Monday, August 13, 2012

Lebanon Reflections from Trevor

I’ve struggled with putting this trip and its meaning in my life into words.  This is partly because of the joy and love that fills me each time I think of the boys at Dar El Awlad and our time there with them, and perhaps, partly because I wasn’t quite ready to leave!  Nonetheless, reflecting on this trip has brought me to some good places.  There was the main hall where I watched hesitant boys quickly transform into exuberant participants in our daily song and lesson times, where we spent an hour a day prodding them to practice their Math and English, and where we told Bible stories each day to impressionable ears.  I can still hear the excitement in the voice of the boys who recognized those of our team who had returned, the sound of countless footsteps and balls chaotically sharing the enclosed basketball court, the excitement and happiness they expressed each day, and the heartfelt prayers of each boy who prayed over a team member as we left.  There were many special side conversations and interactions with the older and younger boys alike that left me with emotions and reactions on every side of the spectrum.

In light of this, it seems quite natural to me, and maybe even most appropriate, that I can’t quite pin down what this trip means for me.  The impact of the Bible stories and devotions we shared, our team travelling there to show these boys the love of God, and the influence that our time at Dar El Awlad will have on the boys their simply cannot be quantified.  But neither can that time and its impact on me.  I don’t know what the future holds for the beautiful young lives there.  I don’t know what’s in store for that city, country, or region, and I don’t know what parts of our time there will be the most formative in their future.  I do know that I find Christ in new and powerful ways in serving and loving these boys, and this continues to transform how I interact with my world.  What I do know is that for two weeks they experienced Christ in me and I, in them, and that is immeasurable.
~Trevor Brown

Lebanon Reflections from Myles

     It’s been three weeks since we got back, and while our routines have gotten back to normal for the most part, Lebanon continues to get under my skin. Whenever I complain about how hot it is, I remember what it’s like to sweat unendingly; we went to Dee’s after getting a baba ganouj craving, and pined for real Lebanese fries. The strange part about trips like this is that I have never have idea what will change about my life in the aftermath: will I start giving money in new ways? Will I start thinking in new ways or caring about new things?

Already, I know this: I care about the fate of a country I didn’t know before, and I care about children I didn’t know about before. I have no idea how this will play out in the future, or when or if we will return, but already, the way I think about current events and my daily life is changed because I care differently. When I read the news now, I see faces I know and places I’ve been; when I hear about the activities of a group of people, I see not acts of violence but the way they cared for their kids. Travelling complicates our views of the world in the best way possible, because it forces us to see people and not ideas. It’s the things I want most: to live in an increasingly complicated world.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Lebanon Reflections from Tiffany Love

Lebanon was a place I had only rarely ever heard of, and almost always when I did hear about Lebanon it was not good things that I heard.  I didn't really want to go to Lebanon, in fact I had many other plans of my own on how to spend my time and money.  However, God had other plans and continued to tug at my heart that I needed to go to Lebanon.  I half-heartedly signed up to go, but still wasn't sure about my purpose in going.  Then in planning, Tim asked me to share my story with the kids.  I was nervous about this, and thought there were better candidates in our team to speak than me. 

Once the kids arrived, I knew why God sent me.  For an entire week I was able to love kids that are created in God's image.  Each one of them had something unique to offer, and even with twins and sets of brothers there were no two kids alike.  I treasured every moment of spending time with the kids each day, and looked forward also to getting to know the house moms.  I was able to help one boy learn to float on his back. I learned how a 9 year old views the world and what roles he sees Russia and China playing in his own life. The time spent was meaningful, and then I had to share all about the chaos thatnhas been my life. The boys really identified with that, and had lots of questions because many of them were trying to make sense of their lives too.  God used all the junk in my life to impact the lives of others. After that, the conversations got even deeper and more meaningful.

The last night there, one of the house moms, Ferdita, chose me out of so many much more deserving folks to say thank you to. This touched my heart as I felt I had not spent nearly enough time investing in the lives of these wonderful women that serve daily in their committment to helping these boys grow up. Ferdita spoke to me about the impact I had on this trip and on the boys.  Each of my team members were so much more deserving of this personal thanks as they had taught the Bible stories, sang and played with kids just as hard as I had and in most cases moreso.

