We quickly threw together curriculum for Pre-Arrival, Orientation, and Continued Teaching. It has been an immediate success and has solved a dozen issues with our foreigners, their ministry, and harmony with national staff. It has been a tremendous blessing to us as well. We thrive and grow by being able to disciple men and women to share the gospel. It has been a very slow process for us to grow as quickly as we would like for ourselves at the center, because of the huge language barrier. This has been an amazing experience to make disciples who can affect change in peoples’ lives at the center in a short term context.
A “Normal” Day At The Center
This is the view from the roof of our ministry center. Many of you been wanting to know about what an average day looks like for me as we do ministry here in Lebanon. Three days a weeks we spend in formal language training, Sunday is church, and every other day is a new and unpredictable experience. I have had trouble answering this question until now because of the extreme variation from one day to the next, but over the course of enough time certain patterns have begun to emerge.
1st Public Transportation: I leave home and walk to the main street to wait from 10 seconds to 30 minutes for either a bus, mini-bus (van), taxi, or serviice (cheap taxi) to come by and take me to our refugee center for between $1 and $6.66 depending on 10 different variables and situations. I get dropped off on the side of the 5 lane highway and must run across to get into our slum called Nabaa. 2nd Discovering the Plan: When I walk through the gates of our Hope of the Nations Center I discover either 50 things I expected happening simultaneously or 1,000 things I didn’t expect. I had a meeting scheduled last week with someone living in the center and walked in to discover that the shared men’s bedroom had been turned into an OBGYN (Embarrassingly I only discovered this after opening the door) 3rd Riding the Wave of Chaos: After finding out what the day will hold. I get the amazing opportunity to share the gospel with refugees in my limited Arabic, Disciple the men living at the center and the high school boys who spend all day there, and meet with our interns about all the new challenges they are facing. 4th Evening Worship: We have a dozen different meetings during the week, but four days a week we have worship services for Kurds, Armenians, and two big combined services where 200 people and 100 kids come to worship at the same time as the evening call to prayer is pumped through the speakers of the local Mosque. Out of respect we crank our speakers even louder and flood the neighborhood with worship music. Finally, I take public transportation back to our apartment for a late dinner and to begin day 2: e-mails.
High School Ministry
It turns out I like high schoolers after all. After spending my seminary internship as a youth director and running two-dozen retreats for high school students, I was confident that it was just a stepping stone to a bigger role in ministry. So I moved my entire family across the world only to discover that youth weren’t a stepping stone they were the destination. The adult men are amazing, but the ones who truly have a fiery passion for spending time in the word and a desire to be discipled are the young men. I want to share with you about my friend Rizan. He and his family are Kurdish Syrians who have been living in Lebanon for two years. He has lost so much time in school because of the war that he is three years behind in school, so he decided to instead spend all day every day at the Center. He has been reading through the Bible in a year and I asked him to bring me any question he has. So every time I see him we get to stumble through broken Arabic and broken English to answer his deep theological concerns. The church he attends is now sponsoring him to attend the local seminary since he is too ashamed to go to school. Please be praying for Rizan as he embarks on this exciting new part of his life and I continue discipling him through this process.
As some of you know we became the Coordinators for Foreign Teams and Visitors in Lebanon. The plan for foreigners visiting Lebanon to do ministry at our center before we came has been: When they arrive at 1:00 AM from the airport we drop them off in our lovely slum named Nabaa where no one speaks English and let them fend for themselves until they need a ride back to the airport. For some reason people have not enjoyed this experience so far. With interns already coming before we arrived, we felt a clear call from God to care for and disciple these short term staff. So far we have had a young man named Andres from Mexico who came for a month and we still have a young woman here named Annie who will be with us until December.
There is a standard 6 month breakthrough that missionaries experience where they start moving from surviving to thriving. The feeling of drowning begins to turn into a felling swimming as we persevere through cultural and language barriers. Davey struggled a lot initially not just because of sickness. When we left America he had an extremely high English comprehension and then being immersed in Arabic caused him extreme frustration because he couldn’t understand anyone.
We have been working diligently to teach him Arabic greetings and phrases. This not only has brought him a lot of joy but is an amazing testimony to every Arab that we see who understand how committed we are to sharing about Jesus that we would teach our child their language. Because many Lebanese speak conversational English, it is common for English speaking missionaries to not learn Arabic. Davey is an amazing avenue for us to share that just as Jesus came and learned our language we have come to immerse ourselves in their culture in order to share the salvation of Jesus in Lebanon.