Tuesday, August 2, 2011


When telling friends and family that Lanna and I were going to Lebanon, I most often received concerned and confused reactions. Given Lebanon’s reputation for perpetual conflict among ever-changing enemies, these reactions were not surprising. Even the U.S. State Department advised its citizens against travel to Lebanon. However, in the company of Tim and Sheila’s extensive experience and preparation and Mary Alice, Jennifer and Jeremy’s courageous confidence, we marched on toward our departure date…maybe with a little anxiety. I know a little anxiety was showing because as we cleared DFW security Mary Alice turned to me to offer words of encouragement…”There’s no turning back now!”

On arrival in Beirut, we were welcomed by familiar signs of Krispy Kreme, T.G.I. Friday’s and Starbucks and unfamiliar signs of Hezbollah leaders on street lights. Except for a few signs, Christian Beirut and Muslim Beirut looked the same to me. A cathedral and a mosque occupied the same city block. Muslims and Christians ordered food in the same restaurants, admired the same jewelry in shops and competed for the same parking spaces. We shared the same photo ops and took turns posing at Pigeon Rock. Christians were welcomed into mosques and, I presume, Muslims were welcomed into Christian churches. Arabic was passionately spoken and sung in Christian sermons and hymns. Muslim children were educated in Christian schools.

At Dar El Awlad, the orphanage, I was reminded of my R.A. days at Calvary. Jeremy and I were promptly victimized in football (soccer) by some third graders. I was amazed at their English proficiency as they taunted us after each score. Despite the humiliating defeat, these guys included us in everything. Some of them quickly discovered my passion for baseball and began to ask “Mr. Les, let’s play catch…just you and me.” We were included in songs and games during chapel, mostly in Arabic. I could only guess what was going on. As Lanna tried to teach the Plan of Salvation with her “John 3:16 volleyball,” she was frequently interrupted by one of the little guy’s recitation (again, in perfect English) of the Bible verse she was about to read. After playing the games, hearing the laughter and seeing the radiant, smiling faces for a few days, our early departure was more than a little difficult. But, my new best friends knew this. So, they prayed for us in Arabic and English and reminded us that the Lord said “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5)

Not being a veteran missionary, I am a little confused by my experience in Lebanon. For the most part, I missed the war-torn, embattled country I had read about and, instead, saw a beautiful, vibrant community of one Creator. At the orphanage, I found a place where grown-ups can go for spiritual healing and see children as Christ sees them. With this experience, the concepts of “missionary” and “orphanage” mean “opportunity” and “salvation” to me. I now carry with me the mental image of the 7 year-old boy and the Bedouin Chief (see black and white photo) when the boy found opportunity at the orphanage and experienced salvation. That boy arrived at Dar El Awlad in 1957. He grew and flourished in the love of the missionaries that found him. He became the man, Jed Hamoud, a director of Kids Alive International and, most importantly, the father of Baylor graduate, Dar El Awlad host and a new best friend…Brent Hamoud. Thanks be to God!

~Les Palmer

Monday, August 1, 2011


My time in Lebanon was a complete answer to prayer. My wife Sara and I have been praying since before we were married for a place to serve in the Middle East. It has been a few years since we have been able to go and serve there. Going to Lebanon with Calvary was a reminder of how much we long to be over there working; it just felt like home. While in Lebanon, our team spent time at Dar El Awlad, an orphanage run by Kids Alive International, at the Beirut Baptist School and at the Arab Baptist Seminary. One thing I am thankful for in our trip was Brent Hamoud, a Kids Alive staff member who graduated from Baylor a few years ago. I felt like we had an instant friendship and enjoyed getting to know him and work alongside of him. Another thing I enjoyed about my time was the time spent with the boys. They all have such a longing for attention and each child sought it in different ways. There was not enough time to spend with each boy as others were always asking me to spend time with them and were disappointed some when I chose to spend time with someone else. There was such a strong feeling of community at Kids Alive and other places in Lebanon. It is always a blessing to be able to see the body in different parts of the world showing the love of Christ to the least, lost, and forgotten. I was able to see this and it made me long to be a part of this community. Sara and I talk so much about the need for a Christian community wherever we are, whether here in Waco or on the other side of the world. Without community we are limited in our understanding of what the body of Christ is suppose to look like. One thing I talked about in a previous blog was just the hospitality shown to me while in Lebanon. I was welcomed into many homes and enjoyed great fellowship with both Christians and Muslims. Although the food was great, it was never the food that made the fellowship worth it, but the opportunity to get to know others as they allowed me to be a part of their lives in their homes. God is faithful and continues to take care of my family as we seek to serve him with our lives. My trip was a reminder of the passion that we have to serve among Muslims and the desire we have to help show them the love of Christ. Thank you so much Calvary for your prayers and support. I look forward to growing the relationships that we were able to establish in Lebanon over the coming years.



