This is from Light Force by Brother Andrew. Brother Andrew started an organisation called Open Doors which still exists today with the aim to strengthen and equip Christian Churches who are struggling under persecution in all parts of the world. After the publishing of the book God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew, it was decided that Andrew was too well known to continue trips into the communist countries and so this was left to the others who by then worked with him. Brother Andrew then turned his focus to the Middle East and that is where Light Force is set.
Ghassan Khalaf was one of those faithful servants of God who had stayed put during the war, keeping his academic ambitions on hold – for ten years he had done little work on his PhD dissertation – to pastor a church and provide stability to the Arab Baptist Seminary nestled in the hills above Beirut. At the conclusion of the final night of the outreach, he invited me [Brother Andrew] to dinner. He seemed pleased with the results of the campaign, with approximately six hundred attending the final meeting. But there was also a weary look in his face. Fifteen years of living and ministering within what he called ‘an open hell’ had aged him.
The seminary was barely surviving. To illustrate, Ghassan placed a book on the edge of the table where we were eating. ‘I’m living all the time like this. As you can see, the book is about to topple to the floor. If I put the least pressure on it, it will fall. I first met you in 1979, and Open Doors was supporting the seminary even before that. You can see why every dollar your ministry provides to the school is much appreciated. It’s keeping us alive. We’re not falling. Ask me, “Ghassan, how is your faith?” and I’ll say, “God is faithful!” My faith has grown over these years.’
I asked him to tell me how his church congregation as managing. He closed his eyes for a moment, then told me about one incident where he went to visit a young woman who had lost her husband in a recent skirmish, leaving her with three little children. ‘There were several friends there, trying to comfort her. When she saw me, she shouted, “I don’t believe in God! Don’t speak to me about Him! He doesn’t care for us! He is just watching us and letting us die!” Andrew, I felt a wave of compassion for her. She only said what thousands in Lebanon are feeling.’
‘So, what do you say to these people?’ I asked.
‘After she calmed down, I said, “Dear lady, what you have said about God would all be true if He had not become flesh and died on the cross to redeem us. That proves that God does care. God in Christ was involved in our situation. Because He has passed through suffering, He is able to help those who suffer. Do you believe that?” She nodded. I know she believes that but it is so hard.’
‘You have to minister to people like this woman, but you are suffering as well.’
My friend agreed. ‘I remember one black period when day after day the sky rained mortar shells and rockets. No place was spared shrapnel. Everyone was in danger of having his house burned or losing his money, his car, his possessions, or even his life. Those were anxious days. I remember days of confusion, and I asked God for victory over the feelings of anxiety.’
‘And did He give you peace?’
He smiled as he answered. ‘One night, I dreamed that my car was stolen. Feelings of resentment attacked me. A struggle began in my soul between complaint and contentment. After a cruel struggle I completely surrendered and accepted the loss. Then I woke up. I was happy it was only a dream. But then I thought: It is beautiful to be victorious in a dream, but it is more glorious to be victorious over anxiety in real life, while I am awake.’
‘When God gives you that peace, then you are able to pass it on to others.’
‘There have been some people – we call them “the war rich” – who have profited from the war. But for God’s children, this had been an opportunity to prove the genuineness of our faith. We have become “war rich” on a spiritual plane.’
I was touched by this man’s humble testimony of God’s faithfulness. Then he soberly added, ‘You know, over the years almost all foreign missionaries and missionary agencies have left the country. They’ve gone to Cyprus, Athens, Istanbul, Amman. What remains here are the local churches and the nationals. We feel forsaken. We feel cut off from our bigger family. No evangelical leader from the West came here to ask, “How are you? What are you feeling? What do you need?”‘
He started laughing. ‘Then you came! Do you know what it means when Brother Andrew come to Lebanon and lives with us among the shelling and bombing and difficulties? That is the value of your visits. Every time you come, there is a spirit of revival in my heart.’