How I Explained Beirut’s Explosion to My Kids

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As Christian parents, our children must know we will keep them safe. But that does not mean keeping them comfortable.

Our family was sitting down to dinner when the walls rumbled.

Assuming it was just an unusual surge of electricity preceding one of Lebanon’s frequent power outages, we readied to say our prayers.

And then came the boom, and the whole house shook.

“An earthquake?” I wondered, as we rushed our four children, ages 7 to 13, outside to presumed safety. But there we found neighbors, anxiously skimming through Twitter on their balconies, shouting out the news.

Beirut had just suffered one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in human history.

My nerves for my family’s security settled when I learned it was not an earthquake. But then the political nerves took over.

Was it an assassination? An Israeli strike?

Reporting for Christianity Today from Cairo during the Arab Spring, our family had become somewhat accustomed to instability. But that was my realm: attending demonstrations, visiting attacked churches. Yet there was always a sense that life carried on, like the ever-calm waters flowing in the nearby Nile River, where we would often board a felucca boat and float in peace.

Our year in Lebanon has been much different.

Within two weeks of our arrival, Israel and Hezbollah exchanged fire at the border. Tensions rose quickly after a drone crash-landed in the Shiite Muslim suburbs of Beirut.

Within two months of arrival, we were greeted with another popular uprising. By some counts, a quarter of Lebanon’s 4 million citizens poured into the streets to demand a change in their political class.

Within half a year of arrival, the currency collapsed. We can escape the rampant inflation better than most, due to foreign income. But like the rest of Lebanese, we couldn’t get dollars into the country.

And when you …

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