It is always exciting to experience the unknown—hearing the language, understanding the culture, meeting the people and letting go of preconceived ideas.  One thing that I did walk away with is that God is at work, through others in Lebanon, and that filters into the Arab world.  It is amazing to think that there are 98% muslin students at the Beruit Baptist School learning about Jesus and singing Christmas songs.  One has to feel that the seed has been planted.  It was also very informative to hear about the future plans of the Arab Baptist Seminary and how their students come from many of the neighboring middle eastern countries.

The most memorable part of visiting Lebanon was getting to know the boys at the orphanage and developing those relationships.  It was such a nurturing environment for them, which made it easier to say good-by.  God knows our needs before we do and He is at work preparing the Way.  I am just so thankful that Les and I listened to His call and went; not really knowing why.  Just like the hymn says, God is truly “How Great Thou Art”.



Why I was Shocked…

From the moment we left home, I was preparing myself for major culture shock once I arrived in the Middle East.  This was my first exposure to the Muslim culture and the Arab world, and though we had been well-prepared for the trip by our team leaders, I expected to have an immediate feeling upon arriving in Beirut that, just like Dorothy and Toto, I definitely wasn’t in Kansas anymore.  I expected to feel like a “fish out of water” in a strange new world with strange new people.  As I explored this area of the world, I was constantly fascinated and amazed by the people, culture, and beautiful new sights surrounding me.  However, as I interacted with people, sang songs with children, taught Bible lessons and played with “magic noodles,” I realized that I really wasn’t that far away from Kansas after all.  The real shock for me was that the feeling of being in a world completely different from my own never really happened.  This was especially true as I worked with the children at the orphanage.  Even though children living in urban poverty in Waco, Texas may have different situations from children living in a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon, the similarities shocked me much more than the differences.  If you give children the opportunity, they will all jump around and “go bananas,” if you give them your undivided attention, they will usually soak it up with a sweet smile on their face, and if you teach them God’s Word and show them God’s love, they will gladly receive it, and God’s love will be planted deeply within them. 

My Biggest Question…

I also have a lot of questions about Islam now…what do we do with religions that are different from our own?  It’s easy to operate with the mentality that our religion is “right” and others are “wrong” when Christianity is the only religion we’ve ever known or encountered.  However, it is quite a humbling experience when you first hear the Muslim call to prayer, when you see shoes lined up outside of a mosque as people are inside quietly praying, and when you wear the black robes that women wear week after week, even in the heat of summer, as they enter into their separate room for worship.  I have come home with a new appreciation and respect for a faith that is different from my own and a desire to understand it more.  Therefore, I have enrolled in a class at seminary to learn more about religion and worldviews, focusing specifically on Islam.

What I Learned….

I’ve learned that Christ’s presence is strong in the Middle East, in Lebanon, and especially at Dar El Awlad.  There is a calmness and a peace at the orphanage, and a joy on children’s faces that could only come from Christ.  On our last day at the orphanage, Jennifer and I were playing with some children at the orphanage, one of whom said, “Baylor must really love us!”  After receiving frisbees, shirts, shorts, backpacks, whistles, and other goodies from Baylor, we had made every child a life-long Baylor bear J  However, another child added, “Yes, but you know who else loves us?”  And then, with a huge smile on his face and a glow in his eyes, he boldly exclaimed, “Jesus!” and then giggled with excitement.  Granted, “Jesus loves us” is something we hear all the time, even from children, at our church at home.  We sing songs about Jesus, we read Bible stories about him, and children are taught even as infants that Jesus loves them, so sometimes, we are numb to the power of these words.    However, the young boy who made this joyful proclamation of Jesus’ love hasn’t grown up in church, or with a Christian family.  Until he arrived at Dar El Awlad, he hadn’t grown up in an environment that showed him much love at all, let alone an environment that pointed him toward Jesus.  Yet he proclaimed boldly and confidently that JESUS loved him, with much more joy than many of us demonstrate in our church today. 

