Driving to church the other night, I found myself mesmerized by passing windows. Intact glass. Buildings that stood undamaged, reflecting the evening sunset. There was something almost creepy about how normal everything looked. Around every corner, I was expecting to see the burned-out remains of an apartment, or shattered glass and disheveled siding of an office building.
Tuesday morning, I logged into my computer to start my communications job for Horizons, an international ministry to Muslims headquartered in Beirut. About an hour in, a coworker messaged the team and asked if any of us had been paying attention to the Middle East staff chat. A few minutes later, my messages starting blowing up with pictures, videos, and long strings of Arabic punctuated by emojis.
That morning, 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded in Beirut’s port, killing 154, injuring over 5,000, and leaving 300,000 Lebanese and Syrian refugees homeless. Over the course of the week, I found myself immersed night and day in the event as our ministry scrambled to put together a relief effort, communicate with donors, and publish the hundreds of pictures, videos, and testimonies coming in from our staff on the ground.
Though 6,754 miles away, the explosion felt close to home. These were my brothers and sisters and coworkers in Lebanon, Charbel, Samir, Rezan, Boutros, Patil, people who’s stories I’d read, pictures I’d seen, and a few of whom I’d met over online conference meetings. Now, they found themselves caught amidst shattered glass, rushing a dying brother from hospital to hospital, and getting desperate calls from traumatized children wondering where dad was. They were on the streets, handing out sandwiches to the homeless and wounded, cooking up hot meals, and opening up damaged ministry centers to homeless Muslims.
I was on the verge of tears most of yesterday morning as I sorted through photos and a story sent in from a field worker. The blackened buildings, lines of motor bikes with injured weaving their way to the hospital, and helpless victims covered in glass and blood were too close to home … too unexplainable … too heavy. And yet, there was beauty as Christians stand in the gap and bring Christ’s love to lost and hurting people as they have throughout all of history. I still smile as I imagine grandfatherly Samir waltzing into a Beirut bakery, boldly sharing the gospel, and finding himself with 1,000 loaves of free bread to contribute to the sandwich project.
I write today not to make a point but to ask a question: “How do we respond when something so tragic happens to brothers and sisters in Christ, and yet life goes on as normal here?” I’m not arguing that I should feel guilty that I’m not there helping to clean up the rubbish. That’s not where God has me. Right now God has me here, in my little country town in Colorado. The people God has sent me to minister to aren’t trapped under buildings and dying from glass injuries. They’re neighbor girls, middle-school church kids, and teenage girls who just as desperately need to know and live out the gospel as Muslims in Beirut.
Yet, the explosion has given me a bigger picture. “Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” (Amos 3:6). God is doing something so much larger in the global church, larger than a devastating blast, larger than politics infringing on freedoms, larger than my life problems that can seem so big at the time. Even through tragedy, He is at work glorifying Himself.
Christ be magnified,
P.S., if you are interested in learning more about the relief work Horizons is putting together, you can read more about it here. It has been amazing to see the global church come together to support relief!