God had a plan that was bigger than what I could see.  I couldn't understand ahead of time why me, why Lebanon in 2012, but God knew and to God be glory for the work that was happening in Lebanon before we went, and for the work that will continue after we are gone.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Lebanon Reflections from Tim

It is difficult trying to select what to recount in a reflection. Do I include seeing the faces of the team members as they first encountered Beirut traffic? Do I include the team’s contemplation as they looked out at the Mediterranean Sea from the Crusader Castle walls of Byblos? Do I include the team’s enjoyment of the cool mountain air as we walked among the famous Cedars of Lebanon juxtaposed to the same day’s endurance of the heat and humidity of the coast?
These are all memories of the Lebanon trip. But for me, the stronger memories are of the interaction between the orphanage boys and your Calvary team:

·         Seeing the boys’ faces light up as they recognized Mr. Les and Lanna from last year

·         Watching as they eagerly introduced themselves to the team members they had not met before

·         Seeing it dawn on Josh and Jenn that these “foreign” kids are just like the neighborhood kids that come to our church

·         Observing Hannah’s frustration the first day when the boys did not fully participate in the songs and movements she had prepared

·         Noting that by the third day, these same children made Hannah beam as they requested their now favorite songs

·         Seeing Sarah taking an interest in the neighborhood girls who felt overwhelmed in a sea of boys

·         Watching Myles calmly sitting down and helping the boys work through Math and English lessons when they would have rather been outside playing

·         Seeing  Jason proudly wearing a Lebanese flag “do-rag” which a boy had gifted him as a parting present

·         Watching the boys’ riveted attention as they listened to every word of Tiffany’s testimony

·         Noticing how the boys lined up in the pool so that Trevor could throw them in the water
But perhaps the most poignant memory could best be expressed in the words of one of the older boys at the orphanage as he described another mission group that had previously volunteered.  “I can remember their names. Many people come here for a week or two and then they are gone, and we never see them again.”
Yes, the boys loved their new shoes. They were thrilled with putting them on and seeing how fast they could run! They were so proud to wear their brand new shoes for the wedding celebrations! But more important was the tangible fact that Calvary had not forgotten them. Calvary came back. These boys have been forgotten so many times in their young lives: families wish that they did not exist, but a church in Waco, Texas remembered them and loved them enough to come back and be with them.
Yes, it is an individual we love and care for, but it is also cumulative, all individuals everywhere. In reflecting, I am proud that our church chooses not to limit our love to our immediate neighborhood, but wants to be the active agents of Christ in this big wonderful world we live in.
~Tim Smith

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Lebanon Reflections from Sarah

Looking Back...

Sitting in my office at work, far from the mountains of Lebanon, I am looking at a frame with the words printed on it, “He makes all things new”. Thank you, Lord. Thank you for making me new. I can get very comfortable in my small, controllable, predictable world. Prior to the trip, I had been trying to keep the renewing words and promises of God speckled throughout my day, but sometimes it takes removing myself from all things controllable and familiar to enlarge my understanding of God and the world that He created. This trip was just that – a letting go of my own agenda and being open to what God had prepared for me on each day of the trip. There were certainly many surprises along the way, but God always provided the right words or people to supply the need.

In the Beirut airport my stomach was doing flip flops as we stood in lines for luggage, customs and visas – wondering, how on earth we would have gotten through all of this without a fluent Arabic speaker (Thank you Lord for Tim!). Everything looked, smelled, and felt different. So the first moment of seeing the Boucher family waving to us over the crowd was a wash of relief.  It was God reminding me that He is with us always and has gone before us! The trip was marked daily with scenic beauty, excellent Mediterranean food, kind faces and smiles, laughing and running boys, and a sense of familiarity. In Texas, I am used to being able to pick up at least parts of a conversation in Spanish; however, in Lebanon the only word I understood was, ‘yalla!’ (come on, let’s go!) and ‘shukran’ (thank you). Despite my lack of communication skills, the language that was easily communicated with kind smiles and welcoming gestures was that of hospitality – which the Lebanese speak fluently! We were given instant approval as part of the staff at Dar el Awlad and welcomed in as part of a faith family.

It is difficult for me to put into words what the experience has meant to me and how it will impact our day-to-day living, but I know that the Lord will reveal that to us in time.  One of the most poignant memories I have from the trip is meeting our sponsored child, Hadi. He is ten years old and comes from a very large Syrian-refugee family. He has a big smile and a warm heart that craves adult attention and approval. I wonder how God will continue to grow and use this relationship. I’m so thankful that God’s imagination and plan is infinitely greater than mine and I look forward to being surprised by it : ) I was also grateful to spend time with some of the older boys at Dar el Awlad that were now in high school, college, and working in the community. I was continually impressed by the kindness and love that they expressed to each other, the younger boys, and the house mothers. They were glowing examples of the love and grace of Christ. I am so thankful that the younger boys are able to see the ways that God has captivated their hearts and lives. The most difficult aspect of the trip was saying good-bye to friends, both new and old. It was sad to say good-bye to so many sweet and wonderful people at Dar el Awlad, not knowing when we will get to return. It was especially hard to say good-bye to the Boucher family, knowing that we won’t see them in the pews at Calvary when we return home. Their love for the boys and Lebanon was beautiful to watch and I am confident that the Lord will use them to be instruments of his love and peace. May I open my hands wide enough to allow Him to do the same in me.

