Peggy Fletcher Stack has an excellent article in today’s Salt Lake Tribune chronicling the plight of Richard and Mardonne Neiman, LDS humanitarian missionaries currently serving in Beirut Lebanon. While awaiting evacuation the Neimans are helping serve meals to displaced people in Beirut.
They are working with the local chapter of Caritas to assess what LDS Humanitarian Services in Salt Lake City can provide to help meet needs. And they are looking to aid a dispensary-health clinic in downtown Beirut, which is seeking blankets for people sleeping in the streets.
“It is relatively quiet this morning. I haven’t heard any loud explosions but there may be bombing elsewhere in Lebanon,” the Neimans wrote in an e-mail Thursday to family and friends. “This is a unique and humbling experience, filled with many emotions and challenges but through it all is the gold thread of the love of God that knits us together in his service. There can be joy in the midst of turmoil. There can be peace to the soul.”
Stack then recounts a little about how the local Beirut Branch and the Church operates in Beirut:
After the Neimans leave for Cyprus, a Lebanese member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will assume responsibility for managing the church’s tiny branch in Beirut.
Every Sunday about 40 church members squeeze into an apartment in the Christian section of Beirut. They are French, Armenian, Lebanese, American and Filipino. The church is not officially recognized by the Lebanese government so the nameplate outside the apartment reads: LDS Association.
“You can’t proselyte in Lebanon,” said Sharon Heiss, a Sandy grandmother who was an LDS humanitarian missionary in Lebanon with her husband, Frank, from November 2002 to May 2004.
“But we could teach people who were brought to us by other members. We had four baptisms during our time there.” That is Christians, not Muslims, she said. “You cannot teach anyone who is Muslim.”
It was fascinating to read about this tiny Lebanese branch and their struggle to meet from week to week in this war torn country. It gives one just a bit more perspective on making the trek to our own meetings in our air conditioned cars to relatively nice chapels where we won’t be worried about whether the next minute will bring an artillery round through the roof. Our prayers should go out to all these saints and the friends and neighbors that their plight will get better sooner rather than later.