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