Kaboom. The plane wheels slammed into the cement. The plane jeered from side to side, as we abruptly landed into Beirut, Lebanon. It was far from smooth. I will give the landing a 5 out of 10. It jarred me from my 24-hour traveling slumber and awakened me to the thought that I was “home”.
Home changed while we were away. Experts reckon that the 2nd largest urban explosion in history happened on August 4, 2020. We were retuning to a city that not only was struggling with a revolution, but also an economic collapse, Corona Virus on the rise, and now this explosion. To further make sure we were awake and welcomed to Lebanon, we received the PCR test again as we cleared customs (we had to prove that we were negative to COVID, prior to boarding the plane in the States). The test is an unpleasant nasal jarring sensation, that would awaken the deepest sleeper.
Honestly, at our apartment one could pretend that nothing had happened. Other than a badly cracked bedroom doorframe our home was fine. Also, the surrounding neighborhoods have been mostly repaired of their broken glass panes. However, the stories from many individuals reflect a traumatized people and nation that is not so easily repaired.
One of my Lebanese friends stated, “It was like all the years of the war (over 15 years) combined in 1 second.” Can you imagine? I have let her words roll around in my mind and heart all week. She also later told me that even though they were on break from teaching at the university, it was not really a break because, “even if we went somewhere our bodies would go, but our hearts would not follow”. Can you feel the weight of that?
Even though we have watched countless videos of the devastation, seen many photos, and listened to many stories, I knew that we needed to go and see the damage at the heart of the port. There are not words to explain the twisted metal and broken glass and destruction that met our eyes, 5 weeks post event.
Many people are walking around with a glazed, fixed stare. It is familiar vacant look, after going through the flood in Indonesia. Strangers will tell you that they have no hope regarding the future in Lebanon. Many of the Lebanese people wanted to leave before the explosion. Now that feeling has intensified. The immigration offices are closed. No one can leave right now.
Your prayers are appreciated as we push forward seeking to know how best to work and serve. How do we infuse hope so that hearts will follow bodies?