A Time to Till and a Time to Harvest
A time of grace for University Christian Outreach in Lebanon
By Sleiman Manassa
For the past two years in Lebanon we have experienced a time of abundant grace in our University Christian Outreach (UCO). This mission targeting university students from all the main universities in Lebanon started nine years ago as an outreach of the People of God, a memer community of the Sword of the Spirit. Challenges and opportunities coexist in the work of God in UCO as we live in political and economic unrest, in a torn country that stands between the West and the mainly Muslim Middle East.
The lack of security among the Lebanese in general and the Christians in particular has affected everyone, especially university students. Over the last few years we have had a significant increase in emigration, mostly the departure of the young graduates to start careers abroad.
Despite this environment of insecurity, along with the disappointment from the political and economic turbulence, UCO has been prospering and growing in breadth and depth, proving again and again that God is faithful and “a help in times of distress.” Our number grew to some 80 committed members and more than 130 students attending our evangelistic prayer events.
This growth is the fruit of the labor of many brothers and sisters of the community and in UCO in various schools and universities, as well as from the amazing turnout of community children wanting to live the call and the experience that their parents had before them.
The Sword of the Spirit youth and student outreach programs (Kairos) has contributed tremendously in this respect through the summer programs, including the bible week. However, without the full support of our local community, such growth wouldn’t have been possible.
The level of commitment and radical discipleship is a striking feature of UCO in such times of trouble. Last year, the number of attendants of the summer mission trip almost doubled (from 30 people to 55) even in the middle of the devastating war that was going on (2,000 dead and more than 10,000 injured). Many challenged the situation – and at times their parents – to be serving God and searching for more of him in their lives. This year even a larger crowd gathered at Theopolis, a Christian Center in Mount Lebanon, to do some hard work of renovation, listen to Christian teaching, and experience shared life together.
Growth in depth can be clearly seen in the increasing number of young men and women joining households where they share a life centered on Christ, daily prayer, bible reading, service, and openness to share their life in Christ, both with fellow Christians and with those who haven’t heard his message of life. Last year there were two men’s households and a women’s household. As Elie, a young business student at the Lebanese American University puts it, “This was the best year in my entire life, which I am looking forward to live again with my brothers and sisters. It is the best, because it was centered on Christ in a real and practical way, day in and day out.” This coming year around 18 men and 7 women want to enroll for this kind of household life.
Another example of the growth in depth is the number of young men considering a vocation to the celibate missionary life within the Servants of the Word, making concrete steps to offer more and more of their lives to the Lord, hoping that he would call them to this wonderful way of life and give them the grace to live it well. Joe, one of these young men, shares: “If the Lord wants my entire life, I am more than glad to give it all to him who did not spare his own to save me. It is a real honor to be called to give our all to him.”
With the hope and confidence that the master of history is God and God alone, and that our lives can lie secure in his hand, in him who is faithful, we continue to labor full of faith that, he who started the good work in us and through us will bring it to completion, and that he will never cease to amaze us with his love and goodness, gathering to him a new generation to carry on the torch to the glory of God the Father.
[Sleiman Manassa is the director
of University Christian Outreach in Beirut, Lebanon.]
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