Revisiting the Boston Movement: ICOC growing again after crisis
SAN ANTONIO — Ten years ago, a crisis gripped the…
They’ve endured decades of wars and countless bombs, but Christ-followers in Lebanon said they have never experienced anything like the explosion that devastated their capital city, Beirut.
“Honestly, this is something we see in movies,” said Moufid Tohme, comparing the aftermath of the Aug. 4 blast to cinematic depictions of a nuclear war.
The detonation of 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, stored unsafely in a warehouse in the Middle Eastern port city, claimed more than 150 lives, left more than 300,000 people homeless and caused some $15 billion in damage.
The blast damaged the meeting place of the International Church of Christ in Beirut, where Tohme ministers. He and his wife, Jessy, are leaders of the Middle East Regional Family of Churches for the fellowship, which has roots in mainstream Churches of Christ.
About 60 percent of Lebanon’s 6.8 million people identify as Muslim and 30 percent as Christian, mostly Catholic. There are no known mainstream Churches of Christ in the nation.
The International Church of Christ in Beirut, launched in 1994, has about 100 members, said Roger Lamb, founder of Disciples Today, a news service for the ICOC. At least one member was injured and taken to the hospital, Lamb said. Many more lost their homes.
In a video recorded Aug. 8, Jessy Tohme described the days after the blast as “the hardest days in my life.”
“I was grieving my childhood,” she said. “I was grieving my past. I was grieving my present, my dreams. my plans. I was grieving the future of my kids. … I was grieving and honestly I couldn’t pray.”
She clung to God’s words in scriptures including Psalm 23: “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me.”
“I begged him to comfort me,” she said. Then, through outpouring of support the church received from around the world, “God showed me that he still cares about us and God showed me that he loves us even though we’re passing through hard times.”
The Lebanese people are survivors, her husband said. “We want to continue. So we decided, just like in the days of Nehemiah, we want to rise up, we want to build.”
HOPE Worldwide, a nonprofit associated with the ICOC, had been providing aid to Lebanon since last October. In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic crisis has pushed tens of thousands people into poverty and triggered large anti-government protests, the BBC reports.
“Already a revolution is starting,” Moufid Tohme said. “Keep praying that we stay strong.”
In addition to food relief, HOPE’s Lebanon branch plans to help renovate and rebuild homes damaged in the blast. On social media, church members urge people to “rise up and rebuild.”
Jessy Tohme also asked for prayers that the people they serve will be receptive to the gospel.
“This is the time when they don’t only need food and shelter,” she said. “They need to hear the word of God.”
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