He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” – Psalm 91:1-2

A massive explosion that engulfed Lebanon’s densely populated capital of Beirut last Tuesday left at least 157 dead, 5,000 injured, hundreds missing and more than 300,000 displaced.

The site of the explosion is only four kilometres from the office of ONE:SIXTEEN Production House, a key ministry partner in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s online evangelism outreach in Arabic.

Lou, (whose last name we’re withholding for safety reasons), is the director from ONE:SIXTEEN, a reference to Romans 1:16. He spoke via Skype about the damage in his city.

“Beirut is now broken, literally smashed,” he said.

He talked about the lives lost, families changed, and seeing his hometown’s history and culture physically destroyed or altered.

“This brings people to a place where they have to ask, ‘Why is this happening?’

Videos of the shocking blast show the moment a large swath of the city disappeared under a cloud of white smoke. Photos captured bloody, chaotic scenes. The aftermath looked like a war zone.

The explosion flattened buildings within a two-mile radius and was felt more than 150 kilometres away. Lou’s friend heard it from Cyprus, an island directly across the Mediterranean from Lebanon.

“It is not the first time we faced something like this,” Lou said.

About 30 years ago, Lou’s home was hit by two bombs during a civil war. Even then, he said, the destruction wasn’t as bad as what he’s seeing in his city now.

As he drove through the streets Wednesday, he looked around at heaps of grey and brown.

“All of this is rubble – it’s cement, it’s buildings.”

And those broken pieces go soul deep.

Every tragedy, Lou said, causes a person to “either blame God for all this, or say, ‘Please, God, have mercy,’ and come closer to Him.”

Last Tuesday’s tragedy comes on top of the country’s economic crisis, which already had people on edge.

“It feels like you’re choking sometimes,” Lou explained.

But even in this time of panic, anger and shock when everyone is looking around at overwhelming circumstances, there’s a place for looking up.

Wednesday morning, coworkers from ONE:SIXTEEN met at their studio for devotions, even as they surveyed the damage, stepped carefully over broken glass and brainstormed how to share some Good News with people around them.

Their office was a safe place, somewhere to create and call home. Now, doors and windows have been blown off, and their ceiling is falling down.

Lou happened to be stuck in traffic on his way back to the office when it happened – what he calls “a divine delay.”

His sister was hit with glass when the impact knocked out a window, but thankfully it wasn’t worse. She had to visit three hospitals because the first two were full.

“It is hard, … but God is good in all of this,” Lou said, matter-of-factly. Though there are times of discouragement, he added, “there’s no other option to run to than to go back to our shelter” – the God who supernaturally heals hurts, offers respite for the weary and somehow gives strength to press on.

As Christians, Lou and his team are switching “from survival mode to life mode,” and working proactively to be light in a dark time.

“God is a God of hope, of restoration, of life. This is our hope,” Lou said. “People need to hear Good News now.”

As individuals saved by Jesus, Lou’s teammates have seen firsthand how God brings beauty from ashes, turning their lives around for eternity. Lou prays the same over his city.

“I pray over Beirut that beauty rises above the ashes.”

Rebuilding in the midst of economic crisis means a long road ahead for Beirut. Please pray for this city and its people as they grieve, heal and sort through next steps. Lou also asks for prayers over Lebanon as a whole to seek God’s mercy and guidance.

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