Photo: Syrian refugee children from the Good Shepherd School celebrating their teachers on International Teachers' Day
Anglican Aid partners with Pastor Emil, founder of the Good Shepherd School in Lebanon. Emil is married to Reem and together they have five children. They are expecting their sixth child in September. Together, the family run The Good Shepherd School out of their home to show the love of Christ to Syrian refugee children through providing education and other forms of support such as trauma counselling. I asked Emil some questions about his journey with God and how he came to start the school.
What was it like growing up in Lebanon during the civil war?
Growing up in Lebanon during the civil war was very difficult, especially for a little child. I grew up hearing stories of people killing each other every day, often in places not far from where I lived with my family. The most difficult part was hearing about the deaths of members of my family who were murdered.
Tell us about how you came to know Christ and your calling to vocational ministry?
I grew up in a simple family where faith was the way of life. Serving others, especially strangers and neglected people, was something I saw my grandparents and parents always happy to do. This opened my eyes to the beauty of serving God and His people.
What prompted you to leave Lebanon and go to Tunisia? What did you feel the Lord calling you to do there?
This is something that I never wanted to do because of the experience I had during my childhood. For this reason, I can say with full confidence that going to Tunisia was a very clear call from God. I believe his call was to make his Gospel known amongst people that have never had the opportunity to hear and see somebody who lives a life of discipleship.
When you returned home to Lebanon, what burden did the Lord put on your heart?
I came back to my respected country to find my house surrounded by many tents of Syrian refugees with very hard conditions, especially children who were deprived of their basic rights like education. I could not handle this but knew I had to try to find a way to reach out to those children with the love that the Lord filled my heart with for them.
What is the vision behind the ‘Good Shepherd School’?
The Good Shepherd School is a space were these refugee children from Syria can experience their childhood and somebody who loves and cares for them. It is place that wants to connect them to the Source of joy that alone can make the human heart joyful despite any situation, and enable these children to face their future in a positive way!
What’s one scripture that has been significant in encouraging you throughout your ministry?
When I was wondering if I should face all the difficulties and obstacles to do with the Syrian refugees that the Lord put in my heart His word in Mathew 25: 35-36, which says:
‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
My decision was that saying ‘no’ to people is much easier than saying ‘no’ to God, so without delay I started to reach and not allow anything to prevent my obedience to God and his call.
What message do you think the Australian church needs to hear?
Coming to Australia I feel amazed of the diversity of the population and the opportunities that are open for the Gospel.
My hope is that the church will quickly start nights of prayer and fasting seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit toward those who are thirsty and searching for something they couldn’t find in their own countries. As our Lord said, “I have to work since it is day, the night is coming and which nobody will be able to work.”
Related project: Good Shepherd School Lebanon