June / July 2016 - Vol. 86

40th Anniversary
The People of God community in Beirut, Lebanon celebrated its 40th anniversary on the 17th of April 2016
The 40th Anniversary of the People of God, Lebanon

A report and reflection by Danielle Younan

We are a community of 800 brothers and sisters from different church backgrounds and traditions, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants. The Holy Spirit at work in us, transforming our hearts, teaching us to worship and serve together as one, has allowed us to reach out to many people around us. God has called us to be a bulwark amidst an enflamed Middle East, missionaries called to be saints and martyrs seeking to follow Jesus Christ every day of our lives in spite of our weaknesses and our differences. God knows they are many!

Our branch group in Kuwait, and two member groups in the UAE and in Qatar witness to the open doors of mission that God has been speaking to us about. They, too, carry that same ecumenical dimension with members from different cultures and church traditions seeking to follow the Lord. Our community building led to the development of a sister Armenian community in Lebanon, and other community developments in Istanbul, Turkey; Antioch, Turkey; Aleppo, Syria; and Haifa, Israel.  

Living, working and serving in the People of God has been a source of great blessing in my life. It has given me the opportunity to put into practice every basic Gospel truth I have been taught. In my work, I get to serve alongside a lot of brothers and sisters in the Lord. I have learned to love them for who they are, the way they are, and most importantly, to serve them all with the same zeal and fire of love.

When I first started working at the community office, my boss said to me that I had to invest in the “Love Bank” (what you give will return). I have been trying to do so ever since. Investing in love hasn’t been without a cost but the returns were much greater than the cost. More love, tolerance, joy, trust and peace are some of the fruits I have experienced over the years. Working for the president of the Sword of the Spirit, a man of vision and mission, has deepened my desire to serve the Lord with greater zeal and to be ready to go wherever the Lord leads, and to do what he is asking of me no matter the cost.

My service with married women and with young women in our University Christian Outreach (UCO) program, two different generations, has helped me understand the real meaning of being part of a trans-generational community of disciples on mission. It has also helped me realize the importance of passing on the baton to the next generation - now that the foundations for community life and mission have been set.   

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of our community, a series of events were planned, starting with an exhortation from our senior coordinator Elias Baz who explained the significance of the 40 years in the life of our community. A party to celebrate with song and dance preceded the covenant celebration. A month later we did a field day involving games and a UCO concert. A documentary relaying the history of our community was prepared for the occasion and displayed on screen during the field day.

tree of life banner
                          for 40th anniversary

A special banner, painted by our community brother David Kurani, was displayed during our community anniversary covenant celebration. The banner depicts the "tree of life" bearing much fruit and with large roots planted by streams of water (Psalm.1, Revelation 22)

 The script at the top of the banner, written in Arabic, reads, “Faithful is the Lord who called us and his faithfulness endures from generation to generation.”

Bruce Yocum speaks
                          at 40th Anniversary gathering

During the community covenant celebration on April 17, our brother Bruce Yocum, who had witnessed the birth of our community from the beginning, while honoring the founding generation, addressed the next generation as well. I was deeply touched by what he said. I quote:
“I want to honor the founding generation - to a great extent their [foundational] work is done. Now I don’t mean by that, that they don’t have more work to do. There isn’t any retirement from the call of God, we serve up until the final day the Lord calls us home.”
[To the next generation Bruce said] “…If you do not honor where you came from [your spiritual heritage], and if you do not honor what brought you to where you are now, you dishonor yourself. If you do not honor the history of what God has done among you here, you dishonor yourself… Your failure to honor those who went before you doesn’t harm them because they will be honored by those who are honorable and by God. They don’t need your honor, but you owe it and if you don’t give it then you, yourself, become dishonorable and cut off like a spiritual suicide.”
Our anniversary celebration will continue in June, when our coordinators return from the International Coordinators Meeting (ICM), to inaugurate the new offices and meeting rooms we have been able to build thanks to the generosity of our community members.

Belonging to the older generation, a mother of three young women, and recently now a grandmother, I feel privileged to be part of a work of God greater than my imagination, my limitations, and my own strength. I walk in faith totally relying on God and on my brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Danielle Younan, member of the People of God since 1988, is married to Tony Younan, also a member of the People of God since 1984. She and her husband are physiotherapists. They have three daughters, Esther (27 yrs), Marie-Jo (21 yrs), Christie Louise (19 yrs), a son-in-law Fadi Barakat, and their first grandson Noah James (1 month old). They lived and worked in Sweden for a few years, then returned to the People of God in 1997. Danielle has been working as the Sword of the Spirit president’s executive assistant since 2008. Part of her time is dedicated to the community office. She and her husband serve as pastoral leaders in the People of God, and as senior leaders in the Kuwait branch and UCO.
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