Christian. I have a family and do not want them to suffer because of leaving Islam." We told him, "the most important thing is that you have a genuine relationship with God through Christ who died on the cross for our sake."
The third time MELM visited Miran he had a long list of questions about redemption, grace and salvation. During our fourth visit Miran said, "I was very happy to receive the Bible and to be honest my joy led me to read it several times a day because there is nothing better than feeding our souls from the word of God. Doing so help us to know more about Christ and his teachings."
Fadi Khairallah offers compassion and care to a refugee in Lebanon.
The atrocities of ISIS shocked Miran and led him to compare between the hatred and cruelty of Islam versus the loving forgiveness and compassion shown by Christians. This provided us with the opportunity to show him that there is hope and people who care about him.
A Syrian refugee man and his wife are grateful for relief supplies for their physical needs.
Miran told us, "From you I learned that God loves me. I thank you for restoring my trust in the world. I have learned a lot about Jesus Christ from your love. Help me to learn more about His teaching and grow deeper in knowledge."
Women in the Bekaa Valley of Eastern Lebanon receive care supplies from LHM and the LCMS to help their children through the cold winter.
Stories like Miran's continue to take place through the work that God has set before Lutheran Hour Ministries. Please continue your partnership, through prayers and support, so you can be a part of reaching families like Miran's and turning hearts to Christ.