In 1971 Lebanon was a prosperous, democratic multicultural haven in the Arab world — a centre for business, education and tourism. But sadly, the 50,000 Lebanese Protestants identified in an early 1950s census had dwindled to barely 3000 regular churchgoers.
Three young believers in Beirut, of various nationalities, met regularly for prayer, Bible study and the discussion of Reformed literature. They were united in a desire to ‘proclaim the whole counsel of God’ and to serve and guard ‘the church of God which he purchased with his own blood’.
Together they established a growing fellowship. They began to sponsor lectures, seminars and other Christian activities in Beirut. The membership grew steadily and the Middle East Reformed Fellowship (MERF) was fully organised in 1974. In 1975, however, war broke out in Lebanon, scattering MERF’s members around the world.
The organisation’s official activities ceased for a while, but its dispersed members kept working toward the goal of strengthening Reformed witness in the Middle East. MERF was reconstituted and since then has continued its work of reaching Arab countries from its base in Cyprus.
MERF works closely with the Lebanon Reformed Fellowship (LRF) in Beirut in radio broadcasting, biblical training and counselling. There is a fully equipped recording studio in Beirut producing Arabic gospel broadcasts.
Recently a team of radio broadcasters — including Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian and Tunisian producers — consulted together on how to reach Muslim listeners more effectively with the gospel.
Dr Samuel Kharrat, MERF vice-chairman and LRF chairman (fourth from right in the picture), said of the team, ‘These dedicated young people not only love Christ but also love Muslim people. They have an earnest desire to share with them the love that they themselves have for Christ. They also have a strong conviction that proclaiming “the whole counsel of God” is the most effective means to challenge the complex Islamic world and life view.
‘Our sovereign Lord has not only provided us with the airwaves to reach out to millions of Muslims, but also has called and, through MERF, equipped such dedicated young people for a great harvest … More Muslims are open to the gospel today than ever before … We must do all we can to seize the opportunity … We also need the prayers and support of like-minded Christians for this enormous task’.