A new community center and school in Lebanon becomes a refuge to the delight of many local children.
Remodeling a building into a community center and school would be an incredible task, but to accomplish this in just a few months might require a miracle. However, World Challenge partners in Lebanon were determined to do just that so they could receive 300 new students.
The air was filled with the smell of cut wood, drywall and paint. The lot’s previous owner had left a boat in the yard, sadly adrift in the midst of contractors, machinery and the general hubbub of a construction site.
The children were due to arrive in days.
The new center had no doors, no windows, no tiles, no heating, no running water, and no bathrooms yet. It was like someone rushing to get dressed as the doorbell rings.
Arrival on the First Day
One bright, chilly Monday, children tumble off a line of buses.
They pick their way between piles of broken tiles, lumber and rebar, eyes wide and full of anticipation.
With hushed voices, they press through the doors.
Excitement mounts as the ones in front plop down and pull off their shoes, respectful of the new house. They line the shoes up at the base of the stairs. Heart-shaped balloons bob against the railing, a luminous line leading the children upward.
Gasps of delight fill the air as they peek through doorways at the brightly painted walls, new rugs and clean desks.
A few children whisper, “It’s beautiful!”
Treating This Place Like Home
A teacher gives an instructional lesson about how to use the new Western-style toilets. All the children troop into the bathrooms as she points to the seat and waves her hands over the handle.
They are mesmerized as the water swirls in the porcelain bowl.
Each child takes turns going in and “using it.” Most just want to flush the toilet, running out giggling to wash their hands and faces in the sink.
After a couple of hours, a working man clomps up the stairs to inform the teachers that the pipes have not been connected to the sewage, so no one should use the toilets yet.
The last child is ushered out of the bathrooms, and the doors are locked for now.
A teacher finds some of the girls cleaning the stairs after class. They grin at her when she thanks them. “Al mudaris,” they say, “this building is like our home. We clean our home, and we will clean the school too.”
Making a Place of Peace
Traditionally a sanctuary for people from a variety of religious and ethnic backgrounds, Lebanon was wracked by civil unrest and war between militant groups in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s.
These issues have deeply impacted many children whose families lost members in the mass shootings or bombings.
At their new school, World Challenge partners choose to bring the children outside on their first day and arrange them to spell out “al rahma” which is Arabic for “mercy.”
Their prayer for many of these children is that God will save and heal them and their families. One step for that will be creating a safe place for these children to study and learn about a Lord of peace.