From Elsy’s home, it takes about thirty minutes to walk to school. The walk is not too far, and the children in her neighborhood have…
With the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Syria to the east, and Israel to the south, the narrow country of Lebanon is the fifth smallest country in the Middle East. The Lebanon Mountains span almost the entire length of the country, making Lebanon the ninth most mountainous country in the world.
A Brief History of Lebanon
Some of the earliest inhabitants of Lebanon were the Phoenicians, who were known for being skilled sailors and merchants. The Phoenicians ruled the land until 539 BC when Cyrus the Great from Persia conquered the area.
Control of Lebanon shifted a few more times before the Ottoman Empire took over in 1516. During the Ottoman Empire’s 400-year rule, Lebanon was given a semi-autonomous status, allowing people of all religious and ethnic groups to live together.
Following World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, Lebanon fell under France’s control.
Lebanon became a republic in 1926 and gained its independence from France in 1943. Since gaining independence, Lebanon has been involved in thirteen armed conflicts, including several civil wars and an attempted coup.
Explosion in Beirut
In 2013, a shipment of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate headed to Mozambique was forced to dock at the Beirut port due to technical issues. When the ship’s owner was unable to pay port fees, the ship was impounded and the ammonium nitrate—a highly volatile chemical compound—sat neglected in a warehouse.
On August 2, 2020, a fire in the warehouse caused the ammonium nitrate to explode, causing one of the largest non-nuclear blasts in history. The explosion killed 218 people; injured 7,000; and left over 300,000 people homeless.
The Lebanese Prime Minister declared a two-week state of emergency. Protests over what the people saw as the government’s failure to prevent the disaster only added to the unrest that had been building since the previous year.
Six days after the explosion, the Prime Minister and the Lebanese cabinet resigned.
Poverty in Lebanon
Even before the Beirut explosion, Lebanon’s economy was in crisis. As a result of a civil war that lasted from 1975 to 1990, the Lebanese government racked up a $1.2 billion debt. In March of 2020, they defaulted on the loan, a first in the nation’s history.
As the value of the Lebanese pound plummeted, over half of the population fell below the poverty line, meaning their income was not enough to cover their expenses. Low-income neighborhoods suffered from longer and longer power outages. Rising gas prices meant that many working-class people could no longer afford to work.
In addition to Lebanon’s economic crisis, the government is also facing a humanitarian crisis, as 22% of the population are refugees—mostly from Syria and Palestine—many of whom are competing for the same limited number of jobs.
Because of this, thousands of children in Lebanon are experiencing malnutrition because they don’t have enough food to eat. One out of four children suffers from food insecurity, and many of them may only be receiving one meal a day.
Children’s Hunger Fund in Lebanon
Shortly after the explosion in Beirut in August 2020, Children’s Hunger Fund learned about a ministry in Lebanon called New Heights that was responding to the needs of those impacted by the explosion.
For years, New Heights had been working with local churches and private schools to minister to children and youth. They helped churches launch weekly Bible programs and camps by providing them with the necessary resources and training to carry out those ministries.
New Heights’ ministry model remained much the same after the explosion. They continued to work alongside local churches to minister to those in need, providing physical resources as well as building relationships with families for the purpose of sharing the hope of the gospel.
Recognizing them as a like-minded ministry, CHF quickly decided to partner with New Heights to aid with the relief efforts following the explosion. A grant was sent to New Heights that was used to build 1,000 Food Paks. Over the next four months, those Food Paks were distributed to 250 families.
In March 2021, another grant was sent to New Heights to help families struggling due to the lockdown and unemployment caused by the pandemic. New Heights was able to serve 100 families for three months.
In 2022, CHF trained ten churches in Lebanon in relational mercy ministry and provided them with the funding to create Food Paks. These churches—with the support of CHF’s in-country partner New Heights—became a Mercy Network, dedicated to serving suffering children and families in their communities by delivering food, building relationships, and sharing the life-changing hope of the gospel.