Opening Doors for Evangelism of Muslims

by Justin Lonas

If you turned on the news, opened up a paper, or surfed the Web during the latter half of this summer, you couldn't escape hearing and seeing reports of the war between Israel and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah. Any war in the Middle East is extremely politically charged, and this one was no exception. Accusations are still flying as to which party is responsible for the colossal damages to life and property. The civilian toll of this or any war, however, creates needs that transcend political boundaries. According to wikipedia.com, nearly one million Lebanese (roughly a quarter of the nation's population) and over 300,000 Israelis evacuated their homes during July and August. By the time of the cease-fire on August 14, at least 1,200 civilians (over 1,000 Lebanese, dozens of Israelis, and several foreign nationals), in addition to numerous soldiers on both sides, had been killed. Dr. Paul Dagher, a former resident of Beirut who recently returned from Lebanon said, "The conflict has affected everyone there equally, without differentiation between religion or race." A surgeon from Boone, N.C., Dagher traveled to the country during the war to provide aid to refugees and to help with the ministry of his father, Beirut pastor and leader of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) in Lebanon, Sami Dagher. He said that resources from food and medical supplies to gasoline and fuel for electric power stations were in dangerously short supply, and that large segments of the population is unable to work now, because the country's primary industries, tourism and banking, have been crippled. "This is the first time that the entire country has been affected by a war at the same time…. This war has affected the economy of the entire country. The majority of the infrastructure of the country has been destroyed and will require probably 15 years to be rebuilt," Dagher said. Northern Israel, subjected to random attacks on civilians rather than the targeted destruction of infrastructure as Lebanon was, was also scarred severely by the war. The United Christian Council of Israel newsletter reported that "normal life" had disappeared from the region and that people were living in constant fear of Hezbollah rocket attacks throughout the war. Beneath the ashes of the conflict, however, the light of Christ is shining. Dagher said that many of the refugees (who were predominately Shiite Muslims) ended up in schools and churches in the predominately Christian areas of Lebanon. "The believers are using this as an opportunity to reach out and help these people in a practical way," he said. His father's Karentina Alliance Church in Beirut has allowed a mobile medical clinic to operate in its parking lot. Dagher said that it serviced about 50 patients per day during the war. The church provided tents and chairs for patients in line to see the doctor. While the refugees waited, believers from the church spent time talking with them, offering food and water, handing out Bibles and sharing the gospel. Additionally, volunteers at the church have been sorting out quantities of food to take to various schools and shelters to hand out to refugees. Each packet of food contains a New Testament. Many of the church's youths were involved with this project and were spending a lot of time with the displaced children at the shelters, according to Dagher. The response has been good. "Some [Muslims] have been skeptical of any aid that comes from Christians, but the majority have accepted both physical and spiritual help with wide open arms," Dagher said. One story speaks volumes of how Christians in Lebanon have responded to this war brought on their country by the actions of a radical minority. The CMA operated a church and clinic in Sidon for many years until it was closed following the murder of American missionary Bonnie Witherall inside the clinic by Muslim extremists in 2002. The church had not used the building since the attack, but reopened it after the recent war began to house and care for almost 200 Muslims who had been displaced by fighting further south. As we have seen so often recently, in this war and in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunamis, Gulf Coast hurricanes, and other crises, the church often shines brightest in times of disaster, when people can no longer depend on governments and institutions of this world to protect them. Christians are able to offer peace and comfort that comes from the Lord, and that speaks volumes that subsistence relief alone can never provide. "For believers, this is a reminder that life is fragile and unpredictable, and that we must take every opportunity to reach out to those in need around us and share with them the life-changing message of Jesus Christ," Dagher said. Justin Lonas is publisher of Pulpit Helps
2011 Disciple 155x50 2011 AMG 155x50
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