Joyful Endurance in the Middle East
This stirring report comes from Jehovah’s Witnesses in Lebanon
OUR 1990 service year started with violent bouts of shelling in Beirut. Then there was a calm that lasted from the end of September 1989 till January 1990.
During those months a new peak of 2,659 publishers was reported (in November), compared with 2,467 in the 1989 service year. Forty-four persons were baptized, and each month an average of 65 shared in the auxiliary pioneer service. For the first time, more than 2,000 Bible studies were reported, and we started to anticipate what could be accomplished in the future.
But the war exploded again in East Beirut, where most congregations are located, and dozens of our brothers had to flee to other parts of the country. For many days we had no contact with the congregations in the affected areas, and field service reports were incomplete. Nevertheless, the brothers who had scattered joined the congregations in the areas to which they had fled, and the house-to-house work continued with fine results throughout the country. Meanwhile, many of our brothers’ homes were either burned or damaged by the bombings. One sister lost her life.
With confidence we looked to Jehovah for help and guidance. Courageous pioneers volunteered to take spiritual provisions, along with food and water, to our brothers in the regions under siege. Moved by love for Jehovah and the brothers, they even risked crossing roads that had been mined. A fine witness was given as people saw the aid coming to our brothers’ families. They saw what real love can do when all are united in the worship of the one true God, Jehovah.—John 13:34, 35; 15:13.
During the service year, the brothers did not miss a single issue of our magazines. As was already the case with The Watchtower, the Awake! magazine in Arabic started to be published simultaneously with the English, beginning with the issue of January 8, 1990. Witnesses and interested persons were overjoyed. It was also thrilling to see new releases in Arabic, such as the brochure Should You Believe in the Trinity? and the books The Bible—God’s Word or Man’s? and My Book of Bible Stories.
These spiritual gifts were provided despite the closing of many factories and other establishments in Beirut. The economic situation is bad all over the country. Many places have no electricity, no water, no telephone service. Now, let some of our brothers tell how they have found joy even while contending with the ravages of a war that has been going on for 15 years.
“The Positive Side”
A brother in Beirut writes: “First of all, I give heartfelt thanks to Jehovah because he has kept us safe within his organization of pure worship despite all the difficult conditions we have faced. During the recent events, I had some experiences that brought me joy, and I consider them to be the positive side of the war.
“During the heavy bombardment, we sat with neighbors on the stairs, since that is the safest place during shelling. We constantly spoke with them about God’s Kingdom as the only solution for mankind’s problems, and we frequently prayed to our God, Jehovah. This became known to all.
“At times the shelling lasted for days, and we could not attend meetings. So I brought the Watchtower magazine with me and studied it while sitting on the stairs. That aroused the interest of our neighbors. Some of them had not been talking with us because we are Jehovah’s Witnesses. But when our house was hit with a shell, they were astonished at the love our brothers showed. Now they wanted to speak with us. That enabled us to place some subscriptions for Awake! with them.
“These experiences made me determined to keep speaking about the truth. Jehovah deserves all our worship and all our esteem and all glory.”
“Jehovah’s Name Saved My Life”
A brother from the Ras Beirut Congregation relates: “My wife, our two little boys, and I started our day in the house-to-house ministry in the west section of Beirut. In the afternoon, we had an English-language meeting at my home. By 6:30 p.m. it was dark. The only people on the streets were armed men. Bombs were raining down. Most residents of our building had fled. There was neither water nor electricity. Then we heard knocking at the door.
“Thinking it might be one of our neighbors needing water or bread, my wife opened the door. Standing there were four armed men. They pointed their guns at my wife and asked for me by name. That week nine men had been taken from their homes in this way and killed immediately. When the armed men saw me, they pointed their automatic rifles at my head and ordered me to go with them. I told them: ‘I’ll go with you. But first let me get dressed.’ I prayed to Jehovah with all my heart, asking for his help. As I finished praying, I felt very relaxed and began to view these armed and frightening men like ordinary people. I could talk with them fearlessly.
“I asked them: ‘What do you want from me? Let us talk a little in the house before we leave.’ Once in the living room, their chief asked me: ‘What right do you have to enter houses and preach to people?’ I replied: ‘You carry a gun to enforce your will, and no one stands in your way. I carry the good news of peace that Jesus ordered us to preach.’ I then explained the beliefs and work of Jehovah’s Witnesses. As soon as I mentioned the name Jehovah, they said: ‘We will be satisfied to interrogate you here. There is no need to take you with us.’ Apparently, one among them was acquainted with a brother. He said: ‘This one is like Jarjoura.’
“We witnessed to those gunmen and answered their questions for an hour and a half. Then, rather than taking me away in the trunk of their car as they had done with others, they apologized, kissed me, offered their help if I ever needed it, and left. All along, I felt Jehovah’s protection. Sharing in the house-to-house work that morning and attending a meeting in the afternoon had strengthened me to stand firm. Truly, Jehovah’s name saved my life.”—Proverbs 18:10.
“Jehovah’s Care Surrounded Us”
Another brother writes from Beirut: “It was Wednesday, the 31st of January, 1990. While working along with my brother at a sister’s house, the fighting began again. Bombs exploded everywhere. Because of the fierce battle, we could not go back home. The sister was very hospitable even though she had only a few pieces of bread.