Journeying to Lebanon opened my eyes to just how big God is, and yet God works in even the smallest circumstances of our lives in beautiful and unbelievable ways.  I don’t have the answers to all the world’s questions, but maybe Jesus’ love is enough for me.  May Christ’s love compel me to live intentionally, to love boldly, and to giggle with joy all the days of my life.

~Mary Alice

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


In Sunday School this last Sunday on our return to Calvary, we looked at the passage in Mark where Jesus was hungry and ready to eat. He approached the fig tree that was apparently healthy and in full leaf, but the tree was barren, for it wasn't the right season yet, so he cursed it and it withered. I don't know where I've been in Sunday School through the years, but it's the first time I had heard this explained. It wasn't the season for bearing fruit!!
Calvary Baptist Church is definitely now in season; we are in the midst of "bearing" two mission trips. I am honored and humbled to have been sent to Lebanon with a team from Calvary.
On our last night in Lebanon, as we sat under the stars on the edge of a mountain sharing a sumptuous dinner on a rustic picnic table with friends and members of the orphanage, Brent asked us the question, "What are your top three highlights of your time here in Lebanon?" We all struggled to narrow down our choices! However, indulge me and listen to some of my highlights as I share with you a miniature vignette in the life of each team member.
Just imagine 27 unruly little boys being asked to sit still and listen to a story by a "foreign" lady. They are sweaty, squirmy, and reluctant, but then she starts to speak quietly and sweetly, the words wriggling right into their hearts. Mary Alice is telling "her story" and it sounds like "their story!" Not a sound was heard except for her soft voice telling about the love of Jesus. Mark 9:37 "Whoever receives on of these children in my name receives me."
Les and Lanna lived a microcosm of a "full life" within a few days in Lebanon. Les' brother had suddenly become ill soon after our arrival and unbeknownst to us, deteriorated rapidly. Nevertheless, I watched Les intentionally turn himself over completely to being totally with the boys at the orphanage. In a blink of an eye, the phrase, "Mr. Les, Mr. Les, please look at me," rang continuously! Les has the uncanny ability to make whoever he is attending feel like the most important person in the world. Through his undivided individual attention, I heard the words of Isaiah: "Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face." As tears were streaming down Les' face when he hugged us prematurely good-bye, one of the teenage orphans prayed out loud for Les and Lanna words of comfort and safety. After the "amen," the boy clung to Les and said, please don't forget me Mr. Les!!!"
As a fellow teacher, I am blessed to walk in the same vicinity as Lanna. She can whip a roomful of rambunctious youngsters into attention with just a few select words and mannerisms! I saw it happen over and over again as she lead the boys in afternoon story and devotional time. What a gift! By the end of the story, the smallest boys would be leaning on her, holding her hand, stroking her back, anything just to be a part of that tight circle of love. I thought of Jesus holding children in his lap. "They brought children for him to touch." Mark 10:13
Jennifer is a care giver. Whether it was one of our team falling apart with exhaustion, or a wandering orphan needing direction, she seemed to automatically "get" what was needed! Her communication skills are so "on point" that many times I forgot she couldn't speak Arabic! She had been assigned the most active and boisterous combination of boys for the academic tutoring in the morning, and she responded with gratitude saying, "Oh goody! I always like working with the toughest ones!" She approached each challenging scenario expecting the best result. The children responded exuberantly to her faith in them. She was our rock when our faith fell short. "Everything is possible to one who has faith. I have faith cried the boy's father; help me where faith falls short." Mark 9:23-24
Jeremy was our Ever Ready Energy Bunny that never stopped running! Whatever was asked of him: teaching, playing, eating, speaking, sleeping, he did it full throttle! He takes life with purposeful gusto! I was proud to see his sincere appreciation and love for each person he met in Lebanon, from the smallest five year old orphan to the oldest grizzled orchard keeper. Jeremy wasn't aware of the comments said to me about him in Arabic. Some were from the cook at the orphanage, the principal of the high school, and a hostess in a mountain village. They all said, "we really like that Jeremy. He needs to bring his family and come live with us!" I am reminded of Jesus' words, "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled; and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:14
As you know, I wasn't at the orphanage during the morning hours, but was working with teachers and staff at the Learning Center for children with disabilities and at the Beirut Baptist School. I missed out on a lot of the close comradery developed by the team, but was able to observe a lot in the afternoons as each day I came up the mountain and rested in the shade of a tree and was able to watch the ebb and flow of our team's ministering around me.
Tim was a spot of respite for us all. He wasn't playing basketball like Jeremy. He wasn't refereeing like Les. He wasn't leading songs like Lanna. He wasn't making crafts like Jennifer and Mary Alice. But he was the go to person for solving any crisis. It was funny to watch how when the boys found out he was a nurse, they flocked to him with all manner of ailments! Tim cared for each scratch and bump with the utmost of tenderness. On our team picnic in the Byzantine ruins, Tim picked up Mary Alice and carried her across the rough terrain. When Les and Lanna had to find a flight out, Tim facilitated the red tape of flight negotiations. When dysentery struck, Tim "spoke Arabic medical" to the pharmacist. When we were asked to speak at church, Tim wowed the congregation with an eloquent testimony in Arabic. When I thought I couldn't go any further and was weepy with exhaustion, all Tim had to say was, "I'm proud of you Sheila!" His love is steady and deep. We were all grateful for his quiet strength. Tim showed us how "each of us must consider his neighbor and think what is for his good and will to build up the common life." Romans 15:2
Thank you Calvary for allowing me to be a part of this team! "There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are varieties of service, but the same Lord. There many forms of work, but all of them, in all men, are the work of the same God. In each of us the Spirit is manifested in one particular way, for some useful purpose." 1 Corinthians 12: 4-8

