Lebanon austerity opens door for ministry

By May 20, 2019

Lebanon (MNN) — Another Mediterranean nation faces austerity measures. Public debt is 150 percent of Lebanon’s GDP and severe budget cuts are in the works to save the economy from falling apart.

At the same time, a nationwide strike is underway as public sector workers protest the “most austere budget in Lebanon’s history.” It’s starting to look a lot like Greece.

Heart for Lebanon’s Tom Atema says there’s at least one silver lining.

“If you come in as a faith-based NGO and you can relieve the pressure of the poor class off the government, the government looks on you favorably. You’re not taking away from resources; you’re providing help.”

How did things get so bad?

Much of Lebanon’s debt was accumulated during the country’s 15-year civil war. Years of political infighting as well as conflict in neighboring Syria played a significant role. Today, approximately 25 percent of Lebanese citizens live in poverty, according to The Borgen Project.

“What used to be the middle class in Lebanon… is now becoming the poorer class, and the poorer class is living at the extreme poverty line.”

(Photo courtesy of Heart for Lebanon)

Along with typical food costs, citizens must purchase clean water. Additionally, crumbling infrastructure means reliable electricity is nowhere in sight.

“You used to get 24/7 electricity provided by the government as part of your taxes,” Atema explains. “Now, it goes off almost as much as it’s on in most places… so you have to [purchase] generators to keep power up all the time.”

Additional fuel and maintenance costs accompany the generator, stretching the average family’s finances even thinner. Millions of refugees further complicate Lebanon’s problems by placing a strain on resources and shelter.

“Yes, we’ve got a huge problem. And yes, this needs some political answer at some level,” Atema says, referring to the refugee crisis. “But, while they’re here [in Lebanon,] we have an opportunity to share with them the love of Christ.”

That’s exactly what Heart for Lebanon does as it meets the needs of both populations in Jesus’s name. Visit Heart for Lebanon’s website to learn more about their work.

“We… work with Syrian refugees, but… about 13 [or] 14 percent of our ministry is with the poor Lebanese population, [which is] increasing by the day because of the economic strain.”

How can I help?

In Matthew 9, Jesus instructs His disciples to pray because “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” He was referring specifically to crowds of people who needed spiritual guidance and care in this passage, but a similar principle applies to Heart for Lebanon’s dilemma.

Syrian refugee children. (Photo courtesy of Heart for Lebanon)

For example, Atema says Heart for Lebanon has the desire and potential to expand its education ministry. There is an urgent need — half of all Syrian refugee children have no resources or access to a teacher.

Heart for Lebanon has everything required to meet that need – staff, facility, resources. “The harvest is ready,” as Jesus would say.

What’s stopping Heart for Lebanon from moving forward? Money.

“We have the capacity. We have the teachers to triple our ministry. What we don’t have is triple the income…to just sustain that on a financial basis,” Atema expounds.

The Lord appoints each of us as stewards over the resources He provides. If God directs you to send some of those resources to Heart for Lebanon, click here to donate online or find a mailing address here.

Most importantly, intercede for Heart for Lebanon. Pray for wisdom and discernment.

“We don’t go in and feed people today. We promise family care for 11 months, maybe even longer,” says Atema.

“How do you say yes to this one [and] no to that one when [the need is] growing by the day? We’ve got to have wisdom.”





Header image courtesy of Steve Buissinne via Pixabay.

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