I recently returned from a trip to Lebanon, where I saw first-hand the challenges faced from the waves of Syrian refugees that have escaped the conflict in their homeland. I also saw, though, how local churches are embracing their broken context through word and deed.
Baptist churches in Lebanon are offering assistance to refugees through food boxes, blankets, education, and medical help. Jesus told us to love and pray for our enemies; Syria occupied Lebanon for nearly 30 years and so for Lebanese people to love Syrians is precisely an obedient response to Jesus’ command. Agencies such as CBM have helped with program design and funding, and CBM’s own Rupen Das has overseen the start-up of this program and has built the capacity needed to sustain it, but in the end, the work is done by local churches. This means that relationships are built between Lebanese Baptists and Syrian refugees, which means that, in the words of one refugee, “we are not a number to you — you treat us like people”. It is not uncommon for a Worship Service to now have Syrian Muslims worshipping alongside Lebanese Baptists. What began as physical hunger (the need for food) has also uncovered spiritual hunger, i.e. a desire to know the God who told His followers to love and pray for their enemies.
This is integral mission at its best. It doesn’t artificially separate physical needs from spiritual needs, and also doesn’t force an artificial pairing of the two. Aid is not conditional or tied, but neither is the Christian motivation of the churches artificially hidden. It’s how Jesus operated, as He saw the whole person and ministered to all of their needs, authentically and without manipulation.
This is also an example of CBM operating at its best: in the background, acting as a coach and mentor and vision-caster, with the result being that local churches are equipped and empowered for integral mission. The face of the program is local; CBM strengthens from behind-the-scenes. The final result: both body and soul are fed!
P.S. Here’s an article by Rupen Das on EthicsDaily, describing how the local church plays a key role in this situation: http://ethicsdaily.com/how-lebanese-churches-help-during-syrian-crisis-cms-22238