Monday, July 25, 2011


We are all back Stateside now and resuming our daily lives. The trip was the culmination of a lot of prayers and work. Though the trip is over, its effects continue.
Some may ask, “What did we do? What did we accomplish? What lasting effect did the trip have?”

We did not solve any of the orphans’ problems. We did not leave any great lasting buildings or monuments. What we did do was laugh and play with the children at the orphanage. We let them know that, as Christians, we care for them, because God cares for them. Yes, we were the first team from America that anyone could remember coming to the orphanage. But, our nationalities were not important to the children. What was important was that we were there and loving them.

For the staff at the orphanage, we were an encouragement, a help in that they could take a rest while we carried some of the load.

What the lasting effects will be is too early to tell. We will not easily forget: sitting beside the Mediterranean eating supper as the sun went down, worshiping with our Lebanese brothers and sisters in church services where the words were not understood, but the commonality of our faith spoke loud and clear, seeing team members tear up as they were presented plaques of thanks by the orphanage, and observing how quiet the ride down to the airport was as team members departed the orphanage.

Seeds were planted. How they grow is up to the Lord. Will He call some from the team to missionary work? Will our presence in the life of a child for the short time we were there produce results years from now? Will the two mission trips Calvary Baptist Church sent out this year continue to unify our church and focus its vision outward?

It’s too early to tell, but I want to thank the church for allowing us this precious opportunity to be your ambassadors, and for giving us the honor to represent Christ on your behalf to people you have never met.

I pray that we in turn can represent the Christ we met there back to you our church here.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Trip Reflections

We would each like to take the time to write reflections of our time in Lebanon.  So, stay tuned for reflections from the team members in the days to come.  Also, in other news, I just got word that Tim, Sheila, and Jeremy landed in DFW and are making their way to Waco (as of 10pm Friday night).  Thanks be to God for a safe and blessed trip!

Jennifer's Reflections:
I am sure that I could write A LOT about our trip.  I could talk about even more.  In thinking about the trip I have wondered what I would want people to know most about our time in Lebanon.  In sharing with friends and family over the past week I have come to realize a few important things that I want everyone to hear. 

1.  Lebanon was not what I was expecting for a Muslim country in the middle east.  I think we have ideas of what that statement means and with that come many misperceptions.  I have spent time in Turkey in the past, so I only had my experiences there to base my expectations on.  The city of Beirut was much what I thought it would be (generally), the traffic was the same, the abundance of concrete buildings, and the amazing food was the what I expected, but my ideas probably ended there.  I was so utterly surprised by the amazing beauty of the landscape!  It was gorgeous!  The Mediterranean Sea and the hills and mountains were breathtaking.  I was also very surprised to not see a mosque on every corner.  I was surprised to see many other church buildings and to not hear the call to prayer 5 times a day (I think we only heard it twice our whole time there).  The freedom of religion and worship there was refreshing and even a bit shocking.  I did not expect that at all.  I was overjoyed to see believers worshipping freely with no sense of condemnation or fear.  We can't take this freedom for granted.  I think it is so important to share this because we live in a society that lives with so much fear of all things middle east and Muslim.  Witnessing this joyful freedom first hand was a God glorifying experience to say the least.

