Elia El Beainou is a 22-year-old from Kfardebian, a village in rural Lebanon. He is studying electrical engineering.
I am writing to express how God showed me his greatness and blessings many times in my life — and especially during this COVID-19 pandemic — and to share with you the immense faithfulness and great love of God.
First, a few years ago Lebanese farmers faced the first and most severe crisis in apple harvesting during war time. Their production could not be sold because of the closure of the borders with all the neighboring countries. The apples were left on the trees or even thrown in the garbage.
The effects of this crisis was so hard on my family, and on all farmers, who lost an essential part of their income.
As a son of an apple farmer from Kfardebian, I also faced great difficulties, as this crisis has affected us dramatically. My village is very well-known for its apple orchards. I wanted to find a solution for this problem, a solution that can meet the demands of true love: kindness, sharing, brotherhood, communion, agape, tenderness, fervor, contemplation. After two years of research for a startup project, in 2017 I was fortunate to be helped by CNEWA/Pontifical Mission with a micro-credit loan that enabled me to start a small apple winery in Lebanon called Cave des Ours, based in my village. As a result, the Lebanese apple was no longer left on the trees and our heritage is able to live on.
Now looking back, I realize how God helped me in this crisis, by giving me perseverance, growth and courage to research a new product from apple juice and even take loans and invest in this new field. I was astonished by God’s faithfulness, and how successful these new products became in local wine exhibitions in 2018 and 2019.
Now, after two to three years of experiencing God’s greatness and generosity, Lebanon is facing one of the most severe economic crises, made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
Our small project was financed by loans last year, but the exchange rate of Lebanese currency is uncontrollably increasing day by day. This is making us pay four times as much on our loan. In addition to this, the COVID-19 crisis has also affected our small project — forcing us to follow social distancing, stopping all our activities and canceling sales all over the country.
Now, all our concerns are about how to meet the daily needs of life, as well as buying enough masks and gloves to use for our weekly shopping.
Life has become more stressful, as we need to be aware all the time of social distancing when we’re in line at the market, or when meeting with friends and family, or when attending classes at the university.
All these make me think how life has changed so drastically and so quickly! Where is God in all this? Why did he show us his generosity and faithfulness before? Was it fake? Was it a false signal? Is he angry at us? Is this a new World War? Is this a new era before the second coming of Jesus?
I am sure that I am not the only person struggling with these questions. But at my age, at almost the beginning of my life and career, this crisis challenged my faith and my hope.
But I remembered that Jesus told his followers to take heed and to watch. Take heed precisely because “you do not know when the time will come.” Christ has already told them: “But of that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32) The point here is that our need is not to try to determine when the Second Coming will be. Since we do not and cannot know, we must take heed and watch all the time. We must faithfully live out Christ’s commands to love God above all, and our neighbor as ourselves, in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. In the passage referred to earlier, Peter tells us this in the context of the return of the Lord.
The coronavirus pandemic is unquestionably a tragedy — not only by sickening and killing many, but by the enormous burden it has put on health care services, by the social dislocation it is causing, and by the economic chaos and financial stress it has brought. Surely it is a dark time.
But Christ called his followers to be the light of the world. Who needs light if it is not dark?
In the midst of this crisis, I am trying not to look out only for myself, but to hope for a better life, a better future and remember that God will be near. God provides through the Saint Vincent De Paul community with resources for comforting those in sorrow, for bringing hope to the hopeless, for sharing our material resources with those in need. And this brings me joy in this new era.
Finally, we have to take these disasters as a call to wake up, to take heed, to carry out our duties faithfully, to love God and our neighbor — but not to be alarmed.
God bless you all.