Baptists in Lebanon have been reaching out to Syrian refugees streaming into their country.
Members of the Baptist church in the northern Lebanon community of Rahbeh have been supporting 300 families in 15 villages in the north of the country with food, toiletries and basic friendship.
The families have been arriving as a result of the violent crackdown by Syrian authorities in response to the calls for freedom and democracy in the country.
Since April several thousand people, primarily women and children, have fled into north Lebanon. They are continuing to cross daily, many without any means of support.
Local residents have taken many refugees into their own homes. But Shadi Saad, secretary general of the Lebanese Baptist Union, said Baptists have “felt challenged by their need” – and responded accordingly.
“Week after week, church members from Rahbeh invest many hours putting together the aid packages and then spend two days in the villages distributing them to those in need,” said Saad, who is pastor of the Rahbeh church.
At the same time, Saad said, the Baptists also offer company and conversation. There are special programs for children, who are currently not in school and have nothing to do.
For example, on Saturdays the youth group of the Rahbeh church plans to offer, among other things, a Christian puppet show in the villages.
The Lebanese Baptist Union and the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development have supported the church’s activities.
As a result of the assistance, Saad said, conversations about the Christian faith often come about with those receiving aid, who are mostly Muslim. One Muslim woman recently acknowledged that she now had “a totally new view of Christianity.”
The number of Syrians who have fled to Lebanon is fluctuating from week to week, but many have found it difficult to meet basic needs, especially shelter, food, health care and protection, according to Integrated Regional Information Networks, the United Nations news service.
Although some returned home because of the difficulties they encountered, the numbers fleeing continue to grow.