Thursday, August 15, 2013

Final Reflections

As someone who has worked with children and youth for as long as I can remember, I have often been told the importance of knowing your students names.  Knowing a person’s name changes things; they go from being a random stranger to being Susan or Bryan, or so on.  Likewise, there’s something about being called by your name that makes the world of difference.  It brings a sense of comfort, it implies a relationship, and if we’re honest we all like to be called by our name.  The moment we arrived at the airport in Lebanon, Ahk Fadhy and his son Daniel on separate occasions both saw me, gave me a big hug, and said, “Hello Josh.”  In that moment, I knew this trip was going to be different from last year.  Just as in cheers, I was returning to a place where everybody knew my name, okay, not everybody, but still.

When we arrived at Dar El Awlad, we were told on several occasions how thankful the staff was that we had returned this summer.  As it turns out, we are the only group who made the trip this summer and the staff wanted us to know how appreciative they were for that.  They made it known when we visited the boys in their units.  They made it known as they came out to spend time with us during breaks and before meal times.  They made it known when we gave out shoes and other gifts to the boys and to them, but more importantly, they made it known in their love for us.  We weren’t special guests who they treated with great hospitality as in years passed.  We were dear friends; we were family.

The same thing was true once the boys arrived.  There was a rush of excited greetings and introductions as we met the new boys.  Most of the old boys remembered those of us who had been there previously and we quickly picked up where we had left off the year before.  We played Risk, basketball, cards, and Jenga.  We talked on the bus and hung out outside.  Our conversations were deeper and more meaningful as our relationship strengthened from last year.  By the end of the trip it was difficult to leave our friends, but we knew that we would see each other again.

Perhaps the greatest difference from this year’s trip and last years besides the weather is the feeling I had on the trip.  Last year, I constantly found myself seeking an answer to my question if and what type of impact was made by short-term mission trips.  This year, I didn’t even feel like I was on a short-term mission trip.  I felt as if though we had returned for a reunion and joined in on the work our friends were doing.  I knew there names, they knew mine, and we had become friends and family to one another.  Perhaps the best way to sum it up is to share part of the prayer that was prayed over a few of us on our last night by one of the older boys Tarik.  “Thank you Lord for people from two opposite corners of the world who can come together and immediately be family to one another.”  Thanks be to God indeed.

Josh Caballero

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Dear Calvary

Dear Calvary,
It is still hard for me to think about being on the other side of the Calvary trips to Lebanon. It could be because not that long ago I was! I was a part of the first team to come to Lebanon and was blessed by everyone I got to know while I was here; from the staff and boys, to guys my age who continue to come back because in many ways it's still home to them. These feelings and longing to be in the Middle East with my family is one reason I happen to find myself on the other side of the Calvary trip, living in Lebanon, with my family a few short years later. This year was a great opportunity for Calvary to come together and pray intently about continuing to  partner in ministry with the boys and staff here at Dar el Alwad in the face of doubts and fears regarding the safety of the team. By now you know that yes, in fact they were all safe and we were very thankful that they came.
Calvary, you helped to meet so many needs here at DEA by your presence here. It seems very simple to come and put on a two week program for twenty-five to thirty boys and spend time with them during down time. However, the facts would say otherwise to plan a trip to Lebanon in the midst of what is going on in the region is something no other church, organization, or group were willing to do this summer. The responsibility would have fallen completely on a depleted summer staff that just finished the school year a week and a half before. The staff was tired and needed some encouragement which Calvary brought in so many different forms. The gifts of new shoes and sports balls always are the first thing the kids want but they soon realize that the people continue to come back and want to spend time with the boys.
Another thing that I get to see on this side of the picture is that throughout the year there was excitement knowing that Calvary was planning on coming back again led by Papa Tim. The kids are still amazed that this white haired, bearded man from Texas can speak their heart language. It's not just the kids that continue to remember Calvary throughout the year. Brother Fady, our Residence Director continues to ask about Calvary and how everyone is doing.
As for Sara and I, we are in a different boat because Calvary is home to us and DEA is home to us, so it just feels so natural to have you guys with us during the first few weeks of July. Our whole Lebanon experience has always included Calvary in July! This is what we have come to know and we hope will continue in the future that we will see Calvary every year.

Continue to remember these boys that you have seen and met over the past three summers. On the outside you may see boys that are just causing trouble like any other boy that you meet in Waco. Each one, however, is a broken vessel that God is seeking to redeem. Some have a great understanding that Jesus loves them and seeks to know them, while many or most have reservations whether those reasons stem from family or personal issues. We as well as you, Calvary, get to share this love of Christ with the boys. The great thing is that this doesn't only happen the two weeks Calvary is here but it goes on throughout the year as you pray and remember your family here at DEA.

Jeremy Boucher

Thanks from Dar el Awlad

"Once again Lebanon made News Headlines at the beginning of the summer. The date of my take over as Field Director was rapidly approaching.  Along with the rising summer temperature, I certainly felt the heat of my new job as I was expected to make tough decisions that could affect the lives of people who live thousands of miles away.
As I reflect on the last couple of months, I praise our amazing Lord for leading us through it all. We're so thankful to the Lord for keeping the political situation in control. I also admire the men and women on the Calvary Church team who were willing to step out in faith, not counting their lives more important than ours. Their presence put a smile on the children's faces and was a source of encouragement to us all. It's always great to have team members return  a second year and watch them build meaningful relationships with both staff and boys alike.
We appreciate each one who prays, or supports our ministry through donations but it is an extra blessing when you come visit and we get to know you personally. A great big thank you to Tim, "Mister" TC, Les and Lana, Josh and Jenn, Kim, and Julie! We are thankful to Calvary church for sharing the Boucher family with us. They're valued members of our team. 'Til next time:)"
Joseph Ghattas
Field Director

Kids Alive Lebanon