Innovation and Collaboration: The Story Continues
October 15, 2020
A Gesture of Love: An Interfaith Peacebuilding Project
September 15, 2020

Little Sprouts of Life Stir the Rubble

Looking After Families on Our Campus

“We spend a lot of time in discernment as we steer the ministry where we believe God wants to take it. But not in response to the explosion,” Elie Haddad said in our previous newsletter, “We didn’t need to stop and ask God what to do. We immediately knew what He wanted. Opening up our facilities to house newly homeless people was the most natural thing to do. This is a testimony of God’s work in our hearts for years and years.”

This month, we interviewed our Registrar Rana Wazir, who has been managing the vetting and placement of the families in their rooms, and our Facilities and IT Manager Elie Daher, who has been leading the maintenance team in equipping and maintaining the rooms. We encourage you to read their heartwarming stories about God’s work on campus.
Preparations to House Families

Elie Daher: I was in my office on August 4 when I first heard the blast; it was precisely 6:08pm. As soon as I found out what it was, I hurried to check our facilities. As I locked the doors and headed home, I was thinking about repairing the damage and cleaning up the shards of broken glass. The next morning, after an urgent leadership meeting, we were to reopen the family building instead. How could we not reopen it when many had lost their homes? And so, instead of repairs, we started the preparations immediately.

We wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of the ABTS community and other volunteers. The hard work and enthusiasm of the people was exceptional. The corner house was to be emptied, cleaned and furnished with beds. Buildings had to be deep cleaned.

The guesthouse team cleaned the rooms, toilets and passageways. They washed the laundry and the linen. They repainted the walls. The team was all over the place! We as the maintenance team made sure everything was running well. We checked the showerheads, the faucets, the air conditioners, and so on. In 48 hours, we had accomplished most of the work.

The First Family

Rana Wazir: Right after the explosion, we began to prepare our buildings to host families who were affected by the blast. Two floors of the guesthouse already housed healthcare workers who are in quarantine, so we decided to use the ground floor to host healthcare workers whose dorms were destroyed in Beirut. We also equipped two floors of the Sharouk Building, all the Family Building and both floors of the Corner House.

Three days later, we received the first family, whose members were heavily injured. Since then, we keep receiving phone calls from those who need shelter. We had a sudden surge of families after people started getting out of hospitals, and they had nowhere to go. Some were abandoned by family and friends. Some had lost their jobs after the destruction of certain areas in Beirut. Some already had no jobs. Many were injured both physically and psychologically.

An Encounter Near the Guest House

Elie Daher: The Saturday right after the explosion, I was placing New Testament Bibles on the bedside table of every room. Almost two hours after that, I was standing in front of the guesthouse when a taxi arrived with a new family. Their clothes were stained with blood and Betadine, and they carried with them nothing but their medicine in a small plastic bag. The scene brought back memories of war.

I was born at the end of 1975. My mother often told the story of how she had fled her home at the start of the Lebanese Civil War – a baby boy in her arms and a little girl tagging along. My grandfather often told the story of fleeing his home in 1983 not knowing whether he would ever return. Today, there is no war, yet we are re-experiencing the stories of the Civil War firsthand.

After they got out of the taxi, the woman shared her story with me as her injured hands trembled, and her eyes welled with tears. Her mother was still at the hospital, and her sister was waiting on her. I comforted her, and I assured her that we would do all that we can to help.

This incident left a deep impression on me and made me say with Solomon, “All is vanity.” It reminded me that we can lose our possessions in the blink of an eye and that we are nothing without Christ. It reminded me that we are here for a Divine cause. As long as God wants to use us, we must be ready to give our lives away.

Serving the Families

Rana Wazir: We soon saw that God wanted us to do much more than providing shelter. They had nothing; this meant we were to provide everything. Unsolicited, local ministries and partners abroad came to our aid. By God’s grace, we were able to provide them with three meals a day, hygiene kits, water, internet, cleaning and laundry services, among other things.

We had a team from ABTS caring for the families’ material and spiritual needs in collaboration with a few local churches. They provided the families with things such as clothes, toys for kids, milk and diapers for babies. We had a medical team volunteering to check up on the people’s wounds and injuries, and a psychologist volunteering to check up on the children’s mental health.

One elderly man had diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and many injuries. One woman had her skull fractured. Several were bedridden, and when they showed us pictures of their destroyed homes, we wondered how they came out alive. The families are coming to us with a lot of heartache, but they are finding rest here. I think the location helps – the serenity and the green spaces. They also have a safe space here to share about their troubles.

In the busyness of preparing meals and delivering them to all the rooms, someone stops us at their door, and they begin to cry as they share their story. Kids like to run around and play. I think the people feel at home now.

It’s Worth It!

Rana Wazir: Often, the team is physically drained. We are in action every day of the week from morning till late at night. Kristen [Front Desk Representative] sometimes has to stay overnight. Once, an old man arrived in critical condition in the middle of the night. We couldn’t leave his side.

Meeting the tragedy of people face to face isn’t easy. I cried many nights at their suffering, but every time, my husband Walid reminded me that, at least, I could do something about it. It really helps to know that one can contribute to bettering people’s situation. I stand amazed at God’s work. In the end, this is not my work. This is not ABTS’s work. God is using us to accomplish His work.

A Concluding Prayer

Elie Daher: Today, the Church in Lebanon is getting involved in God’s work more than ever. People in Lebanon are tired of empty words and corrupt leaders. Let’s show the people actions instead. Let’s model a new way of doing things.

I pray that the families experience the love of Christ here, whether it’s through a meal we prepare or a faucet we fix. May Christ’s love be manifest, and may they receive the inner healing that we cannot offer, but only He can.
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