Saturday, July 16, 2016

Trip Reflections from Kelly and Tim

I have been back on US soil for almost 6 days now - mostly readjusting to this time zone and taking care of a few things that were left neglected while I was away. All the while, my heart has been full and my mind has wandered on the sights, sounds, and people I left in Lebanon just 6 short days ago.

People have asked how my trip was and I (still) can not put into words all of it - I tend to answer with "Amazing; Just amazing." I know that will not suffice for them, and to be honest it was so much more of that for me as well.

The food was so fresh. The trend here is to eat fresh and 'whole' to be healthy, while in Lebanon it's just a way of life. The fruit stands above the rest - so fresh, so juicy, so full of flavor! The ice cream would be a close second!

My eyes were opened to a completely new culture. I realized how little I know about the things going on in the Middle East, and what life actually looks like there. I still don't fully understand it, but my heart is definitely more open and filled with compassion for people there.

Religion is more than a choice there. Religion is a way of life. And a conversion from your faith is often a removal from your family and heritage. While Lebanon has a Christian influence on their country - Muslims, Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Christians, and more all call this place home. I fully felt the weight of what it means to "Coexist" as I stood in the midst of the city and looked at all of these churches on every city block. I felt even more the need for the gospel to continue to be spread - and the weight of what that actually means.

Above all, the faces of the boys at Dar El Awlad have changed me. They were pictures on a Facebook page to me before I left. Then they became boys with a story as I spent the first few days there. Now they have a place in my heart! Everything from Syrian refugees, boys who have seen death and war, motherless, fatherless, disabled, and more. But they are boys - filled with life, energy, joy, and hope. And thanks to the wonderful people working with Kids Alive International, they are filled with a hope in Jesus. It was precious to listen to them recite verses that they knew, and while coloring a picture of the word 'shine' they would sing hymns and songs they knew from heart.

There is so much more that I could say, and so many more words to describe how my heart has been changed. I will remember those smiling faces and thank God for the work He is doing in Lebanon, and in my life.

Thank you to all of you who prayed for us, and followed along as we served. Our God is great and is continuing to do mighty things in every village, nation, and tongue.

Eternally Grateful, and Faithfully His.



Vignettes of Lebanon Mission Trip 2016
Much was seen and done on this trip. How do you distill down the sights, sounds, hugs, laughter, and humidity of the trip to Lebanon? You can’t capture it all, but you try. Snapshots help.
The team experiencing a 15 hour flight….being greeted by friends at the airport….seeing the excitement as the day light hours fade and the Muslims who have fasted all day can finally eat….pulling into Dar el Awlad, our home away from home….seeing the parking lot filled with tables and Muslim Syrian refugees eating the food churches have prepared for them to break their fast….showing them they are loved….much longed for sleep….the team learning that breakfast can be pita bread, olives, cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, zartaar and olive oil….worshiping in a foreign language….not needing the instant translation headphones to feel at one with fellow believers…sightseeing….entering a mosque that  was built in the 1100’s by the Crusaders as a church….greeting boys we remember from previous trips….morning devotionals….trying to get boys to do schoolwork in the summer….the number of times the boys have to get a drink or use the bathroom when the schoolwork is on the table….eyes watching the clock as it ticks oh, so slowly towards 10:30 and break time….how rapidly the exhaustion brought on by schoolwork dissipates at break time….chapel service and the excitement to learn a new song and movements….wanting to sing the “Banana song”….lunch and a much needed rest period….playing with the boys….marveling at the boys footwork in soccer….supper….visiting with the boys in their apartments….excitement as we board the buses to the river….realizing that some of the boys must be profoundly deaf as they do not seem to hear the driver’s instructions to keep heads and hands inside the bus windows…..watching the bravado to jump off the rock into the river reded with each step that  leads them higher….complaining the river is too cold then getting right back in….hungry boys devouring lunch….tired boys passing out on the ride from the river….supper….visiting the boys in their apartments….welcomed sleep….devotionals….school work….chapel….playing….visiting…being invited to a staff member’s apartment for dessert….the bus ride over the mountains to a farm….some of the same kids are deaf this trip as well….the team being quiet looking at the mountains that define the Syrian border….some of the boys are quiet too….thoughts of home?....the excitement of feeding a cow….walking along the paths….some walking off the paths….heading home and mechanical trouble….a boy’s relative comes, for free, on a holiday, to get us going again….tired boys….devotional….school work…chapel….playing….being taken out for supper as a way of saying thanks….some of the team discovering that mulberry ice cream is good….and so is rose ice cream….sightseeing and shopping….sitting with the cooks and housemothers drinking coffee….laughing and joking….feeling more like family than guests….talking with the Director….ideas for next year’s Mission trip….being asked if we would be resources for other teams wanting to come, willing to answer their questions….hearing him say that some of the seeds planted at Dar el Awlad don’t germinate until after the boys leave there.

