American Baptists are trapped abroad and Lebanese Baptists are overwhelmed with refugees as Israel continues attacking Lebanon in response to Hezbollah terrorism.
“Yesterday night was quite rough in various towns and cities in southern Lebanon and Beirut as a result of air-raids and shelling,” wrote Nabil Costa, the Lebanese Baptist leader, on Friday. “Air-raids started again as early as 3:00 a.m. targeting the Beirut International Airport and the southern suburb of Beirut. This went on and off all day today. The artillery and bombs being used are horrendous.”
He reported that the Beirut Baptist School provided shelter for some 200 Muslims displaced by the fighting in southern Lebanon. That number had swollen to 450 refugees by Saturday.
Referring to “the intentional and systematic destruction of our infrastructure,” Costa said the elderly, women and children were fleeing their homes in search of “some sort of safety though in reality no place is safe.”
Costa, executive director of the Lebanese Society for Education and Social Development, said the Lebanese Baptist Society and the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary were holding daily prayer meetings in the seminary chapel. Less than a month ago, the Institute of Middle East Studies at ABTS held a conference on waging peace, partly titled “Political Islam and Politicized Christianity.”
Leadership teams were praying, Costa said, for “God’s intervention in our country and the Middle East to stop any further bloodshed and destruction.” They were praying for local churches helping the needy, for leaders to have wisdom and for Lebanese Baptists to “be salt and light.”
“Day by day the targeted zone is expanded, and more people lose their lives and homes,” Costa reported Monday. “Merciless killing machines target innocent people—including infants and children.”
Costa appealed for food, detergents and medicine.
BMS World Mission also reported Monday that ABTS began receiving displaced families. The British Baptist mission organization said it was providing a grant of $20,000 to partner organizations in Lebanon for relief aid.
BMS said its “long-term workers in Lebanon, Arthur and Louise Brown, are currently safe and have no plans to leave Lebanon soon.”
The International Ministries of American Baptist Churches-USA reported its missionaries, Dan and Sarah Chetti, and a volunteer, Jennifer Wallace, were also safe.
Reid Trulson, IM’s area director for Europe and the Middle East, urged American Baptists to pray for their missionaries, the seminary and the people of both Lebanon and Israel.
Working with BMS and the European Baptist Federation, Baptist World Aid announced it was providing relief support to displaced families through its Baptist partnerships. (Donations marked “Middle East Crisis” may be sent to BWA. For more information, click here.)
According to media reports, Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga., had nine members waiting for evacuation in Beirut. First Baptist Church in Forney, Texas, had 10 church members in a similar situation.
The U.S. government moved slowly to evacuate some 25,000 American citizens, only sending a naval flotilla on Tuesday and informing citizens they would need to pay their evacuation costs.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.