~Sarah Martin Werntz

Monday, July 23, 2012

Lebanon Reflections from Jason

I have a couple of reflections from our time at Dar El Awlad.  First, I continue to be mindful that we are building on a foundation that was laid by others many years ago and by those who for many years have devoted their lives to care for these boys and give them hope in Jesus Christ.  I am thankful to God to see his sustaining work and grace in this ministry and for calling us to be a part of that work.  I am reminded that one plants the seed, another waters it, but its God who gives the growth.  I am thankful to be a part of the watering and planting that goes on at Dar El Awlad.  I am also deeply amazed and full of thanksgiving for those who are there day by day and year by year to plant and to nurture the seed of the gospel in the lives of these boys--Fadi, Peggy, Daniel, Jason, Lea, Brent, Ruth, Sarah, Jeremy, the house mothers, the young men such as Tariq, Rahid, and Josef, and many others.  May God grant them living water to give to the boys and may they share in the joy of reeping the fruit that God gives through the lives of the boys.

Second, I continue to think about one boy in particular that I grew to know during my time at the boys home.  His family had been affected by the conflict between Israel and Palestine. He confessed that what he wanted was peace since conflict had displaced him and his family.  As we talked he could only envision peace through military might.  He dreamed of possibly joining a U.N. peace-keeping force in order to force cooperation and impose tranquility on what is a volatile and persisting conflict.  My prayer has been that God would give him a greater vision and hope for peace and reconciliation--that he would be an ambassador of the peace and reconcilation that God offers through Jesus Christ.  I pray that his weopons would not be an M-16 or rockets but prayer and the unconquered gospel of Jesus Christ.  While conflict has separated his family and brought him to Dar El Awlad I know that the hope and love that he sees there is the hope, peace, and love that only God can give and not the often fragile peace imposed by military strength.

~Jason Whitlark

Lebanon Reflections from the Orphanage and Brent

My name is Brent Hamoud and I live at Dar El Awlad in Lebanon.  This summer’s arrival and departure of the Calvary volunteer team bookended the busiest, craziest, and no doubt most exciting two weeks of my life.  On July 13, right in the middle of the summer program, I got married.  To be honest I was anxious about the idea of welcoming and settling a team of 11 people in Dar El Awlad.  There was a lot of demands on my plate including wedding preparations, family and friends arriving in country (five airport trips in four days), managing the emotional circus that precedes this major life change, and most of all trying to make quality time with Ruth (my wife) and attend to her needs.  I knew it would be interesting and I prayed that God would give me patience, self-control, and energy to host and support.  It didn’t take long to realize that God sent the 11 team members at this particular time not to burden, but to bless.

Helpers came alongside me and made sure all preparations were done for the team’s arrival.  We even had a couple hours of spare time!  A great team at the ministry (including Jeremy and Sara) took much load from my shoulders.  The team arrived in high spirits and quickly felt at home and comfortable in the ministry.  The days visiting parts of Lebanon were enjoyable and enriching.  Any annoyances, discomforts, or inconveniences they experienced were left unannounced.  There was no demanding, complaining, or critique of any kind.  When the boys arrived, the team took control of the program and looked as if they had been working with these children for years.  There was structure and there was flexibility.  There was discipline and there was fun.  They took the unexpected in stride and demonstrated Jesus’ words when he said “I came to serve, not to be served.”

Then there was July 13.  The team members were some of the heroes of the day.  They got involved in everything from decorating, to cleaning, to chair set-up, to supervising boys, and even dancing.  Through all the stress of the big day they offered me the smiles, light remarks and encouraging presence that calms nerves and eases pressure.   I could rest knowing that capable, willing hands were on board to set up and take down for my wedding.  July 13 was one of the best days of my life.  I don’t want to think about what would have happened had the Calvary team not been here.

I’ve read this blog.  I’ve seen what team members have shared, and I can tell you that they aren’t telling everything.  The whole story goes beyond what they’ve written and beyond what they’ve shared.  Their presence during the two weeks was one that invited a spirit of humility, joy, and service.  The gospel covered all that they did and was told in so many ways, both in words and deeds.  Ruth and I join the children and staff members of Dar El Awlad in thanking God for this team and bringing them at the right time.  Thank you Les and Lanna, Jen and Josh, Hannah, Tiffany, Myles and Sarah, Trevor, Jason, and Tim.  At times I even regretted that my marriage was taking me away from the team.  It was such an enjoyable group that I wish I could have spent more time in its company.  We are glad that this isn’t the end of our relationship with Calvary and we look forward to what the future holds.  I know Ruth and I are relieved we won’t have to do another wedding with a future team, but hopefully we can still work in some dancing!

