by Maher Hajj, National Director, Youth for Christ in Lebanon
Today, the UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) estimates over 3.2 million Syrian refugees in the region. Of that number at least 1.1 million refugees are registered with UNHCR in Lebanon but the total estimated number, including the non-registered refugees, is at least 1.6 million Syrians scattered around the country. This number is expected to keep increasing dramatically through the end of 2014. The Lebanese population is 4.5 million. Right now the ratio is 1:3, one Syrian Refugee for every three Lebanese.
According to the UN, this is the biggest refugee crisis since Rwanda and the highest ratio of refugees per nationals. Youth for Christ programs in Lebanon are reaching at least 400 young Syrian refugees in the suburbs of Beirut and a few tent communities (tent community being a pilot project till 2014). But this number will grow much more when the tent community program launches in January 2015.
There are no official statistics of how many tent communities there are right now at the border but there are at least 400 tent communities.
A young girl testified how she accepted Jesus as her Savior: “My parents locked me in my room for months when they found out I was attending church meetings, I knew deep inside the truth was in Jesus. The minute I was ‘released’ I continued attending church and finally accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. My next mission is that my parents would accept Him too.”
One male youth leader from Syria who attended a Youth for Christ training event told us: “In this time of war the ministry among the youth has become more effective. Young people were always too busy to come to church but the crisis stripped away many of their activities. Now they started searching for a safe alternative to spend their time and so they end up coming to church and following Christ. What’s amazing is the rapid spiritual growth among the youth. Youth from non-Christian background are now coming to Christ with zeal like never before, but we as youth workers need to be ready and trained.”
One female participant at a Youth for Christ training event described the challenges of the ministry saying: “In the past year, most of our church members left the country hence the church is comprised of all new people. I found myself in need to train emerging new leaders for ministry without knowing how to run a training. I honestly didn’t have time to come up with new ideas especially that we currently have very limited resources.” She continued: “This training exposed us to creative and fresh ways in youth ministry such as innovative prayer and worship styles. I learned how to energize youth in a lecture and prepare games. What was also significant is that I learned how to train others on these new approaches.”
Pray for the workers in Lebanon, for energy, strength and wisdom in reaching the Syrian youth and in training the youth workers. Pray that God will work strongly in this region and that He will provide in more workers and funding. Thank you for also prayerful considering a donation toward this important work using the donation box (above, right).