In September, Mindy Belz wrote in World Magazine, under the title An explosive reckoning for Beirut: A record blast leaves opportunities and new fears for a devastated Christian community, of the disaster in Beirut that occurred in early August. At the end of the on-line version of her excellent article, Ms. Belz identifies several charities as "Groups that are Helping." Among those named is Heart for Lebanon. Its US headquarters are in Black Mountain, NC, a familiar place for the Stokes kith and kin.
Carol and I were moved by what Ms. Belz wrote, and we arranged for a small monthly gift to be sent to Heart for Lebanon. Today, we received an acknowledgement from HFL and a six-page brochure about its ministry. Based on that brochure and what Ms. Belz writes about the charity's work in Beirut, I think we made a good choice.
The brochure, entitled Leading People from Despair to Hope, describes HFL's "targeted ministries," ministries meant to lead people along that path. The ministries are not only for the people immediately affected by the Beirut blast but also for the upwards of 2 million Syrians now living in Lebanon as war refugees. (Our gift seems little more than a drop in the bucket of the great financial need, but we know better than to dismiss small gifts in God's plan.)
The brochure describes six stops along the way from Despair to the Hope for which HFL has fashioned its ministries. The initial stop is "the going," that is, a team of Christians showing up in the midst of such Despair, then (2) Access Ministries, then (3) Relational Engagement, then (4) Spiritual Formation, then (5) Community Leadership, and, finally, to (6) Hope.
I thought the following statement in the brochure's section discussing the Access Ministries (where the team distributes material assistance) to be particularly interesting:
In the Muslim culture, it is unheard of to help someone unconditionally. If a favor was received, then another favor was expected to be given in return. This leads people to ask the Heart for Lebanon Team, 'Why are you helping us? You know I have nothing to give you in return.' It's at this pivotal moment in all of our Family Care visits where we have the great honor of introducing Jesus Christ into the conversation. During these visits Heart for Lebanon Team members begin to share about the person of Jesus Christ. What starts out as simple conversation often turns into a life transformed by hope.
Our country's government has spent blood and treasure massively to bring peace and stability to the Middle East. But a culture that looks upon any "gift" as the opening for a political or economic transaction may regard the provider as merely another powerful invader looking for dominance and opportunities for exploitation. Perhaps communicating to that culture at a micro-level the reality of grace, of unconditional love, will lead to a greater understanding and acceptance of the unique Hope of the Gospel and the peace that it promises.