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