ACN’s Project of the Week – Lebanon
To help more than the body
For many people in Lebanon one hot meal a day is by no means something to be taken for granted. In the town of Zaleh the poverty is particularly acute. The town is not far from the Syrian border, and as a result many refugees have ended up here, having left all their possessions behind in Syria. And even among the local Lebanese population there are many needy people, especially among the elderly and the children whom nobody seems to be caring for.
This was the reason why the Melkite Greek Catholic Church decided to set up the St. John the Merciful Table in 2015 to help these people, among other things by providing a regular hot meal, or “food table”. It is named after the seventh century Saint John the Merciful – and not by chance, since St. John was renowned for his exceptional love for the poor. Wherever he saw need, he worked with all his energies and all his resources to alleviate it. When he finally became Patriarch of Alexandria he was feeding some 7,900 poor people on a daily basis. He died around the year 619 and is revered as a saint both by Catholics and by Orthodox Christians.
Today the outreach ministry provides around a thousand people with a hot meal each day, an increase of 400 people compared to the previous year. Many Syrian refugees are also involved, helping in the kitchens, so that they can also have the opportunity to earn a living. There is a dietary assistant from a Catholic hospital in the town who helps to ensure that the food is nutritionally well-balanced and healthy.
But of course, it is not merely about food for the body but also about communicating the love of God and human warmth and affection to those in need. Many are quite alone. The St. John the Merciful table has become a place for them to gather, not only to eat, but also to talk with other people, share their warmth and a smile and a sympathetic ear to listen to their concerns. Prayers are said before every meal and a hymn is sung, underlining the fact that this is above all about the care of souls. It is important for everyone to experience this spiritual dimension. “All of us feel the love of Jesus, our Saviour in this way. It is a sign of his love for us all, one that helps to heal every wound”, says one of the women helpers.
For the elderly and sick, who cannot get out of their homes, the food is brought to them by volunteers.
Aid to the Church in Need has been supporting this project ever since it began. This year we will be giving 1,178,000 for the coming year.
If you want to give for this project or one similar,
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