“I was very worried about my wife because she is a Filipino and not accustomed to the violence of war. On the second day, however, I was able to leave for my house. Piles of furniture blocked the streets, but thanks to Jehovah, my family was safe. After a brief calm, the heavy shelling started again. We hid in a brother’s home near ours. There were five of us—my wife, my two-year-old son, me, my brother, and his wife. Bombs, shells, and rockets fell all around, but Jehovah’s care surrounded us. Two days of heavy shelling passed, while we kept lying on the ground with the smoke of the bombs in our nostrils.
“While listening to the explosions, we remembered David’s words at Psalm 18:1-9, 16-22, 29, 30. In those difficult moments, and despite all that was happening, we were happy and could still smile. We prayed to Jehovah that if we should die, we would die easily, without suffering. Our hope in the resurrection was strong.
“The next day was unbelievable. About 25 bombs fell near the house where we were hiding, but not one of us was hurt. Can you imagine our feelings as we sensed Jehovah’s protection? The following morning, we immediately decided to flee. My car was the only one on the street that had not been burned. I drove between the mines and the bombs, and thanks to Jehovah, we were able to escape to an area that was a little calmer than ours. There, our brothers lovingly provided us with clothes, food, and money.
“Despite all the difficulties, we felt happy because Jehovah was with us. It was almost as if he had sent his angels to keep the bombs away from us. (Psalm 34:7) Yes, our joy was great. But our joy will be greater after surviving Armageddon.”
Emergency Relief in Action!
Some areas of Beirut looked as if an earthquake had struck. Many of our brothers’ houses were damaged or destroyed. When the recent crisis arose, the Branch Committee organized an emergency relief committee to take care of brothers’ needs. It started operations on February 16, 1990, just about the time when we could at last move into the afflicted areas. The purpose of this committee was threefold: to give spiritual encouragement to the brothers; to care for their needs for money, food, and water; and to help them repair or rebuild their homes.
There was no need to call for volunteers. Each day many showed up early in the morning to help. Here are some of the comments of those who were assisted:
One sister, as her house was being cleaned and restored, said: “I heard about the help given by the brothers when catastrophe strikes. Now I see it and feel it.” Even her neighbor, a Muslim woman, told this sister: “You really love one another. Yours is the right religion. Now I will flee to my village and tell everybody what you are doing here.” This neighbor brought some food to the volunteer workers.
An elderly sister commented: “I expected that you would come to visit me, but I did not expect that the Society would send someone to bring me water.” She was crying as she kissed the brother that came to help her.
A family of three—a husband and wife who were unbaptized publishers and their little boy—were visited and given a big box of milk, some bread, drinking water, and money. When they were told that Jehovah’s Witnesses had made this arrangement, the husband said: “I was in the Evangelical Church for 11 years and was very active. But for these 15 years of war in Lebanon, they never thought to do something like this for their members.” He continued: “This is really God’s only organization.” The husband and his wife were baptized at an assembly in May 1990.
One elder commented: “Words fail to express our thanks for the works of love that you performed toward the afflicted brothers. I was so impressed that I shed tears when I saw a group of young brothers, volunteers, rebuilding my parents’ house. Even our neighbors who are not Witnesses expressed their appreciation. We are truly thankful to Jehovah and his organization for the practical support that has been given. How true are the words of the psalmist at Psalm 144:15: ‘Happy is the people whose God is Jehovah.’”
“What Kind of People Are You?”
One sister with a family wrote: “I wish to express my deep appreciation for the love of Jehovah and his organization. My house was hit by many shells and burned. Many told us it could not be fixed. However, here it stands completely repaired as if nothing had happened to it, surrounded by the hundreds of houses on our street that are burned and destroyed.
“Even our neighbors, who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses, are asking: ‘Where does this love come from? What kind of people are you? Who are these individuals that work with such zeal and who are so quiet and well behaved? Blessed be the God who has given you this love and self-sacrificing spirit.’ How fitting are the words of Psalm 84:11, 12: ‘For Jehovah God is a sun and a shield; favor and glory are what he gives. Jehovah himself will not hold back anything good from those walking in faultlessness. O Jehovah of armies, happy is the man that is trusting in you.’”
A man whose wife and children are Jehovah’s Witnesses wrote: “I would like to thank you for your help in repairing our house. Your work showed a sincere Christian love that is very rare these days. May God bless your efforts.”
After one elder’s house was restored, he said: “Our mouths fail to express what is in our hearts. We cannot find the words to tell you of our appreciation for Jehovah and his organization. We felt the closeness of Jehovah in our calamity. Your love has encouraged all members of my family to share in helping others in need.”
During April, 194 persons in Lebanon enjoyed the auxiliary pioneer work. The night of the Memorial was calmer than other nights, and the Memorial was held with a total attendance of 5,034. All the assemblies that were planned were held, and the total number of persons baptized for the year was 121, despite the chaos in the country. Many families in the congregations left the country for good. But newly interested ones are progressing toward baptism, and the 2,726 Kingdom publishers continue to grow in number. During the 1990 service year, all of Jehovah’s people in Lebanon experienced Jehovah’s faithfulness as he took good care of us and guided us through tumultuous times.—Psalm 33:4, 5; 34:1-5.