Written by an Overseas Goer
On Tuesday, August 4 around 6pm, I was sitting in my apartment on a phone call with a few people in America. My friend Jacob was napping on my couch in the air conditioning (as not all of my team members have air conditioning in their homes) and all of a sudden a feeling like an earthquake happened for a few seconds. Jacob and I jumped to our feet and immediately a blast that felt like our building had just been bombed took place. We heard exploding glass everywhere. I looked at Jacob, and he said, “We’re being attacked. We need to get out of this building.” So we ran down nine flights of stairs to get out of the building we thought was under attack. Every door for every apartment had been blown out, glass was everywhere in the stairwell, and all we could hear were people outside in the streets screaming. We got outside, and it looked like a war zone. Glass was covering the streets. People were all filming our building assuming it was the location for the attack because the glass windows that form our wall to the west had almost completely been blown out on every floor. There were people walking around with blood from glass injuries. We live right next to the largest Syrian refugee neighborhood in Beirut so there were women in the streets screaming as they were reliving the trauma from the war they recently came from.
Our team leaders were out of the country so the four of us in country started texting, got together, spoke with leadership in America, and made the decision to leave the city for two days because of the reports of the health issues that could be possible due to the chemicals in the air. We went to a town in the mountains as the sodium nitrate dissipated and then came back down to Beirut during the days. We continued to sleep in the mountain town because our house was unlivable due to the broken glass everywhere and no front door. On Friday our group came down and went to a part of the city where the damage was most prominent. We went out with an organization here and did a large number of activities. We had people go with a care team to talk to individuals and households that were most affected by the blast to hear their stories. We gave them space to process the trauma and prayed with them. We had another group go with hardhats, brooms, and gloves, and helped sweep up glass and pick up pieces of walls that had fallen in. Others worked with children at the church to put together hundreds of sandwiches which they passed out with water down by the explosion site. That sort of work continued for about two weeks and then slowed as the neighborhood became ready for more professional work such as glass insulation and foundation rebuilding. In addition to the physical and emotional labor our team participated in directly following the blast, we raised and partnered with the church financially to donate over $45,000 to help in efforts such as home repairs for members of the church, evangelism efforts, medication purchases for people unable to afford it, and countless other initiatives for the affected people.
Beirut currently does not have a sitting government so the majority of the repair work and decisions on how to move forward have been implemented by the people. Countless aid organizations have come to Beirut’s assistance, and the process moving forward is unknown. Most families do not have insurance similar to what we have in the states, so for the vast majority of families, their houses will remain in the state it currently is until an organization or individual is able to help them financially to repair the damage. The blast was just one of many hardships this country has had to endure during the past year. Continued protests, financial freefall, unchecked governmental embezzlement, and a runaway ponzi scheme has left the people in Lebanon wondering what will be the straw that breaks this camel’s back.