Saturday, March 15, 2014

It’s 5 AM Beirut time and we are sitting at the airport waiting to depart. We had a good last day at BBS.  I think that both of us feel the trip was of benefit to the work that is ongoing here. Though we are leaving here I don’t think that either one of us have entirely processed all that we have experienced or have had the privilege of being a part of. That will take a few days but we will post reflections on the blog when we have processed it all.
Our friend from North Africa came down to see us off from the seminary this morning at 2 AM. In some small way that has been representative of the trip, meeting people we have never met before but feeling an instant kinship. A kinship that transcends country of origin, language and culture. A kinship based on a common faith and belief in the One who has made us brothers and sisters with people half way around the world.
After inviting us to come to his country he perhaps summed up the trip when he said, “If I don’t see you in my country, I will see you in heaven.”

Tim Smith

Friday, March 14, 2014

Pictures from Thursday

Tim and Josh in front of the BBS school sign.

Building on the left is the Elementary/Jr. High School.  Building on the right is the day care and preschool building.  The high school is behind the elementary school.

Hall with 1st and 2nd graders

One of the four different 2nd grade classrooms

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Our week at BBS is quickly coming to an end and I feel as if though we just got here.  Today, after having breakfast, we traveled back into the heart of the city to BBS.  Once again, Tim worked with the school nurse and the administrative staff and I worked with the students and teachers in the classroom.  I had three different classes today, 9th – 11th grade.  Once again, they went well with good discussion and dialogue.  In every single one of my presentations, I had students stick around after class to ask me a few more questions I wasn’t able to get to during the period.  One of the teachers thanked me after class for coming and explained that many of the students are very curious about this subject, but they don’t have a safe place to talk about it.  She was very grateful they were getting this opportunity. 
After we finished our day at BBS, the school took us to a restaurant along the coast for lunch where I thought the food would never end.  I was just getting ready to stop eating when they brought out the main course, still followed later by desert, and then coffee.  It was a true Lebanese meal.  We sat and ate for about 3 hours while talking about family, education, the school, politics, etc.
However, even though the food was wonderful, my favorite part of the day came between my classroom presentations at BBS.  I was asked to make a presentation to part of the faculty at the school during their 45 minute morning break.  I briefly described the presentations I had been making with the students since I had not had the privilege to be in their classrooms and then I spoke generally about prevention.  I mostly spoke with them about our research in risk and protective factors.  Many of you teachers may know this as risky behavior indicators and the 40 developmental assets.  As I began my presentation, I was encouraged to see the amount of care and dedication they have towards their students.  One of the teachers went to school at BBS and after finishing college, she returned to BBS where she has taught for the past 30 years.  When I spoke about the different risk factors, teachers began to express their concern for some of their students who have some of the indicators I discussed present in their life.  The care and love they have for their students is very evident.  I let them know that our job in prevention is to help outweigh the risk factors with protective factors and reminded them that they are already doing a big part of that work.  As I began to go through the protective factors they were able to see how they were already implementing some of them into their classroom and began thinking of new ways to implement some of the others.  Unfortunately, we ran out of time so I wasn’t able to finish my entire presentation, but neither of us wanted it to end and stayed a few minutes afterwards continuing to discuss some of their questions.  I am grateful for the caring teachers in my life who helped to provide protective factors for me and I’m grateful for the dedicated and caring teachers at BBS who are making sure that their students are encouraged, receive the tools they need to succeed, and above all feel loved.

Josh Caballero

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pictures from Wednesday

Students arriving at school in the morning.

The sea of backpacks.

Students lining up at the school.

The view from the town of Byblos.

