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

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