Last night (Wednesday a few from our team attended a traditional Ramadan evening meal with Brent, our Dar El Awlad host, and his extended family. Brent's relatives are in Lebanon as Syrian refugees. They were driven from Syria into the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon by military forces. They lost fathers, husbands and sons to the war. They lost their homes and life as they knew it, fled with a few sheep and other possessions, and settled into "camps" to hope for better days when they might return to their homes in Syria. (Currently, Syrian refugees comprise approximately 25% of Lebanon's total population. This number is expected to grow significantly by the end of 2015.)
Despite their personal suffering and economic hardship, the family honored us as their guests with warm greetings and an outpouring of generosity. In traditional Ramadan fashion, the family had fasted all day. When we arrived shortly before sunset, final preparation for the evening meal was being completed, the men were reading from the Koran, and all were anxious for sunset to occur. After the sun had set, Brent and I were invited into the large salon with the other men, seated on cushions lining the walls and facing the banquet of bread, rice, goat meat, salad and yogurt drink. After the prayers were said, we knelt on the floor to eat by dipping our bread into the rice and goat meat platters. When we had enough, we sat back on the cushions and other men came into the salon to eat as we had done. We continued to enjoy the company of the family patriarchs, drink coffee and hot tea. The women and children ate separately from the men but in a similar fashion.
In our after dinner visiting, we sat comfortably in their humble rented homes and other immaculate make-shift structures. And, the family continued to serve us the best of their hot tea and cold juice. Despite the easy laughter, smiles, beautiful children and outpouring of hospitality, there was no escape from the reality of war. There was no escape from the recent death of a mother's son. There was no escape from the tremor of the bomb blast in nearby Syria. Conversation naturally turned to life before the war, beautiful homes, fields and orchards lost, hiding for weeks in underground dugouts, and fleeing to Lebanon. Finally, the lingering question was asked, "When will this end?"
As we began to leave for our drive back to Beirut, we attempted to thank our hosts for their wonderful hospitality. They, in turn, expressed their sincere gratitude for our visit. They assured us that we had honored them by simply visiting them in their homes. They gave us the best of what they had. We brought them nothing in return.
Some on our team are finishing their fourth trip to Lebanon. Each year we have carefully planned and prepared to serve others in Christ's likeness in Lebanon. Remarkably, God has been faithful to meet our needs and teach us through the lives of others. In one of our team's morning devotionals this week, we discussed the concept of "generosity"...how we might practice it and where we might find it. Wednesday night, God faithfully taught us again. He taught us generosity through the lives of those we should serve.