2.  The orphanage is the best "home away from home" for these boys!  I could never have imagined the ways in which they love and care for these boys.  They are so intentional about everything they do, from school work, to meals, to play time, to keeping them connected to their biological families.  It was an amazing and beautiful thing to watch.  While I can't say there are not issues they deal with (behavioral, emotional, etc) these boys really are loved deeply, provided for in every way, prayed for, and so joyful!  My heart was full just watching the activity all around me as they played, talked, and laughed.  I am not sure what I had in mind when I thought about visiting an orphanage in Lebanon, but this exceeded my expectations.  For example, there is a cafeteria in the bottom floor of one of the buildings where 3 people work every day to make 3 meals for all the boys and staff.  However, the boys do not eat in the cafeteria.  Each unit of boys (basically a full apartment with a house mother) sends a few boys down at mealtime to pick up all their food and bring it up to their units.  It is there, at a dining room table that has been set, that they eat as a small family.  The house mothers (one who has been there for 21 years!) work hard to provide a home for the boys in which they function as families, for meals, for homework, for downtime, for everything!  It was beautiful.  God was so evident in these "families" that give the boys stability, love, provision, teaching about God, school, and so much more.  The work that is being done in this place was wonderful to watch and even better to join and participate with. 

In all, my experience was wonderful.  I pray that God allows me the opportunity to return soon.  I pray that my family can join me.  I cannot say enough about how impressed I was with all things Lebanon.  I am sure I can write so much more about all the things I saw, experienced, and felt while we were there.  Please, ask me about it sometime...I love to talk about it!

God is alive and working in Lebanon...I merely witnessed what has been, is now, and will continue to be.  Thanks be to God!

With joy and thanksgiving,

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Last night I was able to be a house parent for a night or as my wife called it “house uncle”. One of the ladies had the day off so I had the chance to get to spend the evening getting the boys fed and in bed. Then this morning went back and woke up the boys and got them dressed and out the door for the day. This was a time that I got to spend with the boys in a different way than I had for the past two weeks. This is our last day in Lebanon before we travel in the morning so it has been getting things ready and tying up loose ends. I spent my last day in the classroom with the boys and have enjoyed working with the boys in their studies. Another thing we have been talking to Brent about today is how to do things better for our next trip. We hope that we can establish a healthy relationship with Dar El Awlad. Next year will be a big test as we work together with Calvary to come back and grow the relationships that have been started this summer. It will be great for the boys to see Calvary back next year and see that we are willing to invest in them and to watch them grow up. We are excited to come back to Calvary and learn from all the time that we have had here.

As we travel back tomorrow we want to say thank you so much for keeping up us these past few weeks and for all the support that you have given us. It has been a blessing in my life as well as the others. We look forward to sharing with you what we have learned from the church here.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Well I just got finished playing basketball with some of the older boys here at Dar El Alwad. There are even some guys about my age that come to play a few evenings each week. The orphanage does a great job of making the place feel like home, even after the boys have grown up and moved on.

This morning I went down to the SKILD center and got to see into the program that Sheila has been working so hard on. I had the opportunity to help tutor a boy one on one in math because he just really moves at a slower pace but did very well. After that we had break time and planned a game that you probably couldn’t play in the states anymore. The game was you stood in a circle and going around the circle you would slap the persons hand next to you to try and make them grimace in pain. If that happened then you were out and the circle got smaller. It is just fun to see how kids are kids all over the world and will make up games to help pass the time.

After working at SKILD Tim went with me down into Beirut to do some serious souvenir shopping. I was looking for a certain item and after spending a few hours at the same shop yesterday we went back to get the item that my wife and I wanted. This time was very enjoyable as well as yesterday just getting to know the people at the shop and looking around. Here we sat around and had coffee and talked about many different things with the salesmen. It is enjoyable not to be rushed in shopping but able to build a relationship and learn from those men.

A blessing that I had today was going to a bible study at the Seminary while we waited to start work at SKILD. This was a time to talk about the old and new self and be reminded of the need to put on Christ each day. Another blessing was getting to eat dinner with one of the units here at the orphanage and just continue to fellowship and love on these boys. They have been great and have touched my heart in a special way.