Blessings, Brent

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Lebanon Reflections from Lanna

Returning for the second year was like going to a family reunion; the site was familiar, lots of hugs and smiles for everyone and my continued comments of how all the boys had grown.  I knew what to expect as far as food that we would eat and the inconvenience of using bottle water to brush our teeth, etc., (how spoiled Americans are) and the lack of air-conditioning (again-spoiled).  Not only was I excited to see the boys again but also looking forward to spend time with Sarah, Jeremy and Thad and to experience a Lebanese wedding.

Les and I got to stay with the Boucher’s on this trip, so it was great to spend extra time with them even though we were exhausted by the end of the day.  Thad’s smile always warms the heart.  The wedding was a fun experience to witness different customs (like the bride coming to the wedding in her gown; car driven by grooms’ family with lots of honking of horns and lots of fireworks during the reception).  Our team and the boys were much needed in preparing for the wedding.  (Brent’s mother said it wouldn’t have happened without us).
I am so thankful for Sheila and Tim’s vision and allowing God’s guidence to return to Lebanon with a team from Calvary.  Their love for the Middle East is spreading among our church through donations, prayer and items purchased for the boys at Dar El Awlad.  I wish you could have been there to see the look on their faces when they opened their shoes and read the letters that you wrote.  They were so proud of their letters and pictures from families in America that cared for them and loved them through our Lord Jesus Christ.  They wanted to know more about you and if we knew you.  This ongoing relationship between Calvary and Lebanon has no boundaries, especially working with the Lebanese Baptist Society which opens up many opportunities through their seminary, SKILD summer camp and social work areas.  Maybe we are a part of the global Body of Christ.  Looking forward to the future!
Lanna Palmer

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Lebanon Reflections from Jen

After a long return trip (over 30 hours from Beirut to Waco) we are finally home.  I must say that it was very hard to leave Lebanon while some of our team remained for another week.  Despite much preparation before the trip discussing Lebanese culture and history I honestly did not know what to expect on the trip. I was not nervous or fearful about going to Lebanon (although many people I spoke with before leaving though that I should be). I think a part of me was still in denial that we were actually going to Lebanon because Josh and I had decided we weren’t going which was just not an acceptable answer for Tim and Shelia.  However, after returning I am so thankful for those from the team last year who did not take no for an answer because God truly is at work in Lebanon in so many amazing ways. I am so thankful for my experiences in Lebanon and truly blessed to have seen a glimpse of the Kingdom of God in Lebanon.

 I’m really not sure that I can put into words all that I am feeling about my experience in Lebanon.  I feel that more than anything the trip opened my eyes to the wonderful culture of Lebanon; it is such a beautiful and welcoming place. From the moment we arrived our team felt welcomed and that continued throughout the trip.  Everywhere we went we were met with excitement for our interest in Lebanon because there is such a negative stereotype about Lebanon.  This is unfortunate because God is at work there.  This was evident by so many passionate and faithful Christians we were blessed to meet and work with on our trip.  Dar El Awlad is blessed to have a faithful staff that lovingly cares for the boys and strives to create a family atmosphere there.  Brent and Fadi (and family-Peggy, Daniel, Lea, Jason) are truly servants of God who devote their lives to these boys.  Some of our team also had an opportunity to work with leaders from SKILD (Smart Kids with Individual Learning Differences).  The summer program was only in its second year yet the staff and teachers are very professional and faithful to their work.  The teachers at SKILD were so amazing with the kids; they showed an abundance of patience.  We also had the opportunity to meet with Alia from the Lebanese Baptist Society or LSESD (Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development) who shared about their many ministries.  She is so passionate about their work and took two hours out of her day to talk with us despite having several funding proposals due.  It was truly exciting to see God’s hand at work through these various ministries and while these conversations were taking place I began to see ways Calvary can walk alongside the work that is developing and already taking place.

 One highlight of the trip for me was meeting with Rupen Das a social worker at LSESD.  Several of the social workers on the trip spent the morning talking with him about the Community Relief and Development program in Lebanon and ways that Calvary can contribute to this ministry in future trips.  Most of the morning was spent learning about the work they are doing and the background behind their work.   He is also the author of a qualitative study of poverty in Lebanon.  One of things that stuck with me from our conversation with Rupen was that poverty in Lebanon is a human rights issue; meaning that those in poverty belong to groups that are marginalized or seen as outsiders.  Much of the focus of LSESD in Lebanon is on education of the issues and bringing about a just society.   I think the conversation with Rupen put a lot of things into perspective and left me wanting to know more. 

