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