“It’s a ministry of compassion, from A to zed.”
So says Alia Abboud, director of development and partner relations for the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD), as she characterizes how Lebanese churches are responding to the great needs of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Abboud speaks, in a new Skype interview with EthicsDaily.com, about how Syria’s civil war is impacting Lebanese churches.
Abboud offers some staggering numbers to illustrate the magnitude of the need. LSESD is working with 2,500 families, which amounts to about 12,500 people, through 18 local churches.
That means each church is responsible for ministering to almost 700 people – that, while even the largest partner church is no more than about 130 people.
“One of our local, partner churches, for instance, has taken on 750 families when they are a congregation of 70 members,” Abboud says. “You can imagine the volume, you can imagine the burden that this is placing on the churches. But at the same time, you can imagine the change that is taking place within the churches.”
The totality of the situation has Lebanese churches functioning much like community centers.
Abboud says they are seeing something for which they have prayed: Now, whole congregations, not just a few members, are involved in ministry.
Abboud also mentions how the Lebanese, themselves having endured a long civil war, are well suited to ministering to Syrians fleeing a civil war of their own.
Lebanese know the stresses of displacement, uncertainty and losing loved ones.
“We’ve been there,” Abboud says. “We know how it feels.”
LSESD is not working only in Lebanon. It’s also working in Syria itself.
“The church is actually being the church,” a Syrian pastor told Abboud, as he was witnessing how his own church members were moving beyond the walls to help those in need.
“He said, ‘Now I understand how Jesus felt when he went around reaching out to those who are oppressed, and ministering, and just being there for people,'” Abboud recalls.
LSESD is providing food aid, winterization items and different types of advocacy. It is also working on educational programming because there are at least 300,000 unschooled Syrian refugee children in Lebanon.
LSESD is also working on equipping its own people so they can minister to, for example, children with traumas.
“Those who are actually doing the relief work are average church members,” Abboud says. “They are not expert relief workers, which is why LSESD has held, twice now, workshops to help these churches manage relief projects.”
Watch the interview with Abboud at vimeo.com/ethicsdaily/skype-aliaabboud
Learn more about the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development at LSESD.org
Watch other EthicsDaily.com Skype interviews at vimeo.com/ethicsdaily