The majority of my time in Lebanon was spent working with the children at Dar El Awlad and SKILD.  The kids were so excited that our team was there and wanted to play and spend time with us.  It was so fun to see how certain kids bonded with members of our team almost instantly.  Each of them has their own story and we were blessed to get to know them and to be welcomed into their home.  We only got to spend a short amount of time with the kids and we honesty have no idea what the impact of our time there will have on the children but I know that I will forever remember the faces and stories of the boys and girls I worked with this week.  A piece of my heart definitely remains in Lebanon with them. 

 I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to go to Lebanon.  I was not entirely sure what I would experience in Lebanon and I’m honestly still processing all of my experiences.  However, the trip far exceeded all my expectations. Lebanon is a remarkably beautiful country with a rich history (some of it is not pretty) and culture.  I felt very welcomed by everyone I met and will definitely not forget the amazing food we ate in Lebanon.  I’m not sure yet what God is going to do with my experience but I’m confident that a passion for Lebanon and the work I have seen is growing in my heart. I can’t wait until the rest of our team returns and to see what God does with our shared experience in Lebanon!

~Jennifer Caballero

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Swimming at the river

Today the boys and the team went up the coast about an hour for a day at one the Lebanese rivers. I am not sure who was welcoming the break in the routine more, the boys or the team.
The banks were shaded and several Lebanese families were picnicking and swimming as well. When one of the families heard us referring to Brent and Ruth as newlyweds they brought some of the food they had prepared for their own lunch over to honor them.
The older boys were allowed to go upriver to a deeper swimming hole where they slowly worked up the courage and daring each other to jump off the rocks into the cold mountain water. The younger boys stayed in the shallow area and were soon moving rocks around to make a dam across the river. Boys will be boys no matter where they are.
After supper we spent the evening with the boys in their apartments. They do so love having us come and visit them. I think they were tired from the days activities as there was not the playing that there has been on earlier nights, tonight they were content to sit and watch videos.
After we said goodnight to the boys the team went down to Sarah and Jeremy Boucher's apartment and played games. They are making the adjustments to being here in Lebanon and at the orphanage. Thad is learning to play soccer and wanting to be with all the boys.
Tomorrow we will be working with the boys on their school work and them plan to go to the swimming pool with them. Then we will need to pack and depart here about 10 in the evening.
It has been a good trip. It has been good to see our Calvary people and staff interacting with the boys. All of them are asking will you come back next year? Just the fact that we returned this year has made an impression on the boys and staff here. How the boys and their stories have impacted each one of us remains to be seen. It will take some time and distance to process all the team has been exposed to, a different culture, a different language, stories of boys backgrounds that sound radically different from neighborhood children-but really could be about any one of them. 
We have not resolved any of the boys difficulties or home situations. We have tried to show them they are loved because God loves them. Between the schoolwork, devotionals, testimonies and play we have sown seeds. How the seeds grow and the fruit they produce is still out in the future for these boys but for us, the team Calvary send, the seeds are growing, changing us. For one thing, the Christ we thought we were bringing from 18th and Bosque has been here all along.
~Tim Smith

The team eating breakfast with the office staff at the orphanage.
 Walking to the river.

 Enjoying swimming in the river.

May Peace Be Upon You

Ashraf was just a name a few weeks ago.  We had several pairs of shoes that had been purchased for boys but were in need of a sponsor, someone to write a letter to go with them and a picture to write back to.  The name on the plastic bag that I was to write a letter to didn't mean much.  In fact, upon arriving I had forgotten what name was with the shoes I had brought!

He wasn't the first boy, or second, or third, who demanded my attention. You could even say he  is one of the quieter ones.  It took me a few days to really get to know him.  He was more than amused with the Arabic greetings I was able to conjure up, and for several days our primary interaction was him running to find me so that he could say "Salaam alaykum" (a greeting meaning 'peace be upon you'), to which he eagerly awaited my response of "Wa-alaykum salaam" (May peace be upon you).  This was followed by his own unique giggle, every time.

I have my suspicions that this was a result of a poor pronunciation, but he assured me it was just because he liked that it was coming from me.  Before long, our daily greetings grew to much more.  He was thrilled to get a letter from me with his shoes.  From dancing to goofy vbs songs, sitting together in Bible stories, sharing with each other about our families, playing soccer, throwing water balloons... The list is long.  The name of the boy whose shoes travelled in my bag half way around the world is so much more than a name to me now.  I'll be leaving soon, but his smile and story will not soon leave me.

This is only one small example, of which I could share 25 similar.  Each one with a name and a story that has been impacted by a group of people who came to share life with them for two weeks, and from whom a team of foreigners has received so much.

