Issam Bishara is vice president of the Pontifical Mission and regional director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.
We have just returned from a field visit to the village of Jabbouleh, about 50 miles from Beirut, northeast of the Bekaa governate and close to the Syrian border. There, the Sisters of Good Service operate a school, an orphanage and, to generate income, a cattle farm.
Reaching the institution, we met Sister Jocelyine and Sister Maria. We were impressed by their work, which offers care and love to the poor children of the Bekaa by providing them with food, clothing, shelter and education. Not only do the sisters do a great job, but they are creative in finding ways to cover their expenses — including running their farm, which was originally established to provide dairy products to their children at low cost. But later on, as the production increased and diversified, their market expanded, boosting income and assuring that the institution would be sustainable. They now manufacture and sell cheeses, jams, pickles and dairy products.
As we left the sisters, we were reminded of the challenges faced by the sisters and so many people in Lebanon. We encountered dozens of protestors who had blocked the road with burning tires to object to the rising price of fuel. We were cut off. The highway was completely closed, surrounded by burning tires and the angry shouts of men. We had no choice but to take a risk. We pulled the car off the road and drove through a ploughed field until we could safely reach the highway, and from there make our way home.
The sisters are hoping to get 10 more cows, since the 15 they have now are aging and producing less milk. Let’s hope the cows have it easier getting to Jabbouleh than we did leaving it!