Monday, July 18, 2011

I think we spent half of the day inside of taxis maneuvering around and through Beirut traffic! No wonder most people who can flee the city and go to their mountain villages do so. It took us over an hour to get from the seminary to the Beirut Baptist School which normally is about 20-30 minute drive. I spent all day with the director of special ed services going over the last five months since I was here last. We did everything from how to conduct parent conferences to evaluation forms for students. As is always the case in any school in any part of the world, there are your nay sayers, so we spent a lot of time working on policy and procedures to help negate the loop holes that negative thinkers might want to take advantage of to prove that special education is not appropriate. It's funny how people change their minds as soon as they have a family member who has special needs! The director shared a story with me today about one of the vice principals in the school whose daughter has been struggling in kg and first grade. She was diagnosed with dyslexia this last year. Previously, this teacher was one of the most outspoken people against special education, but now she can't stop singing the sp ed department's praises.
Tim and Jeremy were in a math class all morning. Jeremy said that he was able to follow the instruction, even though it was in Arabic. I guess that math is a universal language. . . . how would I know??!! While they were waiting for me to finish up, they walked around the neighborhood, my old "hood," and Tim had a good time showing Jeremy some of his old haunts. They stopped at a sandwich cafe and bought some shwarma (gyros) for lunch and brought me some as well. I hate to have to peel off all that wonderful bread, being gluten free and all, but Jeremy is always obliging when it comes to eating the extra food. He even had kibbe naya (raw spicy meat dish) last night at one of Brent's relative's homes.
Tonight we are to have supper, an outdoor gathering, at Juliana's home. She is the director of the learning center, and we have become good friends. Her husband works as an accountant for several NGOs (Non Govermental Organizations) in the Middle East. World Vision is one of his contracts. We are meeting so many interesting people from varying backgrounds who have chosen to move back to Lebanon and raise their families here. This young generation of believers is very encouraging to me.
I will be trying to match up the different sp ed teachers, counselors, and therapists with state side partners, as in e mail partners to have some question and answer exchanges back and forth. If you are interested in this, please let me know. I already have some of you in mind, so don't be surprised when I send out your names and you get e mails from Lebanon!!!!!


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sitting at the end of the day. We have the curtains open and the sun has just gone down over the Mediterranean sea behind Beirut. The lights of the city are slowly coming on in the city.
This morning we went to church with the director of Baptist Social Work here in Lebanon. It was in a church up the mountain from here. There were about 200 people that attended. It was a good evangelistic sermon. They had headsets and translated it into English for those who wanted it. Afterwards the pastor explained that the village it was in is a summer resort for a lot of people from Beirut and in the summer he preaches evangelistic sermons when the guests are there. In the winter, after all the summer visitors are gone back to Beirut, he works on discipleship with the members who stay year round.
After the service, the church provided coffee for everyone and we stood out on the steps of the church and visited.
We had arrived at the church a bit early so we walked around town. Most of the stores were closed as it is a Christian village. Some fruit and vegetable stands were open. People prefer to by fresh fruit and vegetables daily.
After church the director of Baptist Social work here took us to eat at a nearby restaurant. We arrived a bit before 12 and were the first people there. Before we left, it was full, easily 500 people, families and friends all in big groups enjoying their Sunday afternoon. All were enjoying the cool mountain air, visiting, talking, and eating. A large number of them (men and women) were smoking water pipes (hubbly bubblies).
One of the people eating with us was known by the restaurant staff. A waiter (a Syrian national) came up to him and asked him if he knew a certain pastor in Syria. He replied he did and the waiter told him that he was a member of that church in Syria. He also said that he knew the pastor where we had just worshipped and that he goes and visits him when he can.
Lebanon has a lot of immigrants from other countries working here. It is amazing to here the outreach to other Arab nationalities that is going on in Lebanon, witnessing that may not be possible in their own countries. The man that prepares breakfast here at the seminary is a seminary student from Sudan. In talking with him this morning he informed me that he goes to a church of Sudanese believers here in Lebanon. Arabs are witnessing to their own people, and using the religious freedoms that are in Lebanon to reach out to the whole Arab world for Christ.
Tomorrow, Sheila, Jeremy and I are going down to the Beirut Baptist school. Sheila will be working with the staff who work with the children with learning differences. Jeremy will be working with the summer school students. They have asked me to meet with the person who is the "school nurse." She is not a nurse, and they have asked me to see if I can help her organize the school clinic.
It's the beginning of the second week, and we can't believe how fast the time is flying. We miss the rest of our team, and the boys at the orphanage asked about them today.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Well today was a great opportunity to get out of the city for the day and to see the countryside of Lebanon. Many people here will work in Beirut during the week and then travel to their property in the country for the weekend. I have always thought that getting out into the countryside gives you a better understanding of the culture in which you are working in. The major cities seem to loose much of their own culture with urbanization going on all over the world and the desire for material possessions that can be consuming. Today as I was setting in a beautiful yet modest home out in the Bekaa Valley the testimonies of the couple that was hosting us gave great reminder of what really matters. We has Americans do not practice hospitality very well. We are afraid to have people into our homes and to share a meal with our guests. Sameera, the old Lebanese lady is the perfect example of what hospitality looks like. I have been blessed to have a mother that is truly gifted in this area as well. Sameera is known throughout the evangelical church here in Lebanon for superb cooking along with her hospitality. Another great thing about being out in the countryside is that the pace of life slows down and the important things like fellowship and laughter help when there is something that someone is suffering with. The old couple has an orchard of different fruit trees that we got to go down and pick a few that were just getting ripe. They will not be able to export there harvest this year due to all that is going on in neighboring countries. Even with all of this, Sameera and her husband are happy where they are at and would not take any amount of money to move into Beirut. It was great to listen to their story and to see where God has taken them in their life, even to Columbia where they lived and worked for several years before moving back so that their girls would not marry Columbians but instead Lebanese men. After enjoying the afternoon eating and picking fruits we traveled to see the cedars of Lebanon. We went to a national reserve where the oldest cedar of Lebanon was. The tree itself is over 3,400 years old. The trees were beautiful and even these have stories of war. Today in going around and this past week I have learned that everyone here has a story about different wars that the Lebanese have gone through and survived to tell their stories and to help rebuild after all the destruction and loss. Tim, Sheila, and I joked all day about the American view that Lebanon is a desert as we were driving through forests, orchards, and vineyards. The Bekaa Valley was amazing and green with all different vegetation. We even caught a glimpse of Mt. Hermon in the south.
Today was just a wonderful day of seeing and learning about Lebanon. It really is such a diverse population that has gone through so much. We were able to take in the beauty of Lebanon. We were able to have great fellowship with an old Lebanese couple. The thing I want to end with today is the need to be intentional about having others over to our houses to fellowship. We need to work on our hospitality because we never know who we are going to help show Christ to by simply sharing a meal and a conversation together. We don’t know who we are going to meet while opening our home. We may even entertain angels without knowing.