"May peace be upon you."  I've said it to him countless times this week.  If only he knew how much I meant it. If only he knew how deeply we each long to see the peace of God change his future and his world.  Here, it is akin to saying 'hello' or 'good day,' but it is my most sincere and honest prayer for these lives.  Their home lives are all different.  Some are difficult, others deplorable.  Here at Dar El Awlad they receive great love and care.  Their ethnic and geographic origins are all different.  Some come from unstable nationalities, some tumultuous, others from no citizenship at all.  Peace. I pray for peace in their lives in every way imaginable.  I hope to see them again, though I don't know if or when, but "Salaam Alaykum" will be my most heartfelt words and honest prayer as I leave this place. 

God, may your peace be upon these boys.
~Trevor Brown

More pictures

Weekday tutoring with Myles (aka Kilometers).

Singing and dancing during group time.
Running during the obstacle course.


Eating ice cream on a hot afternoon.
Playing with water balloons on the basketball court.

Monday, July 16, 2012

'Uh Oh!', as Thad would say, we are six team members down and onto another week with the boys! The original plan had been to partner with a local church this week for chapel, tutoring, Bible study, music and games... However, the Lord had another plan!! The church was unable to help out and we have learned to pull together as a small team and be a crucial member of the church body this week! Last week in chapel Lanna read a story each day about someone that met Jesus and whose life had been changed by Jesus (e.g. Bartimaeus); this week we decided to follow that up with the stories of our own lives - about how each of us met Jesus and how our lives have been changed by knowing him. We are continuing tutoring for one hour in the morning, followed by a short break. I took over Kindergarten class, which had been Lanna's group while she was here. One of the five year olds, Ghedi, spent half the time sitting in the corner for disciplinary reasons and then we spent the break time working one-on-one with his worksheets. I have a renewed appreciation for elementary school teachers!!!

 At song time, Hannah taught the boys another song from Calvary's Bible Club this summer - All My Heart. It is so captivating to see children across the globe singing the same songs as our Calvary kids! It (of course!) was followed by the kids' favorite- 'The Crazy Dance'. (Video footage of Jason Whitlark performing the running man will most definitely be posted upon return!!) For Bible study time this week Trevor is teaching from the parables of Jesus. Today was the parable of the seeds and helping the boys identify what 'weeds' can choke out the Word of God from taking root in our lives.

 This afternoon was another scorcher!! I've changed my clothes three times today! This did not keep the boys from wanting to run around outside! We came up with an obstacle course/ relay race that kept them busy for almost an hour. The best station in the relay was the eating station - each kid had to pick one item out of a bag to eat or drink. Our items spanned from a sleeve of saltines, to chocolate pudding, to a package of processed cheese (ew!). The adults that watched were definitely the 'winners' of the game!

 The boys' enthusiasm for each other and for spending time with us is renewing and rewarding. Although it is great to have a break from the activities and enjoy a meal with the adults, it is not long before we find ourselves in their units- watching movies, playing games and learning more about each other. My prayer for this week is that I would have the perspective of Mary and not Martha. It is easy for me to be 'worried and upset about many things'. Please pray that our focus would not be on the programming (or lack thereof) and 'choose what is better'.

-Sarah Martin-Werntz


Following a great “practice for heaven” time of worshipping together with brothers and sisters at a church in Arabic on Sunday morning, our remaining team of Myles and Sarah, Tim, Trevor, and myself, the Bouchers, and about 20 of Ruth’s family members caravanned to the Bekka Valley for a wedding celebration with Brent’s Bedouin relatives. Our honking horns were welcomed by curious children lining the streets and live music outside of the family’s homes. Participating in this convergence of families—city folk from Beirut and the nomadic Bedouins of the Bekka—was a blast.
            The family slaughtered two sheep for the celebration, and we ate them with rice, wheat, yogurt, and vegetables. Several of us even tried brain and tongue scraped straight from the skull. Hey, you’re only in the Bekka once, right? It was fun to watch Ruth’s relatives, who were just as out of place as we were, and feel some company in the experience of “foreigner.” Throughout and following the meal, we participated in the traditional deptki dance (their version of a line dance), enjoyed coffee and dessert, and watched Thad kiss a girl for the first time.
            It was an incredible experience. Just miles from the Syrian border, and area you’ve likely heard little to nothing positive about, I received genuine hospitality and love from strangers who quickly made me feel like family. These day-to-day joys and celebrations show the true spirit of Lebanon and the Middle East. These are a people of love, hospitality, and joy. The Bedouins know how to party, and I felt joy at the knowledge that these people are receiving love from friends and family who want them to know the love of Jesus. Please pray, for the harvest is waiting.
~Hannah Abernathy

Pictures of Bedouin Wedding Celebration

Make sure you read the post below about the wedding celebration in the valley.  Here are some pictures that the team took from the celebration.

