In Lebanon, millions of refugees are trying to figure out how to survive brutal temperatures as the winter months approach. Through the development of a winterization project, Texas Baptists are sending necessities like blankets and heaters to help refugee families prepare for the winter.
Since early 2011, when the Syrian conflict began, more than 1.5 million refugees have fled to Lebanon seeking safety. At least 10,000 Iraqis have also sought security in the country. Most of them have little money and no place to live.
Lebanese churches from various denominational backgrounds have embraced many of the refugees, displaying the love of Christ through providing education and housing. But Nabil Costa, executive director for the Lebanese Society for Education and Social Development (LSESD), said they fear they will be unable to meet survival needs as the winter months approach, which could become a hindrance to their spiritual witness.
In August, Matt Snowden, chair of the missions mobilization team for Texas Baptists; Mike Stroope, associate professor of Christian missions at George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco; and Steve Seaberry, director of partnerships for Texas Baptists, visited Lebanon with the intention of strengthening bonds with the LSESD and the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary.
As they witnessed the tremendous challenges and opportunities the Lebanese Baptist churches are facing in the midst of the refugee crisis, the men each felt a tug on their hearts to seek a way churches in the United States can help their Middle Eastern brothers and sisters.
The obvious way they unveiled to help from a hemisphere apart is through a partnership with LSESD and through winterization, the provision of simple stoves, blankets and other items that equip people to face the winter weather.
"Winterization saves lives," Snowden said. "We also plan to distribute vividly illustrated Bibles and Gospel materials through local Lebanese Baptist churches. The Gospel is a bird with two wings. It touches body and soul. Winterization is a concrete presentation of good news."
Shorty after the trip, Stroope invited Costa to speak at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, a Texas Baptists partner institution, to educate students on the situation and invite them to participate in loving and caring for those in need.
"The refugee crisis going on right now is, in my estimation, one of the defining issues in our generation," Stroope said, noting that Christians need to be aware of and respond to what is going on in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. "Also, I feel it is important for our students, who receive so much help in their education, to give back something to those who are in dire need. The winterization project will provide that tangible opportunity."
Now is the time, Costa said, to act on helping winterize the refugees. The peak of summer is long gone and the cold months are approaching. Temperatures have been known to drop below freezing about four months out of the year and rains relentlessly come down.
He said it is in the nature of Lebanon to always be good hosts. Though helping the refugees can be emotionally and physically exhausting for the volunteers, Lebanese churches choose to see it is a God-given opportunity to meet needs of their neighbors.
"Now is the right time for this because it is a difficult time," Costa said. "This is where we can reflect our Christianity… I encourage the West to help us stay in our country and through us help others."
The Lebanese Baptist churches have called upon their Western brothers and sisters to help winterize an office space where 9,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq are staying.
With donations given through Texas Baptists, Baptist churches in Lebanon will provide necessities so the refugee families can prepare for the coming winter months and will also share the Gospel through a $20 pictorial Arabic Bible andIt a $10 scripture summary.
Texas Baptist churches are encouraged to help Lebanese Baptists meet needs and share the Gospel with their neighbors by participating in the initiative to winterize refugees. Listed below are the items that will come with each amount donated:
- $100 – provide a family with four blankets and one mattress and scripture
- $170 – provide a family with two blankets, one mattress, one heater stove and scripture
- $330 – provide a family with two blankets, one mattress, one water filter, one stove and fuel vouchers for one month and scripture
- $525 – provide a family with three blankets, two mattresses, one water filter, one stove, fuel vouchers for eight months and scripture
- $130 – provide a food pack for one family for a month
"Lives hang in the balance. This is truly an opportunity to see money turned into life," said Snowden. "Our Baptist brothers and sisters in Lebanon are on the front lines of an historic event. We can join them in making an eternal difference in the lives of others…This is an opportunity to rise, take up our mats and work."
To see giving opportunities for the Texas Baptists winterization project, visit texasbaptists.org/lebanon.