“We will clean this up for you.”
Shock was written all over the faces of 20 young people as they gathered with their Christian youth group leader, Elias Habib. It was less than an hour after an explosion on August 4 ravaged Beirut’s port, killing over 180 people and injuring 6,000 more.
Among the most powerful non-nuclear explosions in history, the blast was felt in Turkey, Syria, and Cyprus―more than 250 km away.
“For now, we will help in the cleaning efforts,” Habib told his group. “Until we can help with the repairs, we will be covering windows with nylon. Be ready when I call you.” The group, eager to do what they could to help, quickly nodded.
Habib had already seen a lot of suffering, having grown up in the vicious 16-year civil war in Lebanon. But his group had little experience doing what they so deeply wanted to do: sweep shards of glass, set aside torn doors, scrub blood off walls, and support distraught victims.
The group began going door to door, asking if they could help. They approached an elderly woman of about 60 who owned one of the homes. “Is there a specific room you would like us to concentrate on?” Habib asked. The woman led him to her sister’s room―a modest room with a small bed and nightstand, a wooden cross still hanging precariously, glass shards, and chunks of wood strewn about.
“We will clean this up for you,” said Habib, assuredly. “Where is your sister? Perhaps we can be of assistance to her, too?”
The woman’s face crumpled. She nodded at the badly damaged armchair. Her sister had been sitting in her chair during the blast. She didn’t survive.
In the weeks that followed, Habib and the youth group witnessed extraordinary suffering. Their Christian call to serve and support those in need inspired them to continue providing comfort, reassurance, and hope.
Elias Habib’s youth group belongs to the Joint Christian Committee for Social Service in Lebanon (JCC), one of the oldest non-governmental organizations working with Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. As part of the Department of Service for Palestinian Refugees (DSPR), JCC does relief work and provides education and vocational training.
Mission & Service gifts support Palestinian refugees through JCC and DSPR on a regular basis, providing education and training for young people like those in Habib’s youth group.
Gifts specifically designated to the United Church’s emergency response following the explosion in Beirut supported numerous clean-up efforts like the one carried out by the dedicated group of young Palestinian Christians Habib continues to lead.
Thank you for giving regularly to Mission & Service to provide relief and education and for making a special gift in times of dire emergency. Your compassion makes all the difference.
*Elias Habib’s story is adapted from a newsletter originally published by the JCC.