This is a picture from outside the Sunday morning church service in downtown Beirut.
 Cooking at the Bedouin wedding celebration.
 Traditional dancing at the celebration.
 The amazing spread of food.

 The whole group that were celebrating Brent and Ruth.
 Brent, Tim, and 2 of Brent's family members.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bedouin Wedding Celebration

Last night, half of our beloved team left for home, leaving Trevor, Hannah, Tim, Sarah and myself for a few more days. While sad to see our friends go, we overcame our grief long enough to travel to the Bekaa Valley for what promised to be one of the highlights of the trip: a Bedouin wedding celebration.

On Friday, our team celebrated the wedding of Brent Hamoud (the director of the home) and his fiancee Ruth Salubi. It was a really fun time, complete with delicious Lebanese food, all of the boys wearing their new shoes, and a temporary power outage which left the guests eating delicious food but having no idea how they would ever rediscover which one they really liked. Brent's extended family is from the Bekaa Valley, an hour to the east of Beruit, and home to the traditional Bedouin culture, and so on Sunday afternoon, they threw Brent and Ruth a second celebration, Bedouin style.

The Bedouins live in many ways on the margins of Lebanese society. Because they do not hold to one of the major confessions of the country, they are not officially recognized as Lebanese, and lack access to many of the public systems of Lebanon. Sarah referenced an excellent new book, Profiles in Poverty, which details the Bedouin situation, and having read the chapter on the Bedouins, my image of them was formed by this new information about their legal status , with a weird combination of Aladdin and Lawrence of Arabia.

As we pulled into the village, it looked very much like any other small village in Lebanon; there are still nomadic Bedouins, but many of them have become residential. Welcomed by the head of the family as honored guests, we sat in the large open main room, covered in traditional rugs and reclining seats. When you read in the Gospels about Jesus reclining at the table to eat, this is it: there are no "chairs" per se--just floor couches. After visiting with the hundreds of guests, many of whom were village neighbors come to welcome total strangers into their home, the meal came in: plate after place of rice, yogurt, vegetables, and freshly cooked sheep that had been bleating that afternoon.

One minor detail: the trays included two special ones with the cooked sheep heads on them. As the meal began on the floor, a man began to pull apart the heads, a delicacy for the honored guest; as such, one head went to the bride and groom, and the other to the wide-eyed Americans gratefully receiving cooked sheep brains. For the record, they weren't that bad.

Today was an exercise in hospitality reminiscent of the legendary Southern hospitality. to be welcomed into a complete stranger's home and treated not as an interloper but a a honored guest, given the best of the feast, was a profoundly humbling experience. We were told, both by the hosts and second-hand, how honored they were to have us in their home, and all I could think was "Really?". But hospitality, at its core, is gratitude for whoever comes in for no other reason than they have come to your house. As Jesus reminds us, such is the kingdom of God, welcoming in an overflowing house for a wedding feast. I continue to be in awe of how visceral these images become, and how small my vision of God's kingdom truly is in light of parables such as these.

The whole team on the last day before half of them left.  They are in downtown Beirut by a place called Pigeon Rock.

 This is the inside of a mosque in downtown Beirut.
 The women had to cover themselves in order to go in the mosque, so here they are reading from the Koran.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Home Already

It’s seems unreal, but the time for the first group of us to journey back to Waco is quickly approaching.  In just a few hours, we will go to the airport to head back home after a long day of sightseeing and saying goodbye to the boys at Dar El Awlad.  We started the day by cleaning up a few things from last night’s wedding after breakfast and then we just played around with the boys until lunch time.  After lunch we went into the city to visit a Christian bookstore, a Muslim mosque, and Pigeon Rock.  Though the afternoon was fun, the day really became exciting after dinner tonight when we had our final program (for some of us) with the boys.  This time rather than us leading a program, they prepared a few kind words of gratitude and presented each of us who will be leaving soon with small gifts of their appreciation.  It was a special time for each of us on the team to hear the boy’s kind words and receive their sincere appreciation and love for our time with them.  Afterwards, two of the boys and Fadi prayed for safe travel on our journey back home.  
As we visited each unit tonight after the program to say our final goodbyes to the boys, I couldn’t help but to think of that word home as we prepare to head home ourselves.   For me home is the place that currently houses myself, my wonderful wife, and our overly excited dog.  Home is my family, my mother and sisters who have always cared for me.  Home is Calvary and my wonderful family of faith that loves and accepts me.   For many of the boys here, Dar El Awlad is the only home they have ever truly known.  It has also become a place in a short amount of time where I feel at home.  We are assured that one day we will experience the greatness of the Kingdom of God when we finally rest in our final home.  However,  after seeing the hand of God at work here in Lebanon through the Beirut Baptist Society and especially in the lives of the staff and the boys here at Dar El Awlad, I feel as if a part of me is already home getting a glimpse into the Kingdom of God.
~Josh Caballero
The boys fixing a bike.
 Just hanging out.

