This week I was standing on a basketball court with boys and girls running a relay race. It was a game I had made many times. I call it relay mania and it’s a game I have probably played 50 times with kids at the summer camp I worked at for four years. I stood there on this basketball court in Lebanon and tears flowed from my eyes. You see I was seeing what I already had come to believe through years of college, seminary and graduate school for social work; human beings deep down are the same. The boys here this week have put their hands under their armpits making noise just like I have seen 10,000 kids in America do. They love sports and making rubber band bracelets. They fight with their siblings and sometimes they don’t listen to their house mothers or teachers. They have great joy and they have great sadness. They are human. They are made in the very image of God. Just like you and me.
During Bible study on Monday, Mary Alice asked the kids to share a time where they have felt protected by God. One little girl raised her hand and said she felt protected when she crossed the border between Syria and Lebanon and her family was being shot at. MA choked back tears as she continued and I sat there with a sweet boy in my lap (at Dar El Awlad there is most likely a child in your lap) in tears as well. My sweet friend wiped the tears from my eyes and asked why I was crying. The boys here have a deep compassion for each other and for anyone they meet. They come from situations much like some children in our own church; divorce, death of a parent and numerous other situations. You can see sadness in their eyes, but you can see deep joy too.
Tonight as we went around to each of the three residential units to say good bye my sweet friend leapt into my arms. “I love you, Mister,” he said. He buried his face in my shoulder and cried. Again, I saw Mary Alice tearing up across the room and I choked back tears so I wouldn’t make the situation worse. “I love you too, buddy,” I said. And I do. I will be praying for him and each of the boys we have formed and continued relationships with this week and I hope you will too. Good night from Lebanon for the last time in 2015. We all hope to write from here again soon.