Shortly before a massive explosion rocked the Port of Beirut last August, Maroun Akiki was sitting at his desk near the large front window of a store that sells off-road vehicles.

When the blast occurred, the Latter-day Saint district president said debris fell all around him, but he was unharmed. Outside, however, there was rubble strewn about, people screaming and chaos. Hundreds died and thousands were injured in the explosion.

Church leaders issued a statement expressing grief over the loss of life in the days following the blast.

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Latter-day Saint leaders express grief over loss of life in Beirut blast

“As I have contemplated the events, I have felt a full range of emotions,” Roula said in an article posted on ChurchofJesusChrist.org. “But we are blessed. We have stored food in our home, as our church has taught us to do, and that helps.”

The Beirut congregation meets in a high-rise building on one floor — since the congregation is small, according to the news release on the church’s website. Although the space beneath and above the church’s floor were damaged, the church’s meeting rooms were unaffected by the blast.

Somia Mohana, the local Relief Society president, said minor damages were incurred on members’ homes, but “no one in the branch was injured,” the church stated in the release.

Since then, the Akikis and other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Lebanon have been involved in an ongoing recovery effort as survivors rebuild their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Church leaders, including Mohana, have delivered food to members and others in the community, and Latter-day Saint Charities collaborated with six partnerships to donate nearly $2 million worth of food and medical supplies in the relief effort.

Read the full story at ChurchofJesusChrist.org.