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Southern Baptist volunteers flee Beirut on U.S Navy ship; reach Cyprus, heading home soon

POSTED Friday, July 21, 2006

LARNACA, Cyprus (BP)—After being trapped for more than a week in Beirut as Israeli-Hezbollah fighting raged, 19 tired and relieved Southern Baptist volunteers arrived in Cyprus from Lebanon early July 21 aboard the Navy transport USS Nashville.

The volunteers from two churches in Georgia and Texas were transported by bus with hundreds of other U.S. evacuees from the Cypriot port of Larnaca to Nicosia, where U.S. embassy officials have set up a receiving area equipped with cots, food and beverages in a city convention center. From there, the volunteers were expected to board one of the charter flights U.S. officials have arranged to take Americans exiting Lebanon home to the United States.

The two volunteer groups include 10 members from First Baptist Church of Forney, Texas, and nine from Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church in Henry County, Ga. They had been participating in various summer ministries with Lebanese Baptists through churches in Beirut when cross-border bombing and rocket attacks broke out between Hezbollah guerrillas based in southern Lebanon and Israeli forces.

Southern Baptist International Mission Board workers are providing assistance to the volunteers in Cyprus. They are scheduled to leave Cyprus for Baltimore and several other U.S. cities. Once back in the United States, the Forney group will fly on to Dallas/Fort Worth. The Eagle’s Landing volunteers will fly to Atlanta.

John Brady, IMB regional leader for Northern Africa and the Middle East, met with the volunteers after they arrived in Nicosia, Cyprus.

“They were elated to be out of Lebanon and praising the Lord for His protection,” Brady said. “They also had some very kind words about how the Lebanese Baptist brothers and sisters helped them every step of the way, as well as the way the U.S. government responded to rescue Americans.

“They’re heartbroken for the people in the Middle East, and they’re praying God will resolve this tragic situation soon.”

Todd Bradley, one of the Forney volunteers and an associate professor at Criswell College in Dallas, spoke to the Dallas Morning News July 19 before leaving Beirut. He told of moving several times to different locations to avoid the bombing.

“The Lebanese Baptists here are putting food containers together for the people who have been displaced in south Beirut, which is an amazing thing, and we’ve been a part of that,” Bradley said.

Tim Dowdy, pastor at Eagle’s Landing First Baptist, told WXIA-TV in Atlanta that volunteers from his church also got involved in Baptist ministry to refugees before leaving Beirut.

“They just kind of jump(ed) in and said, ‘Hey, we can help unload a truck, we can help feed people, we can help pass out food and water and blankets or pillows, whatever is needed,’” Dowdy reported.

Bradley, in an interview with Christian radio station KCBI in Dallas, called the situation in the region “very sad.” He added, “It’s not a matter of whose side you’re on. You love these people here, and they’re watching their country be systematically destroyed, and it’s hard to watch.”

As Israelis and Lebanese civilians continue to get caught in the cross-fire and the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict threatens to escalate into a ground war, Southern Baptist workers in the Middle East are appealing for continuing prayer.

“Please lift up the precious people who are not boarding ships out this week,” said one worker in the region. “Pray for those whose lives have been turned upside down so much that it seems the norm. They have no peace.

“(But) expect to hear in the coming weeks how God is going to be doing great works among the people here. Just from this past week, we have seen Him working in the midst of this turmoil, bringing people together and His Word being shared with many who are in such need of His peace and hope.”


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  • Erich Bridges