Church of the Nazarene responds to fires in Lebanon
Nabil Habiby, the dean of students at the Nazarene Evangelical School in Beirut, Lebanon, shares how the church in Lebanon has rallied around their community in the midst of devastating fires.
In October, hundreds of fires erupted in the Lebanese mountains. Thousands of people had to leave their homes, and at least one volunteer firefighter died. The fire burned many homes to the ground and forests were destroyed.
A local Christian priest of one of the affected villages in the mountains described the nights of Monday and Tuesday as “hell.” By Tuesday noon, things were getting out of hand. Lebanon called neighboring countries for help. The fires did not seem to be abating.
I am part of my district WhatsApp group (made up of four Nazarene churches in Lebanon) for leaders and pastors. On Tuesday noon, as the fires continued to rage, people on the group agreed, “Let us pray for rain.”
It just happened that I was writing a theology college course on the Kingdom of God in the New Testament. Kingdom is God in action. Kingdom is the church – God’s hand – in action. So I wrote back: “Besides praying, is there more we can do to help in some way? Perhaps send volunteers to put out the fires? Send food for the firefighters? Do something?”
Our district superintendent, Andrew, who has a great heart for ministry and caring for the poor, replied: “We know how to help refugees, but what can we do with a fire?”
He was right! We have zero experience in fighting fires. We have countless years of experience (thanks to the many wars we have witnessed) in serving refugees. Is it the church’s role to fight fires? Are we to intervene in every social or environmental crisis around us? When do we say, “This is our job,” and when do we say, “Sorry, we can’t do anything about this”?
We agreed to form an emergency committee: myself, two other youth, and Andrew. One of us knew how to contact the people on the ground fighting, who told us that the greatest need was for food. Hundreds of volunteers had been fighting the fire for over 24 hours with little food and water.
We can help with food and water! Our church has a restaurant that cooks and serves food for the poor. A local Baptist church offered to help fund the meals. Nazarene Compassionate Ministries said they could help us purchase ingredients and food, too. Our cooks started cooking.
On that same evening, barely six hours after the call for prayer had been issued, two church vans full of seven youth, Andrew, and 100 hot meals headed into the Chouf Mountains to deliver dinner to the firefighters and volunteers. As they made their way into the burned and burning mountains, rain began to fall.
--Adapted from the January 2020 edition of Where Worlds Meet