As we boarded the plane to leave, one could not help but ptay  that somehow, sometime the Lord will bring to fruition the small seeds we left behind, and that Calvary will send other teams forward to spread more seeds.


Friday, July 8, 2016

Be Strong and Courageous

It's Friday and today was all about courage. Jason and Hannah shared in bible study that God calls us to be courageous. Courage could also be described as bravery, and boldness. And God gives us the courage through His promise that He will never leave us, nor forsake us. And our God is faithful!

Hannah started our morning off with the devotional on the fruits of the spirit. That act demanded great courage for a girl of nine years old.

The boys worked hard on their studies this morning and then enjoyed a great bible study from both Jason and Hannah.

The boys got up and sang loudly and danced at some worship songs. It takes great courage to step out, dance and sing at the top of your lungs. One young boy that doesn't speak English very well watched and mimicked every move I made, and even started singing along - "I have decided to follow Jesus...".

In the afternoon we decided to play some games with the kids. All the way from the US we brought Pie Face and Bean Boozled. Pie Face is a game of chance where you could, quite possibly, receive a handful of whipped cream to your face.

Bean Boozled is a game involving Jelly Beans that are the same color, and while one might taste good, the other could be some disgusting flavor. (I.e. Tutti-Fruiti and Stinky Socks are the same pink hue.) The boys took turns on each of these games, risking a nasty flavored jelly bean or a face full of whipped cream on each turn. As silly as these games were, many boys showed bravery with each click of the handle or as they carefully selected each jelly bean.

This evening was complete with a joyous evening out with our host families. We ate at a gorgeous Lebanese restaurant in the heart of Beruit. There was not one food I was familiar with, and it took boldness to try so many new dishes. I am thankful that the food here in Lebanon is both fresh, and delicious.

Boldness. Bravery. Courage. These terms often feel more appropriate in a Marvel movie about superheroes than it does in our everyday life. We all want to be brave. We want to come to the rescue and save the day! I was made to realize today that courage is more in the little things than it is in the movies. Life demands us to be courageous - to stand up to the bully, to try something new, to love the person who hurts you, to say something to a loved one that they don't want to hear, to stand up in front of others, to share about Jesus to another, to step foot on the plane and "Go!". God tells us, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)

My trip started off with great fear and anxiety. I am ending my trip with the personal experience and a better understanding of courage.

As today was our last full day with the boys. Many of the boys came to the same realization today as they begged and pleaded for us to stay longer. We all shared a few moments in denial that they time has finally come to soon let. To me, that is verification that they feel loved. And that is confirmation of our team's success, and of the unfailing, faithful promise of God.

Go, and be strong and courageous.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Farm Day Outing

Today we went on another field trip.  This time we went to a dairy farm in the Bakaa Valley.  The Bakaa Valley is to the East of Beirut.  The farm had some animals and vineyards and a beautiful walk around a lake.  The boys had plenty of space and run (and run, and run!) and get their energy out.  We had a picnic lunch when we arrived and then walked through the farm.  We saw cows, horses, deer, goats, sheep, peacocks, and birds.
The boys enjoyed the activity and love anything outdoors (though they did get hot toward the end!).  As we drove east from Beirut and topped the hill toward the valley I heard them all begin shouting about seeing Syria.  You can see the mountain range from the Bakaa Valley and Syria is just on the other side of the mountains.  Sadly, many of them know about the horrible struggles in Syria first hand.  I just know it from the news but many of these boys have fled Syria and even still have family there.  It was eye opening to hear them talk about Syria and continue to point to the mountains.  All I could do was pray for God’s intervention and peace.  One thing I always take away from here when I come are faces and stories with current world struggles.  I hear about Syrian refugees from the comfort of my home in America but here I am thrust out of my comfort zone physically and emotionally when I see their sweet faces and learn of their stories and struggles first hand.  I need to hear and know these things and be reminded of them often!
Otherwise, the bus ride was as you can imagine it would be with a bunch of energetic boys!  They all loved it and so did I!

