God is Our Shelter

Faith Under Fire

By Anonymous

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

9:00 a.m.: “Lord, please protect them.” My husband and I, along with several others, pray for a friend and his family before they leave Beirut by taxi for Syria.

Hezbollah members in southern Lebanon capture two Israeli soldiers near the border. Israel responds, and fighting erupts.

2:00 p.m.: We hear about the border incident and the subsequent bombing of roads and bridges across southern Lebanon. Suddenly our electricity goes out. Often, the power is off for about four hours a day. We wait for the generator so we can turn the news back on. Is this the beginning of a war?

The Lebanese Alliance Church operates an orphanage near the southern border. We learn that the children and workers are safe. Praise God! The children were sent to nearby relatives. The workers made it back to Beirut. One bridge was bombed just minutes after they crossed it. More bridges and roads are hit, closer to Beirut. The main Beirut–Damascus highway is also struck—the same road our friends traveled earlier in the day. We had been planning a trip to the cedars. Should we cancel our trip? Or would it be better for us to get out of Beirut and go north, away from the action?

Thursday, July 13

The phone rings. Pastor Sami Dagher asks my husband to speak at the funeral for his elderly mother-in-law, who is close to death; the funeral will probably be the next day in Beirut. God has answered our prayer for direction.

We stock up on supplies: gasoline in the car, bottled water, canned tuna, other food, candles and batteries. I call neighbors to see what they need. Rice, bread, eggs, diapers for the baby . . . more bottled water. Fighting in the south continues. Alliance leaders call from outside Lebanon, saying they’ve had trouble getting through to us. We tell them we’re fine. We have enough supplies to last a while. It is good to know people are praying for us.

I visit a Bible school couple from Iraq and their three-month-old baby. As we watch the evening news, I notice a light arching through the sky from the direction of the Mediterranean Sea. We hear a faint explosion—the airport is under attack. The news shows Israeli families going into bomb shelters to wait out the Hezbollah rocket attacks. The student’s wife asks where the bomb shelters are for us. I answer that God is our bomb shelter.

With the airport under attack, the main road to Syria destroyed in several places and a naval blockade, the nation of Lebanon is held hostage. It would be difficult for us to leave now even if we wanted to.

Friday, July 14

4:00 a.m.: I awake to the roar of warplanes and loud explosions. My heart pounds. Startled, my mind forms the thought, It has started. They’re bombing Beirut. The explosions continue—evidently at a distance, but they shake our apartment. Not knowing the target, I vaguely wonder if we might die. My husband is not in bed beside me. I hear the sound of the TV and stumble toward the study. “What’s happening?” I ask. “They’re bombing the southern suburbs”—a Hezbollah stronghold four to six miles from our apartment. It is also where the teachers from our language school live.

In the morning, aware of the seriousness of the situation and my own helplessness, I kneel before the Almighty God, crying out to Him for Lebanon.

4:30 p.m.: During the funeral for Pastor Sami’s mother-in-law, the congregation hears the muffled sounds of bombs in the distance—highlighting the urgency of the message that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, our only hope.

Saturday, July 15

Morning comes. Rescue workers in Tyre struggle to help residents out of an apartment building that has been hit. Several people have been killed. The news shows a wounded man helping someone into an ambulance, then climbing into it himself. In another attack, almost an entire family is buried in rubble. The images are horrifying.

I can’t watch anymore. Turning off the TV, I kneel to pray. “Heavenly Father, please make it stop.” I realize that I’m sobbing. I am on my knees a long time, praying and crying. It seems like the Holy Spirit is weeping, too, but not because this war has taken Him by surprise. He is not afraid of what will happen nor powerless to do anything about it. He is weeping because He loves the people, and they are hurting. “Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Jesus,” I say over and over.

I start getting ready for the day. My husband is still asleep. All of a sudden, I hear a loud explosion; the apartment shakes, and all the windows toward the front of the house rattle. My heart immediately starts pounding hard and fast, not slowing down. I had open-heart surgery as an infant, and I’ve never been allowed to ride roller coasters. Concerned and trembling, I pray, “Jesus, please help my heart go at the right speed.” I sense Him reassuring me, Your heart is doing what I created it to do. My heart should beat quickly when I hear a bomb.

The TV reports that the port has been hit—two workers killed, a grain silo destroyed. The port is about a mile from our home; the air outside smells of smoke.

“Where are the bomb shelters for us?” Remembering my friend’s question, I am comforted by this truth: I can call out to Jesus at any time, and immediately He assures me of His presence and care. He is my refuge.

Sunday, July 16

The U.S. government begins evacuating Americans. We pray earnestly for God’s direction. Monday evening His answer seems clear: we are to go, and He will bring us back. Leaving the church and our friends at the Bible school in this situation is one of the most difficult things we have ever had to do.

The church leaders give us their blessing Tuesday night. The church has begun to organize relief efforts for distributing food and basic necessities, along with Arabic Bibles, to the refugees pouring into our area.

Friday, July 21

Tens of thousands of foreigners have been evacuated. We’ve waited several days for a call from the embassy, but none has come. Following new instructions on the embassy Web site, we simply go to a meeting place. A Bible school student takes us to the staging area, where we wait all day to be put on an old passenger ferry headed to Turkey—with a naval escort.

Saturday, July 22

Six hours into the voyage, there is a loud bang! The ship shudders. Parents scream for their children. One woman near me burst into tears with her infant son on her lap. “Was it a bomb? I can’t take it any more!”

Trusting in God, I am not afraid. He helps me calm the young mother as I pray for her in Jesus’ Name. We never find out what caused the noise, but the boat lists the rest of the trip.

Two hours later, we learn there is no more drinking water or food for the 900 passengers, including many children. Soon the captain announces that we are no longer going to Turkey. The boat turns around, and eight hours later we arrive in Cyprus. Tired and sunburned, I am thankful for the bottle of water a Marine hands me while we wait to disembark.

Sunday night, my husband and I are put on a plane to the United States, and by late Monday we are with family—exhausted, yet praising God for His care.

After the War

The Lebanese Alliance Church not only survived the war; it thrived. Although many families emigrated, new people came to take their place. The relief work gained momentum; thousands of refugees and other people in need experienced Christ’s love in tangible ways through His people in The Alliance.

After the war ended, by God’s grace, the Bible school held classes in its new building as planned. The orphanage in the south reopened. Even our teachers from language school were safe, although the apartment building one of them had lived in burned.

In November, the day finally came for us to return to Beirut. We were happy to get back to our friends, our home and the work that God has called us to do. We count it a privilege to serve Him alongside our Lebanese brothers and sisters.

My husband and I can testify to the truth of Psalm 46:1–2a, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear . . . .” He truly is our shelter.

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