BCC MISSION WORK WITH LEBANON
We raised thousands in our 2018 Christmas Giveaway to support the work done by True Vine Church in Lebanon and are looking to develop other ways we can be connected with this ministry and need going forwards.
The war in Syria has resulted in up to 2 million Syrian refugees seeking asylum in Lebanon, a country of 4 million people. More than half of the Syrian refugees are in the town of Zahlé in the valley of Bekaa, dispersed in about 1900 settlements throughout the area. They cannot go back to Syria, they cannot become Lebanese citizens, and so must accept what aid and informal work they can, as they wait for something to happen; either a political settlement in Syria, or UN authority to travel on to another country. Neither seems likely.
Lebanon is in the shape of a key, and the church regards Lebanon as key to the current crisis. It is the only country in the middle-east where people can legally change their religious identity. Zahlé home for 120000 Lebanese, located 34 miles east of the capital, is the third largest city in Lebanon after Beirut and Tripoli.
True Vine Church
EWM is organising and facilitating mission partnerships from the UK Churches with True Vine Church in Zahlé Lebanon.
Pastor Jihad leads True Vine Church, in 2003 the church had 7 members; by 2012, 50-60. Then in 2012, the church was transformed when they started reaching out to Syrian refugees fleeing from the Syrian conflict. With a grant of £30k from an aid agency, they initially connected with 100 displaced families. It has been a difficult journey for the church, as some members having been very affected by Syrian’s role through the civil war, didn’t like the focus on helping Syrian refugees.
The church engages spiritually with about 25% of the 3000 contacts, running about 40 bible study groups, children’s groups and a meeting for Muslim seekers. Hundreds of people are having dreams of Jesus: about 90% of those who come to Christ have dreams about Him; God is using this method because the people believe that dreams tell them God’s will. Every day the church is experiencing people having dreams, visions, healings and miracles.
On account of the Syrian conflict and the atrocities committed by IS, many people are leaving Islam and either becoming atheists or Christians. Pastor Jihad believes that atheism may be an intermediate step for those coming to Christ.
The big issues are follow-up, training and discipleship to help people form a correct view of God, and countering nominal Christianity, people in church who do not reach out.
The church was used as a relief centre for the distribution of food. Food is supplied by the relief agency Caritas. Families collect one or two of these boxes for a month’s supply of food. 13-1500 food-boxes are distributed per month. Up to 200 people visit the centre each day; every day people come to Christ. 4-5 teams go out visiting people in the settlements and share the good news. Muslim families started coming to the church because it is the church who helps them. TrueVine also prepares and gives out thousands of meals to the students and some families.
The medical centre in Feyda is the primary source of healthcare for the settlement, offering medication, check-ups and short-term operations’ clinics. It serves about 200-250 families in a settlement of 1000 families, i.e. 12-15,000 people, seeing 25 patients per day, and 700-1000 people during week-long clinics.
The church runs 3 schools for Syrian children; one in the basement of the church, which used to be the church parking lot (260 children), one in a community centre in Ablah (120 children) and one in at the community centre in Feyda (160 children). The community centre is a compound of porta cabins sited next to the fence of the refugee settlement. Some of the cabins are used as classrooms, one as a charity shop and one as the medical centre in Feyda.