Saturday, July 15, 2017

Reflections by Lindsey

We have been home for a few days now and we’re getting back to our daily routines. Elijah as readjusted to Central Time better than I have which I think is great! He sure is happy to have his taquitos, strawberry yogurt and Chef Boyardee raviolis now that he is back in the States!! The look on Elijah’s face when we got home to his dogs was priceless! He sure did miss body slamming them and feeding them his dinner from his highchair.

I am very glad that we decided to go as a family to Dar el Awlad. Yes, it was hard work. Yes, I was getting a little flustered with Elijah towards the end of the trip since he was extra clingy to me. Although we had a toddler to take care of which made the trip a little harder  I am extremely grateful that we were able to experience all of this as a family. The staff at DeA were very hospitable and were helpful with chasing and corralling my little one. Everyone showed him so much love and compassion. I love how their eyes filled with joy when playing with him or watching him chase the cats. They say it takes a village to raise a child and we couldn’t have survived the trip (with our sanity intact) without the help of our team members and everyone at DeA. Thank you.

The boys at DeA were amazing and I truly miss them. I was driving home today after taking Elijah to the park and couldn’t help but think of the boys and how I wish I could take them to the park with Eli. They would have loved it. I miss listening to their laughter and watching them play soccer.

The trip was truly amazing. It was wonderful to see how God is working at DeA through the staff and through the boys. I think of the boys and pray for them frequently. I wish Lebanon was closer so I could see them more! I can't wait until we can visit them again and see how much they have grown. I am so happy to be apart of Calvary's continued love and support for the children and staff at Dar el Awlad.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What a Trip!

We've been back in the States now for 1 day. There is so much to write about; I'm not sure where to begin.

The Shoes!!
First, I'm so encouraged by Calvary's partnership with Dar El Awlad. We're only 1 of 2 groups they receive all year. When the boys received their shoes on Tuesday, many of them have had the same donor family multiple times now. It's great that the boys have formed relationships with many of you. It's not just from the shoe donations, but from meeting you in person during summer trips. As I was walking around the room, I noticed that many of the boys were writing long notes to you because they knew you and were deeply grateful for your generosity. Thanks be to God for a church that has loved these boys for many, many years.

The River
This is the boys only trip to the river all year and of course they love it. Like most roads in Lebanon, the rode to the river was very windy and full of ups and downs. The river is in a beautiful valley with lush green trees and jagged rocks lining surrounding it. I was very impressed by the wonder of it all. Unfortunately, cooler weather had arrived and we were under lots of shade, both by the overcast sky and all the trees cover. Most of the boys had goosebumps and were shivering the entire time because the water was very cold and there was no relief from the sun. Nevertheless, they loved it all anyway. Many of them stayed in the water the majority of the day, splashing, jumping, and spinning as they took it all in. The older boys were allowed to go to another part of the river that had rocks they could jump off. They would jump off the rocks, swim back to the shore, and climb the rocks and jump again. They counted each time and made it a competition among themselves. Many of them, at the end of the day, had jumped off the rocks 25+ times!

The Valley
The Bekaa (sp?) valley was very different from the mountainside city of Beirut. The humidity was lower, but the sun's presence was greater. I didn't quite know what I was getting into when I left Beirut. I thought it would be green like Beirut, but more remote. It was more brown than green and although there were not as many buildings, especially tall ones, there were still enough buildings around that I wouldn't call it rural. We turned off from the main road and were immediately greeted by tents everywhere. Although not officially recognized as one, this was a refugee camp for Muslims that had fled Syria.

