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Bowers plan for move to Beirut

By Michael Butler

"I woke up several nights in the middle of the night and I kept thinking, if Jesus gave everything for me, how could I not be willing to do anything for him," Chris Bower said.

Bower, who currently serves at First Presbyterian Church in Tallassee, has been called to become the Senior Pastor of the International Community Church of Beirut (ICC Beirut). The commitment is one of six years, to uproot his family from Tallassee and move to Lebanon in the Middle East.

"It's an international church made up of Christians from all different types of denominations," Bower said. "It's one of two English speaking congregations in Beirut. Close to half of the congregation are refugees or migrant workers."

The church is the oldest evangelical church in the Middle East.

Fundraising has been the primary emphasis since the decision to relocate was made, according to Bower. "It costs about $9,000 per month. Living in Beirut is about like living in New York City. It's a city of about two and half million people. A family sized apartment there is about $2,500 per month.

"Lebanon is not like the rest of the Middle East. Lebanon actually has freedom of religion. It's about 50% Muslim and 40% Christian. I will actually go over on a religious worker visa."

Bower and his wife Krista are taking their three young children; Roman, Graeme and Elise. "A number of people have asked us when I say I'm going, 'You're taking your family?' We were in Ireland for two years. There was a civil war there for 25 years. We experienced some of those tensions while we were there. It is very similar in Beirut because there was a civil war there for about 15 years."

Sending children to school will be an added expense.

"There is no public school in Lebanon. There are a number of Christian schools in Beirut. Our plan would be to send them to a Christian school. I had the opportunity to go over there this past year. It's a great school.

"Lebanon is trilingual. They speak English, French and Arabic. That makes the transition a little easier. Probably about 70% of the signage in stores is in English. Our children will have the opportunity to be educated in three different languages."

Bower said he hopes to be in Beirut by the beginning of 2016.

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