Here is my back of the bus buddy!

When you top the hill from Beirut this is the view down into the Bakaa Valley.  The far mountains are what the boys were referencing when they were talking about Syria.
 The kids got to pet this horse and the rider even had the horse run around for the kids to see.

 Beautiful vineyards provided picturesque views.
 A gorgeous tree lined walk.

 When it began to get hot some of the boys came up with creative ways to cool off.  I like this idea in particular.

 As we were driving back the bus broke down.  So, no need to worry, as the bus situation was being worked out all the boys were treated to ice cream!  They loved it!  The bus ended up making it back a bit later than the rest of us and we were thankful for that.

A note from Hannah on today:
Today was a good day.  I was so close to Syria for the first time.  It made me feel nervous but then I felt better.  The bus ride was loud and chaotic but sweet also.  I like playing with the boys a lot.  I was scared to know that some of the boys were staying behind when the bus broke down.  I was worried and scared for them.  Then I felt great when I knew they got back safely.  We had an awesome dinner tonight with the Bouchers who are a great family.  Today I was asked if I would like to come back to Lebanon and I said “YES!”


We gave the boys their shoes on Wednesday and like in previous years the experience did not disappoint.  To say they were delighted was an understatement!  They receive the shoes and gifts with such joy and gratitude.  It truly is like Christmas morning.  They were so thankful to Calvary and the individual families who bought the shoes for them.

 Each boy had his own bag with his name on it.  They loved coming up when their name was called to receive their bags.
 The ladies each received a bag with makeup products.  I think they enjoyed them as well!

 This particular boy is still learning English so Hannah got to read his note to him.  It was a special moment for me as a mom to see Hannah let the boys enjoy these gifts and help them read their sweet notes.

This has become a tradition for us to bring shoes to the boys.  It is certainly a practical gift that we can give but it has become so much more.  The families at Calvary have embraced the boys and even though most of them have never been to Lebanon with us they gladly join us in this way.  This was such a sweet day for all involved.

- Jennifer

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Rockin River Outing

First, I (Jason) want to thank God for the chance to be with the boys and all who live and work here at Dar el Awlad today.  I had apparently torn a muscle yesterday trying to be a 41- year- old man playing soccer with a bunch of young athletic boys. When I woke up I was unable to get out of bed. Tim and Dr. John (an adopted team member who is here spending time with his sponsored boys) provided excellent medical care and got me to a point where I could travel with the boys to the river and be there with them.

Today we started out with a devotional by Kelly, who explained the meaning of the colors of the balls we brought from Baylor. She hit on key aspects of the gospel with the boys.

Then we loaded up the vans for a day at the River.  Many of the kids waded into the icy-cold water. They screamed both with sounds of joy and shock as they would submerge themselves and splash one another. The group also found their way to the upper river areas for a day of testing their courage as the stood looking down a 20 foot drop into the waters. Abboud probably jumped off the rock 19 times. Even Hannah got into it asking some fretting boys to move out of her way while she ran and launched herself off the cliff at least 6 times.





This was a day filled with fun, fellowship, and joy. The boys delighted in the simple pleasure of playing with one another and of enjoying themselves in a beautiful part of God’s creation. Today, I witness to God’s new creation life at Dar el Awlad. I see it most in the deep and abiding love of those who live here and devote their lives to care for these boys year around. These boys who all have had difficult lives are surrounded with the love of God by all who work here. Most of all the boys are told about the hope God has for us through Jesus Christ.  Both of these have been themes our group has been able to echo with our time of devotions and Bible study with the boys.