William Cumbia, EBF Commission on Migration / Baptist General Association of Virginia Field Coordinator
It is dizzying and exhausting to try and comprehend all of the suffering that we are experiencing at this time. As 2020 comes to a close we continue to live through the realities of the pandemic as well as mitigate all of the compounding issues the pandemic has brought.
Earlier in the year, EBF partners came together in conjunction with the Baptist Forum for Aid and Development (BFAD) to support COVID-19 relief efforts for the most vulnerable across the EBF region, specifically in Lebanon, Greece, and Turkey. Since then, each of these three contexts have experienced additional tragedy on top of the pandemic. In economically devastated Lebanon, the August explosion at the Beirut Port rocked the nation to its core and shattered what little hope many Lebanese had left. In Greece, the September fires in the Moria refugee camp sent thousands of refugees into an even more precarious situation. And in Turkey, recent earthquakes left over 60 people dead, buildings in ruin, and many in fear of returning to their homes.
It is easy to get lost in the deafening roar of anguish, mourning, and tragedy that rings out across the world. A roar that seems to block out any voice of God.
Yet somehow God’s Spirit still continues to whisper onward. God’s Spirit that has whispered in the hearts of faithful Baptists who by God’s grace find the strength and the endurance to continue onwards. To keep fighting for hope. To shine brightly in the darkness around us.
Transforming society in Lebanon
COVID-19 arrived in an already troubled Lebanon. The virus only exacerbated the issues of an ongoing economic crisis, widespread unemployment, and political unrest. Thankfully, the Lebanese Baptists are seasoned professionals in offering hope in times of hopelessness. Baptist churches in Lebanon have been on a journey of transformation over the last decades as they have engaged with their communities to make a holistic impact on the local society. Their history of building authentic relationships and serving the physical needs of the most vulnerable meant they were already equipped to react quickly to the pandemic.
EBF and BFAD funds supported projects of Middle East Revive and Thrive (MERATH), the relief and development branch of the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development. The support helped fund thousands of hygiene kits that were distributed through local churches to refugees and vulnerable Lebanese across the country. Additionally, MERATH was able to increase their food voucher programs so that families impacted by the economic crisis were able to buy food.