Yesterday started with Tim and Brent taking Mary Alice and Jennifer to the airport at six am. Tim had to shake me awake several times I was so deep in la la land! We had a late night last night with the send off celebration for the team at the orphanage. They presented us with cedar plaques with scripture
verses on them. . . beautiful! We were later invited to the director's home for cake and ice cream. The flavors were mulberry, pistachio, lemon, strawberry, and mango, out of this world yummy.
Jeremy is staying at the orphanage for the remainder of our time, but will be working down at BBS for summer school as well. He preferred to continue staying here instead of moving down here to the seminary.

Tim has done an amazing job facilitating all the details of this trip from room and board, transportation, and translating for those who need it. I have really enjoyed watching him with the little children, especially those who don't know such English have been clinging to him. One little five year old especially has been his little shadow. He likes to pull on his beard and tease him. He is a
bedouin boy from the Beqaa.

As you know, I've spent most of my time with the Learning Center and then in the afternoons at the orphanage. Being with the SKILD staff on a daily basis has been enriching for me as well as pure d fun! They are conducting the day camp for kids with disabilities (37 enrolled) and have hired eight extra staffers for the summer to do this. I'm ensconced in the training of the psychologist,
diagnostician, special educator, and counselor in learning the Achievement and Ability tests. I have made them practice on each other and they have gotten a big kick out of that. Seriously though, they are very proud of themselves for accomplishing all that they have this week and are eager to use what they have learned.All the staffers have their masters degrees in their respective fields.

I had two very interesting interviews with parents today as well. One set had heard about the Center through word of mouth, and the other set had read about it in the paper! I was privileged to participate in the intake interviews with the parents and subsequently the children, guiding with direction as to the next steps for their assessments and therapy. One of the mothers started weeping and said that no teacher had tried to understand her son before. I am so proud of how far the staff have come since March and how well they are handling difficult situations. The clientele is growing steadily and the Center is anticipating a surge in September when school starts again. For example, the speech therapist has four appointments on Tuesday .

