Adventist Community Center Opens in Beirut
The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Middle East University unveiled an off-campus community center in February, a move that underscores how school administrators are now offering services to their neighbors when for so long they struggled to maintain their own institution in the wake of Lebanon’s civil war.
The For Your Life Community Center, one mile (two kilometers) away and down the hill from campus, offers classes in health, cooking, art, music, and computers. Already more than 600 people have participated in health classes sponsored by a visiting health group—the Weimar Center of Health and Education—from the United States.
“I’m absolutely thrilled about the new center,” said university president Leif Hongisto. “It wasn’t obvious that people would support it or that it would get such warm acceptance. God is really blessing these endeavors to reconnect this community with its first settlers,” he said of the Adventist community who first inhabited the area in modern times in 1939.
The opening of the center—located on the ground-level, retail floor of a 10-story apartment building—drew dozens of supporters, including Antoine Kaysar Jbara, the mayor of Jdeideh Bouchrieh Sed Municipality. The opening also gained media coverage in newspapers, television, and radio.
The center came about after Hongisto held a community 5K health walk last year. The outreach event corresponded with the country’s growing awareness of health issues, he said.
SABBATH HILL: Middle East University is located on Sabiteh Hill, named after the Sabbathkeeping Adventist who settled in the area in 1939. The campus overlooks the city of Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea.“People realized we were early adaptors,” he said of the Adventist Church’s long commitment to healthful living.
The university itself is experiencing a resurgence after years of rebuilding. The campus was in shambles following the Lebanese Civil War from 1975 to 1990.
Homer Trecartin, president of the Adventist Church’sGreater Middle East Union, says the campus has undergone a dramatic change since the time he served as the union’s secretary-treasurer.
“You should have seen [the campus] when I visited 12 years ago. Most of the houses were still bombed out and had birds and other animals living in them. There was one student in the dorm. Only a few teachers were Adventist.”
Rebuilding got serious about a decade ago. “It’s now an exciting and a beautiful place,” Trecartin said of the campus, which overlooks Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea.
The school is now home to 250 students from 23 countries.
—reported by Jason Lemon and Ansel Oliver/ANN