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Church’s mission personnel avoid latest Mideast danger

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Ryan Clayburn
July 17, 2006

By Elliott Wright*

NEW YORK (UMNS) — 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, according to the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

Clayburn, a native of Poteau, Okla., was on a 15-month assignment with the Middle East office of the World Student Christian Federation, headquartered in the Lebanese capital. He and his family are members of First United Methodist Church in Poteau.

The staff of the board’s mission personnel unit has been in regular touch with Clayburn 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.

Mission interns spend 15 months in an international assignment and an equal period of time in a U.S. mission placement.

United Methodist mission personnel in Israel and the Palestinian territories were also safe on July 17, with three of the four people 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.

“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.

*Wright is the information officer for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or

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