It's 12:45 AM July 5. I guess my body is all messed up with the time changes etc. I am sitting here out on the porch overlooking the lights of downtown Beirut reflecting on what all has transpired in 34 hours.
We departed from the church parking lot at 5 AM July 3. We had a fairly easy drive to the meeting point in Dallas and then took the shuttle to the airport. Flew to New York, then to Paris and then on into Beirut. It took us 23 hours from leaving the church parking lot to land in Beirut. It was 86 degrees when we landed, humidity in 60's, sunshine, breeze.
Dar el Awlad brought 2 vans down to meet us. They needed every inch of space to fit the bags of shoes for the boys, the luggaages we brought for ourselves, the team and the greeting team from Dar el Awlad in. The greeting I received was much different that last year. Last year was a handshake and, "Hi, it's good to see you"; warm but not overly so.
Today's, or is it now yesterday's greeting, was a full blown Arab familial greeting. The orphanage director and his assistant, in turn, both grabbed my right hand and pulled me toward them and then we exchanged kisses on the cheeks all the while saying, Welcome, it's good to see you. How are you? How was your trip? How is your family?
Very different from the previous year.
The drive up to Dar el Awlad, we are at apx. 1500' elevation, was interesting to hear and experience from the faces and reactions of those on the trip for the first time. Contrary to views held in America, driving in Lebanon is not just about transportation; it's so much more!!
It's an art form, a twisting, turning and weaving test of your bluffing abilities, of your reaction times. A demonstration that blinkers are not really needed, that horns are more important than brakes, that the lane markers down the road were not painted by real drivers. See, we regularly squeeze in 4 lanes where they thought we could only do 3, and if you catch us at rush hour we do 5 lanes with no problem. Just give us the cars and we can figure out how we want to use them, thank you very much.
What amazes first time team members is that we don't see more accidents than we do. I guess if you always expect the unexpected, you are prepared when the unexpected happens.
We arrived at Dar el Awlad safe and sound. It really is not justified to even mention the nervous tick one of the team members developed on the van drive up. It really has subsided since the ride and had almost dissapeared, but a horn blowing on the street seemed to cause the tick to re-appear. I am certain in a week or so it will be gone and not too much lasting damage will result.
After unpacking some, the staff provided shawarma sandwiches for us as we sat out under the tree in the evening. The staff were viisiting with the team members from previous years asking them about thier children and families, getting to know the new team members.
One of the staff members came and talked with me a long time in Arabic. Just visiting, seeing how the family was, how Sheila was.
Later I was talking a a staff member that our family has know since he was a student at Baylor and remarked how much warmer the welcoming seemed this year. Last years was good, but this year it seemed to be on a whole different scale. He smiled and said; the first year the team from Calvary was a suprise. No one at Dar el Awlad could remember the last time a team came from America.
Last year, Calvary came back, that was also a bit of a suprise.
This year, Calvary came for the third time. This year you are no longer guests; you are family.
The boys have been asking who is returning this year, what the new team members are like. The staff are looking forward to being with the team, knowing that the team loves the children like the staff do.
We needed you here this summer. There are no other teams coming this summer. Calvary was the one that came. It said alot to the staff here that you came back when no others are. You are family and are here with us.
Lord, thank you for families.