Tim and I are just hanging in the room tonight.We are sitting on the balcony of our third floor room, enjoying Beirut from a distance! He ran by the grocery store and bought some fruit and cheese for us for supper, and of course some ice cream too! Lebanon only has this gelato ice cream in the summer, because they use the fresh fruits. I'm doing my job as a consumer to help the ice cream economy out!

Tomorrow, Pierre Rahal, the BBS (Beirut Baptist School) principal, is picking us and Jeremy up for an all day excursion. We will go to his in laws' home in the Beqaa Valley for lunch. It is where I went back in March. Then we will go to Lake Aoun and finish the day at the Cedars. I'm looking forward to cooler air! It has been so hot, Fans are used in full force. However, there is a constant sea breeze that makes it pleasant in the shade.

Tim took the boys swimming with Jeremy today while I was busy at the Center. I'll let him fill you in on that. All have been so eager to show us a good time with trips and outings on the weekend in appreciation. Plus they are anxious for us to see as much of Lebanon as possible in such a short time!


The orphanage took the kids swimming today at a private swimming facility. The swimming facility uses some of the orphanage property for parking and the orphanage gets to take the kids swimming for free. The membership at the pool is $330 per person per year, so there is no way the orphanage could afford pool memberships for each child. Needless to say they enjoyed it.With my skin, I stay in the shade as much as possible!


Thursday, July 14, 2011

I survived Lebanese Amoebic dysentery...and still had a blast!

Friends and Family,
I can't believe our time at Dar El Awlad has already come to an end. Today was our last day leading activities for the boys here at the orphanage. We did tutoring this morning and had a fun afternoon filled with water games, cookie decorating, and crafts with magic noodles. Tonight we joined in on the family celebration in honor of the boys who have had a birthday this month. We taught a short lesson on Matthew 5:14-16 and challenged the boys to let their light shine for Jesus. God has uniquely and beautifully gifted these boys in such incredible ways, and we challenged them to continue to live their lives for God. Then we ended by giving them each glow sticks (which they loved!) to remember to let their light shine. God's light is shining here in such amazing ways...each hug, smiling face, and moment of fun and laughter shared with the boys has overwhelmed me with joy. It was hard to say goodbye, but I'm so thankful to have had this incredible experience. Can't wait to share more when we get back! Please pray for safety as Jennifer and I make the journey home tomorrow. Thanks also for your prayers while I was sick...it's so good to be back to life again!! Love you all...

~Mary Alice
Here are some pictures from our day today.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What a day this has been. Les and Lanna got their boarding cards and should be on their way to Dubai then on direct flight to New York. We were all sad to see them go, the team as well as the kids. We were very thankful that they were able to make reservations and get a flight out so quick. The Orphanage gave them plaques to thank them for their time working with the children. I know the kids will all be asking about them tomorrow.

During the after lunch rest period I got talking to a boy who has finished high school and is still living at the orphanage and working. His father was refugee from Iraq some 30 years ago. Came to Lebanon under an assumed name for fear retribution from Iraq. He married a Lebanese lady and had this son. His father recently returned to Iraq and re-assumed his real name. Since this boy was born to an Iraqi father he cannot get Lebanese citizenship, even tho his mother is Lebanese. He has papers says that he is the son of his father under an assumed name, not the name he is recognized by in Iraq. The boy has been accepted into a private university here and has scholarships lined up. All the universities must report the names of the students to the government, so if he registers for classes the government will ask where his residence visa is, and he does not have one. He said he could do all the class work but since he is not legally here, he could not get a diploma, and without it how could he get a job. He says he would not get deported because he does not have citizenship anywhere,so he would probably just stay in jail here if he was picked up.. Besides he said Lebanon is my home, it is where I grew up, I love the diversity here.

It sure makes me appreciate all the more what we all have.

The children played with their kites that they had made day before yesterday. They enjoyed them. It was fun to see them running and laughing, kites in tow.

Also this afternoon the team gave then the Baylor Tee shirts that had been donated. Most of them put them on and gave a group "Sic Em Bears". I noticed one boy telling his younger brother to not put it on but to keep in neat and folded because it was new. It just hurt to hear him say that, when we have so much we don't need or respect, and they are so appreciative of the little that we have brought.

At 5 the boys went to their apartments for supper and the evening. Brent wanted to take us up the mountain for a picnic supper. We sat on the mosaic floor of a Byzantine Church(built before 714 AD) and had supper. The cool evening air, the sunset and reflections of our time here were the perfect ending to a difficult day.