It’s Wednesday evening here in Beirut and we have had a full day. It has been in the 50’s all day and raining off and on. We were at the Beirut Baptist School this morning, Josh was giving his presentations and I was with the school nurse. A boy came in complaining his knee hurt, it was slightly swollen so school nurse decided she needed to take him to have in x-rayed. She called his mother and told her which hospital she was taking him to and then turned to me and stated, “I will be gone for 2 or three hours, you take care of the children” and off she went. So I got to be the school nurse for a couple of hours. It was interesting, the older children tried to talk to me in English; the 1st and second graders did not seemed fazed when I talked to them in Arabic. I don’t think anyone died on “my shift” so guess all went well!!!!
This afternoon the school took us out for an outing to see the caves at Jietta and then we had lunch at Byblos (reputed to be the oldest continually inhabited town in the world). But the highlight of the day started at supper up in the Seminary cafeteria.
We have been trying to sit with some of the seminary students, or inviting them to sit with us each meal. We have had the privilege of sitting with Syrians, Iraqi’s and Egyptians. Tonight we sat at a table with a student who turned out to be from North Africa. He told us about his conversion from Islam and how his father tried to kill him three times because of his conversion. Finally his father went before the court and disowned him.
After everyone had left the cafeteria, we were still talking and he invited us back to his apartment and served us coffee and we continued to talk. He talked about the problem his church back home is having; the building is too small!! He said that the services start at 9:30 and if you are not there at least by 8 you have to stand. He said some people drive 5-6 hours on Thursday and spend the night just to attend the services on Friday then go home. He talked about how over 2000 people come to services every Friday. He explained how being here in Lebanon and going to seminary as a converted Muslim has given him the opportunity to learn Arabic (not his native tongue) as well as study the Bible. He feels called to go back to his own country and reach out to an ethnic group that is not being reached out to by the church.
We prayed with him before leaving and Josh and I were lost in thought as we walked back to our room trying to process what we heard. How the Lord is using the work here in Lebanon to provide an opportunity for non-Lebanese from around the Middle East to come and study and prepare to go back and witness to their own people.

Tim Smith

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pictures from the first day at BBS

We awoke this morning at 4:00 a.m., our bodies feeling the effects of jet lag and not able to sleep.  After reading, getting ready, and having breakfast, we decided to head down to await our taxi to go to the Beirut Baptist School(BBS).  After experiencing the Lebanese rush hour traffic, we finally arrived at the school.  To be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when we arrived.  I knew that I would be working with students doing presentations and Tim would be working with the school nurse, but neither of us knew exactly what might be expected of us.  I had planned several different drug and alcohol presentations and lessons for the students, but wasn’t sure which would be most beneficial.  I also wasn’t sure how my lessons would be received by the students at BBS.   A little nervous, I was directed to my first classroom full of 7th grade students and as I walked up to the 4th floor classroom I kept thinking about the words of encouragement Jenn said to me before I left Waco, “Kids are kids everywhere, and you’re good with kids.”  I hoped that was true.  After introducing myself to the students and telling them a little about myself, I began my presentation on the effects of drug abuse on the brain.  I felt this was the most universal presentation I could conduct without too many changes for cultural differences.  After presenting in 5 different 7th and 8th grade classes I realized that the students were indeed like most of the other students I’ve had over the past 6 years in Central Texas.  They listened intently to my presentation (for the most part).  They asked good questions about drugs and brain development.  They laughed at my ridiculous jokes and wanted to know more about my family, including our dog and cat.   They shared concerns about family members or neighbors who have used and in one case even self-disclosed a one-time previous use.  However, my two favorite moments of the day came in the form of two simple questions from two different students.  One student asked me why I would come to Lebanon from the US at this time.  It seemed like a very brave and odd thing for me to do.   I simply answered that I loved Lebanon and wanted to be with them at their school this week and that it was not actually my first time in Lebanon. I then told them of our work the past two summers at Dar El Awlad and was asked when we could come to do a summer program with BBS by the students in that class.  Another student in another class asked me what Religious Education (my BA) and Prevention Sciences (my professional certification) have to do with one another.  It’s honestly a question I often get back home as well.  I was able to answer honestly and say that when I studied Religion, I believed God wanted me to work with teenagers but I realized that I was not supposed to work with teenagers in the Christian church.  With my certification in prevention sciences I am able to work with the teenagers that I believe God wants me to work with.  I could have never guessed when I began this journey in drug and alcohol prevention over 6 years ago that would include teenagers in Lebanon as well. 

Josh Caballero

Monday, March 10, 2014

Some pictures from the first day

Here is a picture of downtown Beirut from the Seminary.

Josh and Ahmed

Tim, Jad, Muhammed, Ahmed, and Assad

Michael and Ochinga looking at pictures on Josh's phone

Well we just got in from supper. After breakfast at the dining facilities here at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary we came down and went to the devotional service. This year the Seminary has over sixty students from across the Arab World. We visited with a student from Morocco and ate breakfast with two students from Syria.