Some of the views in downtown Beirut.  There are 3 different Christian demoninational churches in this picture that are visible from the mosque.
 PhD Whitlark gone Lebanese.
The boys praying for half of the team as they prepare to depart.

Saying goodbye.
Big hugs for those leaving.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A big day!

Today is a big day here at the orphanage. Brent and Ruth are getting married. Brent's grandparents founded the orphanage and his father was one of the boys at the orphanage. Ruth's father worked at the orphanage and she remembers growing up here. Both have a loving heart for the boys at the orphanage and the boys respond to the love and care they feel here at the orphanage.

After breakfast all the boys were put to work cleaning up the area for the evenings festivities. I had the kindergarten. One of the three soon disappeared from work detail. They wanted to be like the big boys and work for Mr. Brent and Ruth. We had them raking and shoveling and then taking it to the dumpster. Talk about herding cats!! It soon escalated into, "Mister, look at him. He does not know how to do. Let me have the rake, I will show you." Or, " I want the shovel, he will not let me."  Needless to say we completed our area of responsibility. I caught myself think how often I am like the boys, going my own way, ignoring The One who knows best for me, yes, often times I want the shovel when the rake has been assigned to me.

One thing that has impressed the team is as Peggy Fadi (wife of orphanage residential director) put it, "we don't think of this as work but as a service to the Lord." 

This afternoon the boys wrote their thank yous to those of you who gave them shoes. Some of the spelling is not quite perfect but there is no doubting the appreciation. Most of the boys had their brand new shoes on for the wedding.

Tonight at the weeding, there were too many guest for the boys to go to the service. Two of three housemothers are relatives of Ruth so they had off this evening and the team were housemothers. The boys were lined up on the balconies waiting to catch a sight of Ruth as she entered the church. When the service was over it was hard to keep the boys from pelting Brent and Ruth with handfuls of rice instead of gently tossing it!

The boys had a reserved area at the reception and each one received a small wedding cake of his own. Brent and Ruth came over and greeting them, posing for pictures with the boys. It was plain to see how much the boys love both Ruth and Brent and are loved by them. For all the boys have or do not have in terms of home lives, here they know they are loved and cared for. Yes, they can be a handful at times, and they do try to get away with pushing the limits. But those who work here love them and think of this as service to the Lord.

 Cleaning up the grounds of the orphange for the wedding.
 Writing thank you cards for all the donated Nike shoes.
 Some of the boys sporting their new shoes.
 Watching the wedding festivities from the balconies.
Brent and the beautiful bride, Ruth.
Some of the boys enjoying their wedding cakes.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Our Stories

Thursday has been a full day.  It contained a morning chapel time with the Dar El Awlad boys, an hour of tutoring Math and English, Bible school activities (songs and a Bible story), lunch, an afternoon at the local Splash Land, dinner with a leader of the Lebanese Baptist Society, and an evening chapel time after which the boys all received the shoes that members of our church graciously sponsored.  Many of our group spent time this evening in the boys "units" (a flat containing about 6 boys and a house mother) while others played basketball with some of the teenage boys.  A full day, no doubt.
It wouldn't take you but a minute here to discover how much excitement, passion, and love these boys have for the members of our team.  They love who they are, the games they play with them, the fun they represent for their week, and the attention and care they have to offer.  But if I'm honest, sometimes its difficult to keep them focused on the things that we want to communicate most.  In my case, they may love that I'm big, tall, have a unique skin tone to their experience, or able to provide a quality toss in the pool, but none of these things touch what I hope to pour into their lives most.
Today was my turn to lead the morning Bible teaching time. The lesson I chose, as short as it may have been, was as much as product of my time and experience here with the boys as anything.  It centered around God's message to Samuel in choosing David as King, one in which we are reminded of God's concern for the heart.  I had spoken with a few boys earlier in the week who wanted to ask me all about American sports and exercise. They weren't as interested when I began telling them about things I valued more, but it was a meaningful reminder to me of remaining aware of what things I want to communicate most, what things "Mr. Trevor" shares that they'll most remember, with what they will associate this team that shared life with them for a few weeks.
It's not a missions problem, but a Christian problem.  There is, no doubt, a story around which we are called to orient all things.  There is a way of living and speaking and acting that is to be so permeated by who Christ is that it becomes the very theme of our existence.  I am reminded today of the power of this kind of living.  This kind of awareness is not for out team while at Dar El Awlad, but for us all, everywhere. 

~Trevor Brown