Beautiful Lebanon has been devastated by an economy in free fall and the ravages of Covid. The August 4 explosion of 2750 pounds of aluminum nitrate is yet another example of bureaucratic negligence. Stored for as much as 6 years after being seized from a ship, the fertilizer (and a component in homemade bombs) was stored incorrectly in a high population area. The result is

  • The destruction of Beirut’s port. More than 80% of all imported goods come through that port. Bordered by Israel and Syria, most goods must enter Lebanon by sea.
  • Grain silos destroyed. Food is already becoming scarce. The prices for basic food stuffs has gone through the roof because of hyper-inflation. Soon there will be little food no matter how much money you have.
  • The homes of an estimated 300,000 people have been rendered unsafe.

I have heard from friends and ministry partners that they are all are okay. No one was hurt at the Near East School of Theology (NEST). All floors of the building however (including two basements) had glass doors and windows broken and wooden doors blasted. In an email, NEST president George Sabra, says that nothing during the 15-year Civil War compared to the amount of damage to their building from this explosion.

Our PCUSA mission partners, Scott and Elmarie Parker, are safe. Elmarie is still in the US having been unable to return to Lebanon since earlier in the year because of the Covid virus. The separation has been brutal on both of them. Elmarie is scheduled to return to Lebanon in the next week or so. Whether the airport will be ready to receive travelers is yet to be determined.
The National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL) our denominational partners have their officess, 2 congregations and a large school in the city. I’ve not heard about damage there, but I am sure it is extensive.

The Outreach Foundation, which has significant involvement and deep relationships in Lebanon, supports these ministries along with Our Lady Dispensary serving Iraqi and Syrian refugees, Blessed School serving autistic and blind students and the Philemon Preschool Project for children of migrant workers and refugees. They have set up a Beirut Compassion Fund. If you or your church would like to give, make the check out to The Outreach Foundation, Beirut Compassion Fund and mail it to 381 Riverside Drive, Franklin Tennessee, 37064. Or you can go to their website and give electronically.

Over the years I have visited each of these places and the people who serve there. I have always been amazed at the resilience of their faith. NESSL is about the same size as Albany Presbytery (40 small congregations.) They focus their ministries beyond themselves. They have built schools, a seminary, a nursing home. They offer services for Syrian Refugees. They work together and encourage each other to faithfulness even in the most extreme situations. Pray for their work and witness during yet another season of crisis.

In this together,
Kate Kotfila+
Past Moderator

About Rev. Kate Kotfila

Kate Kotfila is pastor at the United Presbyterian Church in Cambridge, NY. An important spiritual discipline for Kate is traveling in places where life is very different than in Cambridge. Kate served as Albany Presbytery's 2019 Moderator. You can reach her at and learn more about the United Presbyterian Church in Cambridge at

The purpose of the Albany Presbytery Blog is to share information, tell stories, and promote the mission and ministry of the presbytery, synod and beyond. While the breadth of this medium is intentionally broad, it is not a platform for opinion pieces related to business coming before the presbytery unless designed as part of an initiative to provide a diversity of viewpoints at the direction of the presbytery. Exceptions to this policy may be brought to the presbytery officers who will determine appropriateness of submissions.