New York, NY, July 17, 2006--United Methodist mission intern Ryan Clayburn, who was in Beirut when the Israeli bombing began on July 13, was in transit out of the Middle East on July 17. He went overland to Syria and is expected to continue to the United States as soon as possible.
Mr. Clayburn, a native of Poteau, Oklahoma, was on a 15-month assignment with the Middle East office of the World Student Christian Federation, headquartered in the Lebanese capital. Staff of the Mission Personnel unit of the General Board of Global Ministries has been in regular touch with Ryan and his family since the bombing started and is making plans for his return home.
Evacuation was difficult since the airport was destroyed and the harbor blockaded by Israel, which responded in the attack to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah forces operating in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah retaliated by shooting rockets at Israeli targets. United Methodist mission personnel in Israel/Palestine were also safe on July 17; in fact, three of the four persons were out of the country. Missionaries Alex and Brenda Awad of Bethlehem were visiting congregations in the United States.
Ashley Wilkinson, a mission intern in Bethlehem, was on vacation in Greece. Missionary Janet Lahr Lewis returned safely to Jerusalem from the north of Israel where she was when the fighting broke out.
Mission interns spend 15 months in an international assignment and an equal period of time in a US mission placement.
“Please pray for peace and for the safety of all persons, including the mission personnel of all churches, in the Middle East,” said the Rev. Edith Gleaves, head of the United Methodist mission personnel office.