Then we went up to Dar el Awlad. We sat and had coffee in the office and visited with the staff. They now have 87 children who attend the school, most of them are from the neighborhood or are Syrian refugees.

Today was Teachers Day in Lebanon (we did not know that until after we had purchased the tickets,) so there was no school today. All the boys went home this weekend but were told to come back early today as there was going to be a surprise.

We went up to the 6th grade class (they were being punished and had to come to school today). They were surprised when we walked in. We told them we had heard all the way in America that they were not doing their studies so we had to check up on them!

When the boys playing outside saw us they all came running and hollering Mr. Josh, Mr. Tim and hugged us. They asked about each person that came on the trip last year and wanted to know if they were coming back this summer.

The orphanage had cooked pizza and French fries for lunch. All of us ate in the dining room. Needless to say it was not a quiet lunch as the 20+ boys that live in the orphanage were talking, none of them using their “quiet voice!” Pizza is a special treat for the boys and they enjoyed it. After lunch we played with the boys and visited with the staff at DeA. It was a good afternoon.

I felt the staff appreciated the fact that we wanted to come and be with them. No activities, no agenda other than being with them and the boys, enjoying their company, sitting, drinking coffee and visiting. There was no rigid formality about it, it was as if we were old friends that had not seen each other since last summer and finally had a chance to visit. One really felt, that in some small way Calvary has become a part of the orphanage.

Weather was beautiful today. Cloudy, rain this morning for a while then cool this afternoon. I am not sure Josh believed that Lebanon can be cool after having only been here in the hot humid summers.

We depart down to Beirut Baptist School at 7 in the morning. Pray that we will be ready and be used in whatever manner the Lord chooses.

Tim Smith

After 26 hours of leaving Waco, we finally made it to Lebanon.  Unlike my past two times Lebanon, this time we arrived at night with cool air and rain to greet us as we stepped outside the airport.  However, I’m always astonished by the people we meet on the journey here.  This time was no different.  At the airport in London, we met an elderly couple who were on their way to Lebanon after visiting family in Seattle.  We quickly became their assistants in the airport as Tim translated for them, we directed them to the right gate, and helped carry their bags up the stairs.  All of this was met with great gratitude and a multitude of shukrans.  As we were departing our plane we met another woman who was visiting Beirut.  As we discussed what we would be doing she told us of a former PhD student she helped who had done a lot of research on American Baptist in Lebanon recently.  We are pretty sure that the Melanie, the former student she was talking about, is the same student who interviewed Sheila’s mom a few years ago about their work in Lebanon.  Once we arrived at the airport a taxi driver was waiting for us.  He quickly drove us to the seminary taking back roads to avoid military checkpoints, ignoring driving lanes, and regularly using his horn as I have become familiar with in Lebanon.  Now that we’ve had much needed showers and a good night’s rest at the seminary I can’t wait to see what else God has in store for us on this trip.

                                                                                                                                                                Josh Caballero

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Well, bags are packed, passport and ticket are on the table by the door, and the car is filled with gas. The only thing left to do is to start the trip.
Josh Caballero and I are returning to Lebanon over this Spring Break, but we are not going to the orphanage where Calvary has served the last three summers. This trip, we will be working with the Beirut Baptist School. 
The Beirut Baptist School is a private school located in what is now a predominately Muslim neighborhood. It educates 1200 students K-12th grade, who are mostly Muslim. All students are required to take Bible classes. In most of the Middle East, parents want their children to attend a private school due to the superior quality of education compared to the public government schools.
Last year, one of BBS’s students had the highest score for the whole country of Lebanon on the International Baccalaureate Final. The school also had the highest percentage of students pass this same test which is given in all Lebanese schools as a final exit exam.
Josh will be presenting drug and alcohol education programs and I will be working with the school nurse.
This type of work will be a different challenge for us compared to our church’s previous and ongoing work with the children at the orphanage. There are a lot of details expected of us that we will not know till we get there.
 We want to thank all who have made this trip possible with your generous donations. We continue to ask that you support us in prayer, so that we can be open and flexible to however the Lord leads. We want to do what we can to be faithful Calvary Baptist Church ambassadors in service to our brothers and sisters in Christ in Lebanon.

Tim Smith