We made our way down a narrow dirt road and finally arrived at the house of Brent's uncle. It was another tent house like all the other, except this one was torn down and built again rather recently. The floor was cement and the outer structure was made of wood with thick plastic for the roof and walls. It surprisingly looked well put together although there was no furniture in any of the rooms. Instead on the floors were rugs and pillows. Brent's relatives and friends had lots to say to us, and we stayed several hours until a meal was prepared. They had welcomed us with a feast and the food kept coming. They had prepared for us hot tea when we first arrived, but for the meal we were first greeted with a rice pilaf with chicken thrown in. There was also chucked corn with chicken thrown in. A yogurt that was entirely too strong was offered as a beverage. Daniel, one of the adults from Dar El Awlad, and I laughed as another adult, Mark, also from Dar El Awlad, downed about 5 cups - this includes both of our cups. Also among these dishes was a leafy salad and of course pita bread. I didn't know what to do so I put everything in my pita and rolled it up like I was making a burrito. The customary way to eat this was to break off a piece of pita, scoop some food up with the piece, and repeat. After the main course, we were served coffee, then Pepsi, and finally watermelon. I understood that they wanted to greet us well, but man was my tummy full!

Final Goodbyes
There is so much more to say, but I'm forever grateful for the kindness and warmth showed to us by Dar El Awlad - between the adults and children alike. The children loved to play with Elijah and the adults went out of their way to make us feel comfortable in an entirely new place. We all got to say our final goodbyes and Dar El Awlad even gave each of the volunteers a token made of Lebanese cedar. They also presented a beautiful painting of a Lebanese church to us. It is signed by the Dar El Awlad Oasis children. These are the children that came as refugees from Syra. The painting has these words: "One family, one body, one church". I'm very grateful I could enter into the lives of these Christians half-way around the world! Especially knowing that Jesus and his disciples would not have walked too far from this special place.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Bekaa Valley is one of my favorite places we went to visit in Lebanon. I went there knowing that we would be meeting and having fellowship with Syrian refugees, but unsure of what it would be like to see their customs and ways of living. 
 Upon arrival we were greeted with smiles, hand shakes and lots of kisses.  
I truly enjoyed the time we spent with the ladies there. With the help of a young lady named Kassar and her translating, we were able to share so much about ourselves and to know more about them. The time there seemed to fly by. They prepared a delicious meal for us including chicken and rice with cashews, bread, salad, and yogurt. We weren't in a house, we weren't even sitting in chairs,we were in in a tent on the floor; but these ladies treated me with more compassion and generous hospitality than I ever have had in my life. The wooden floor didn't matter, no AC didnt matter. All the things they didnt have, doesnt matter. They all extended love and kindness and compassion in such a way that is the greatest I've ever experienced in my life. 
Hebrews 13:1-2 1. Let brotherly love continue. 2. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.
Little did I know, these angels were the ones entertaining me.

Jasmine Padgett

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Thoughts under a shade tree..

It is a nice and cool day today in Lebanon. Right now I am sitting under the shade tree listening to the sounds of excited children playing soccer and laughter. It is a beautiful and joyous sound. 

Yesterday we took the boys to the river up in the mountains. The water is freezing since the snow up the mountains melt and feed the river. Taking the boys there seems like such a simple thing to do. But it's so much more than that. This is the only time all year they get to come here. In this place the boys get to be boys. They get to forget their worries and what they have been through in such a short amount of time. They laugh and splash, jump off the cliff and teach the younger boys to swim. It was very life giving to watch the boys play. Without the funds raised to support this trip and these boys at DeA that wouldn't have been possible. Calvary paid for the bus to get the kids there and the entrance fee. 

Earlier this week we handed out the shoes that Calvary members provided the kids. When we went to the boys units at night to visit, they were eager to show us their new shoes and the picture of those who 'sponsored' them. They would show us the picture and ask if we knew who gave them their new shoes. I find it so meaningful that the kids don't just care about receiving a gift. They really want to know the people that gave these gifts. 

