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1967: War in the Middle East Ejects Missionaries

ROME, ITALY — EDITOR’S NOTE: Lane Cubstead served as managing editor for The Christian Chronicle from 1958 to 1966. He then joined the U.S. Foreign Service, a job that took him to Beirut, Lebanon. The Arab-Israeli War broke out a year later. As Israel seized control of Jerusalem and the West Bank, Americans and their families were evacuated from the Middle East. Cubstead and his family were sent to Rome, where he filed this report for the Chronicle.
Seven families comprising the American membership of Churches of Christ Jordan and Lebanon were evacuated from Beirut by the United States government June 6-7 because of possible personal danger to their lives arising from the Israeli-Arab War.
The American embassy in Beirut organized an evacuation effort which, within two days this week, safely transported over 2,000 Americans out of Lebanon.
Included among this number were five missionary families of Churches of Christ:
1. The Evertt Huffards of Jerusalem
2. The Dick Biggses of Ramallah, Jordan
3. The Dale Randolphs of Amman, Jordan
4. The Carl Methenys of Beirut, Lebanon
5. The Bob Douglases of Beirut, Lebanon
In addition, the two families in Beirut who work for the United States Information Agency, and who are members of the church, were also safely evacuated. They are the Dale Tiners and the Lane Cubsteads.
The Douglasses, Tiners and Cubsteads are in Rome, and the Randolphs are in Istanbul, Turkey. It is unknown here which planes took the Huffards, Mathenys and Biggses out, or what was their destination. The Pan American and Middle East Airlines planes which were used in the evacuation has several other destinations — including Ankara, Turkey; Athens; and Frankfurt, Germany.
The Bob Douglases of Beirut were within a few days of leaving for their three-month trip to the United States when ordered to evacuate. They, like all the other evacuees, got out with only one suitcase per member of the family.
On June 1, with the sights and sounds of a major military build-up vivid in their minds, the Biggs, Huffard and Randolph families, who served Churches of Christ in Jordan, left for Beirut on orders from the United States government.
They arrived by plane in Beirut a few hours from the time they left their homes, not knowing whether it would be possible for them to reenter that country to resume their evangelistic activity.
The three families were met by Christians in Beirut and stayed in their homes.
It is believed that this is the first time in the history of modern-day mission work of Churches of Christ that the entire mission force in any one country has been forced to evacuate because of the political situation.
The families are safe and well, and are currently in the process of communicating with their respective elderships to determine future plans.
The families tell of intense military build-ups in their cities. As the Huffards left Jerusalem they heard gunfire from the area between the divided city of Jerusalem. This turned out later (as reported in the secular press) to be Jordanians firing on an Israeli helicopter.
Biggs tells of seeing soldiers rough up and beat a man across the street from his house. The families saw intense movements of troops and equipment on the plain around the Jordan River and at the head of the Dead Sea. They said the people of Jordan acted like war was certain and that they were prepared for it.
No Americans were ordered out of Jordan by the Jordanian government. But the U.S. consulate told the Americans to leave for their own safety. Some anti-American feeling was developing. Jerusalem, the missionaries said, was a deserted city — something very unusual at the height of the tourist season. Hotels were being turned into emergency hospitals and buses and taxis were either being stored or being used for military purposes.
A few days ago in Beirut it was hard to believe that war clouds were brewing in the Middle East. With the exception of a few troop movements to the Lebanese-Israeli frontier, life was relaxed and normal. Christians there felt they would be able to stay and continue to work and worship safely. During the first week in June the U.S. embassy had not ordered any of its staff or their dependants to leave Lebanon.
Although the war spread quickly in the Arab states, residents of Lebanon saw little effect of it until June 6. A mob converged on the American embassy in Beirut and fired shots and tried to burn the embassy. They were successful in setting fire to cars which carried diplomatic license plates.
An oil depot was exploded and set afire the night of June 6 — the same night that 1,500 Americans were waiting on the grounds of American University in Beirut, processing for the evacuation.
The work of present-day Churches of Christ in Jordan is young and it ahs been difficult. To date there has been no open door to Muslims. There are four locations in Jordan where congregations are meeting regularly for worship services — and the total faithful membership in the country is about 35. The congregations are at Jerusalem, Ramallah, Zerka and Amman.
The Huffards have been in Jordan longer than any of the current families. They arrived in July 1963. The Biggs came to Ramallah in March 1965, and the Randolphs arrived to work with the churches in Amman and Zerka in January 1967. In addition to these congregations, classes are being in other locations with the idea of establishing other congregations. Classes were being taught in Taybeh, Berzait, Bethlehem and Jericho, and local members plan to carry on the work.

Filed under: International Staff Reports

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