Supplies from SW MI church sheltered from Beirut blast

Southwest Michigan

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (WOOD) — Humanitarian supplies from a southwest Michigan church believed to be destroyed in the massive explosion that devastated Beirut, Lebanon in August have been found.

Lutheran World Relief says port authority officials told the organization the shipping containers were destroyed. But weeks later, a partner group was able to gain access and found the shipment had been sheltered from the blast.

Melanie Gibbons, deputy director for outreach and engagement with Lutheran World Relief, said 3,500 school kits and 19,500 personal care kits were believed to be lost. The three shipping containers being sent to refugees in Lebanon also included about 22,500 handmade quilts.

Some of the donations were from Peace Lutheran Church in St. Joseph.

“It turned out that where our particular containers were stored was in a concrete block building,” Gibbons said. “There was still damage to the containers.”

Pastor Steve Hartten with Peace Lutheran Church in St. Joseph says it is a miracle the containers made up of donations from congregations across the country survived.

“Clearly a blessing. After watching the tape of the explosion, I fully believed the report that the containers were gone. I’m surprised anything survived the explosion,” Hartten said.

The relief organization is working to inspect each item recovered from the shipping containers.

“The analysis that they are doing right now is they’re going through everything in the containers to see what is salvageable and of course, we have to pay attention to contamination,” Hartten said.

A fourth container was mistakenly misrouted to Tripoli by the shipping company and will go to the refugees.

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