by Melanie Gibbons
On July 29, 2020, three shipping containers of Lutheran World Relief quilts and kits arrived in the port of Beirut. The items were bound to serve more than 24,000 refugees from across the region who are sheltering in Lebanon. The containers were in port, awaiting customs clearance before LWR released them to our partner, Anera.
Six days later, the devastating ammonium nitrate explosion rocked the port. It killed almost 200 people, injured more than 6,000, and displaced an astonishing 300,000. In the days that followed, port authorities indicated to Anera that any containers in the port were likely a total loss.
On top of the profound human impact, the loss of quilts and kits stings.
Hours of time, investments of finances, and thousands of prayers are wrapped up in the 22,500 quilts, 3,500 school kits, 19,500 personal care kits, and 2,250 baby care kits included in those three containers.
LWR staff shared this news on social media and in calls to the 315 congregations with items in that shipment. Your reactions inspired us. As we shared our collective grief over the situation, compounded by the loss of quilts and kits, we also heard from you: We will keep going. One quilter said, “Good thing I just oiled my sewing machine.”
Faithfulness and love
Your response—borne out of your faithfulness and fueled by your love—is a light in the darkness.
On the morning of August 26, LWR staff received an urgent communication from Anera staff on the ground in Beirut. They finally got access to the port. It appeared that our three containers were in the one place in the port that provided some protection from the blast. The containers were damaged—but not completely destroyed, as first believed.
This incredible news is evolving. Anera still must sort through each carton of kits and each bale of quilts to assess the damage. Chemical testing must be conducted to measure any ammonium nitrate contamination. As we learn more, we will continue to keep our quilt and kit community updated.
Creative and determined
We are grateful for the creative and determined ways you are refreshing your quilting and kit-making efforts in these isolating times. In Beirut and around the world, our neighbors are facing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we hold on to hope that many of your gifts in Beirut will be salvaged, we continue to work on ways to gather your quilts and kits this fall. We need you and your quilts and kits to ensure that your love can reach every neighbor.
To receive timely information about quilt and kit collections in your area, please sign up for email updates at lwr.org/quilts.
Melanie Gibbons is deputy director of outreach and engagement for Lutheran World Relief. Feature photo by Matt Hackworth provided by LWR: Devastation at the Beruit port.