Marhaba, Bayshore, as the Arabic greeting in Lebanon says. God is Love…
Once a year, CBF requires every team to have a face-to-face meeting, preferably at the ministry site of one of the team members. The idea is we get to learn more about each other’s ministries by seeing it firsthand. The meeting itself usually lasts about 4 days and is a time for each team member to share praises and triumphs, as well as the things that are discouraging or are in need of prayer in our personal lives as well as in our respective ministries. It is a time for deep listening, exchanging ideas, and of course, praying for each other as a team. It is also an opportunity for staff from the home office in Atlanta to come share updates, changes, or upcoming issues both that are administrative and organizational. Things like fundraising strategies, budgets, and our new monthly and quarterly report formats…Member care also comes to provide emotional/psychosocial support as well.
This year we chose to meet in Lebanon to see the amazing ministry work of our teammates, CBF field personnel Maha and Chaouki Boulos, a Lebanese-born couple who share the Good news and preach the Gospel to Syrian refugees and help start churches in their native Lebanon. We spent Easter at a small but spirit-filled Kurdish congregation in a rented church space that Maha and Chaouki helped start.
Since many of my teammates work with refugees who, as a population, tend to have high rates of substance abuse (to self-medicate against the trauma, terror, and loss they have suffered), we had also requested a session from member care on the 12-step addiction/recovery program. During the session, Lindsi Hines, who was presenting, also introduced us to the program Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered, Scripture-based approach to the 12 steps. Celebrate Recovery is for everyone, because who among us does NOT have some kind of addiction: to negative thought patterns, negative self-beliefs, attachment to our pain, our stories, our beliefs about who we are, etc? In fact, Celebrate Recovery changes the language from “addictions” to “hurts, hang-ups, and habits”. And who among us doesn’t suffer from those? My team realized that each of us has so much to surrender to God, to allow His healing to enter in, to free us from the many hurts, hang-ups, and habits that keep us small and from stepping into the abundant life God wants for us…How appropriate to contemplate during the Easter season, as we sit at the foot of the cross reminded of the One who died to bring us that freedom.
I also spent a few days seeing MTI’s program with Syrian refugees in Zahle in the Beqaa Valley. With over 1.5 million refugees in the country making up over a quarter of the country’s population, Lebanon has the highest concentration of refugees per capita in the world. With little support and cooperation from the government, most of the refugees live in extreme poverty and with less access to services than the ones in Uganda. MTI is working tirelessly to improve health care for them and live up to its mission statement to demonstrate the love of Christ to people affected by disaster, conflict and poverty.
And finally, I also got to play tourist. I got to see Beirut, the wondrous Barouk Cedar Forest, and wander Byblos (Jbail), one of the oldest known continuously inhabited cities in the world. First occupied between 8000-7000 BC and continuously inhabited since 5000 BC, one can still see traces of Bronze Age temples, Persian fortifications, Roman roads and columns, Byzantine churches, the Crusade citadel, and Medieval and Ottoman-influenced architecture in the town. Byblos is also known for its diffusion of the Phoenician alphabet and credited as the probable origin of our contemporary alphabet. It was an amazing city in which to end my 2-week journey. To see so much history against the backdrop of current political issues, refugee crisis’ and challenges worldwide gave me a renewed appreciation of what a privilege it is to be called, as we all are, by the Creator of the universe, to love God and serve others in a hurting, beautiful, bleeding, amazing, grace-filled world…
Lots of love,
*Marhaba is an Arabic word used in the Middle East as “Hello”.Marhaba comes from a Syriac (Aramaic, Assyrian) origin and was used by the first Christians.
Mar = Master or God
Marhaba = God is love