Tonight we head out to the Beqaa to visit with family of a DeA staff member. We have the opportunity to see how some of the refugees live. They have fled their homes in Syria and have seeked refuge here in Lebanon. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Hello there, My current situation: I am sitting on the couch in the "tree house" apartment. My fan is on and all the windows are open refreshing me with a constant breeze. It is a little cooler today and it feels nice. I am listening to the buzz of the fan. I can hear the hammering and sawing on the new apartments being built up the hill. I'm listening to the birds and the bugs in the trees. This is such a beautiful place and the people here at dar alwad are so incredibly hospitable and compassionate it's overwhelming. We leave in 3 days and my heart aches to stay a while longer. Just the thought of leaving has brought tears to my eyes. I want so much more time to spend with these boys. I want to show them all the love I possibly can in such short time. I want to give of myself all that I am able. I pray to God that it is in my favor for this to be my first trip but certainly not my last. I don't know if I can finish the days of my life having only been here once and for only a week. The days here are quite full and busy, but each moment that I stop to breath and look around........The joy floods my heart and the tears fill my eyes again. Coming to this place has been one of the greatest miracles in my life and I'm abundantly grateful that God saw fit for me to receive this miracle. My life and my eyes have been opened to more glory because of Lebanon. Although, I must be live in honesty and say there is 1 thing I hate! Yes, I know most people probably wouldn't put that in a blog post for so many others to see, but I feel like I must.. SOMETHING I ABSOLUTELY HATE ABOUT LEBANON............ I have searched and searched and continued to search my phone and camera to find a photo that actually reflected the beauty I am seeing here! Not 1 single picture! At first I thought " why would God create a city too beautiful to be photographed!?!?!??", But I guess it is so people will keep coming back! 😁😁😁😁😁 Well, that could be a pretty good reason, and I think I am alright with that. I think I love the view of the city most at night. All of the lights sparkling across the hills and mountains is so stunning, and they seem to last for miles and miles. Even though this trip will end, I will enjoy every second will all the happiness and love I can endure; and even though I live many miles away, a part of Dar Awlad, Monsourieh, Lebanon will forever live close in my heart. Jasmine Padgett

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Day 2 of Bible Club in photos

Today was a big day. We had our usual Chapel, then helped the kids as they worked on in their workbooks, then we had a VBS program. But let's go back to the school workbooks and boys and summertime! It does not mix. 
There was a lot of, "this is too hard" or "I don't understand it" or "you do the first one for me to show me how to do it."
I had some Syrian refugee boys at the table I was working with. They may have missed some years of education but they were trying hard to work on their math and English. They wanted me to check their work to make sure it was correct before they went on to the next problem. It was encouraging but made one wonder how much their country has lost in terms of education of the children and how will it recover those lost years. 
After lunch we have a rest period. I know the rest period is designed for the boys but the team have learned to appreciate it.
Then it was play time. A lively soccer game ensued. Nathan showed off his fancy footwork and impressed the boys with how tough he is. 
At 4:30 when the boys went up to their apartments, we were invited down for refreshments at the house of the Lebanese director of Dar el Awlad. Every year they have invited us down to say thanks for coming and supporting them.
After supper we set up to distribute the shoes and gifts for the staff that you so generously have given.
The boys have been asking about new shoes since we arrived. However, a particularly nasty rumor was being whispered that the suitcases were filled with more workbooks and school supplies!! Needless to say, this caused a bit of visible anxiety and I am sure anxiety that was not so visible. 
All was put to rest when they walked into the chapel and saw the bags of shoes. They were all smiles as they received the bags and began to open them. Even before they pulled the shoes out of the bags, they searched for the letters you sent and wanted to see your pictures. Wanted to see who thought enough of them to send shoes and presents.
The first couple of years it was frenetic. The boys could not believe they were getting anything. This year I seem to notice a calmness. A sense that, yes, this is the team from Calvary. This is how they show they love us. It is as if they can depend on Calvary to show our love and support in this way. 
The staff were also appreciative for the gifts, but also something more. Over and over again I heard, "Thank you for your support and encouragement."
This trip, has highlighted how much Calvary returning year after year means to, and encourages the staff. 
The boys graduate from high school and move on, or drop out, or simply don't return but the staff are here serving year after year. It means a lot to the staff that a church at 18th and Bosque; called Calvary Baptist Church, remembers them, prays for them and sends representatives to come love the boys and courage the staff.
Not all of you can physically make the trip, but Calvary, your presence is very much here and very much appreciated. 

Tim Smith