by Marwan Aboul-Zelof
I was born in Kuwait but grew up in the U.S. due to the Gulf War. While my family was vacationing in San Diego, CA, Iraq invaded Kuwait and we couldn’t return home. I was seven years old. It wasn’t long after that the Lord saved me. In my early teens I sensed God calling me to ministry, and while in university, my eyes were opened to the reality that there were people living and dying without ever hearing the gospel. My wife, Marci, was also called to take the gospel to the nations. We met at a missions and prayer school and were married a year later.
Our general call to “go” became a specific call to plant a church as we helped start a church in Arkansas. It was there that we fell in love with the local church. We benefited so greatly from our time there that we wanted to see a church like the one in Arkansas planted in a place where Christ wasn’t known. With my heritage and background, we knew we would serve in the Middle East. Through a process of prayer, connections, input and waiting, God led us to Beirut.
Beirut is an incredible and complex city. It is ranked as a must-visit city by every food, culture and history authority; and yet nearly every western government warns its citizens not to travel here.
There is an underlying sense of hopelessness due to turmoil in the region, history of war, government corruption and large numbers of citizens leaving the country. Most Lebanese have great desires for their country, but they have no reason to expect anything good or change to take place. We see this hopelessness as a powerful opportunity for the gospel. Because of the difficult time in the region, people are asking questions they’ve never asked before – and we believe the gospel will be the answer they have been searching for. Lives will be renewed, and as a result our city will be renewed.
We originally thought we would plant an Arabic-speaking church, but a Lebanese pastor advised that an English-speaking church would be very strategic in Beirut. Not only would it reach expats and university students, but many Lebanese – like myself – who were born in the Middle East, grew up elsewhere and have returned.
We know God brought us to Beirut, but it’s not without its challenges. As any pioneering work, it is difficult and slow. There are rumblings in the region that could threaten the work, and even our safety; but we hope in Christ. Today and forever, he is our hope, and we stay so that many who have never heard the gospel will hear and their hopelessness will turn to hope in Christ.
Marwan attended the 2017 CTC International Intensive in NYC. Watch this video to learn more about his journey.
Marwan and Marci spent two years at Redeemer Church of Dubai participating in a church-residency program before moving to Beirut in the fall of 2016. Marwan attended the 2017 CTC International Intensive in NYC. They have two young sons — both born in the Middle East. They are planting City Bible Church in Beirut and held their first public service in April. They are encouraged to see God regularly adding to their numbers and building his church.