Sheep Stealing—Division is Multiplication

Right before we returned to Lebanon the ministry we were returning to split in half.

I have been part of three churches that have closed and two that have split in half, and in every situation it has caused a rippling current akin to a death and divorce all wrapped together. So when I heard that the ministry was splitting in half as I was preparing to return to the Middle East, a cold chill gathered at the base of my neck and I thought, “Not again.”

Instead, upon our return, I found something remarkably different than I ever could have suspected.

From the beginning of our ministry in Lebanon one of our core principles has always been that our outreach center is not a church. Our passion is to light a fire under the local church so that they would, for the first time, embrace evangelism and discipleship to those who are not from a Christian background and who are not Lebanese. We want the local churches to work together as a single organism in order to battle the forces that bare down against them. The challenge is that each church is in competition with one another, even within denominations, to be the best ministry in Lebanon and all are threatened by the competition of other local leaders.

So who is the person that we sent to bring unity to the disconnected body of believers? A singing carpenter.

Our worship leader, named Boutros went from parish to parish asking each pastor to come and preach to the refugees at our center. Everyone was happy to meet with a lowly carpenter, because he couldn’t possibly be a threat to anyone’s ministry. One by one the pastors came and saw what they didn’t think possible. There were hundreds of Christians freshly delivered from Islam praising and worshiping God. There was ministry being run by lay people of over a dozen different cultural backgrounds who shared only a passion to reach the lost.

When these pastors came to our staff and asked them what they could do to help they were all told the same thing: “Steal our sheep.”

Steal our sheep. They’re not ours to begin with; they are God’s sheep. So who are we to lay claim to them, and this ministry is really the job of the local church. Initially God used us to bring them into the kingdom. Then God began using local Lebanese leaders to disciple these believers. The churches went from looking down on Syrians to embracing them and are now able to boast about entire services filled from wall to wall with refugees from around the region.

Finally, something happened that we had been praying about for years.

A local church started its own refugee center in our neighborhood of Naba3. Those of our staff who were members at this church went fully equipped to start a new facility and continue the work of evangelism to the lost that we had begun.

This could have broken our ministry.

Half of our staff just quit and went to work at a center “in competition” with us just next door! It could have brought dissension. It may have even caused some to fall away and never return to worship. That has always been my experience and was my fear as soon as I heard what had happened. Instead when our leadership was approached by the church to let us know of their plans we were exuberant. The plan all along was to help the local church wake up.

Instead of dividing the ministries, now both centers are overflowing.

This has allowed us to enter into a season of discipleship. Those who remain at our location are ready to go deeper. Meetings that began with 50 people are now 10 meetings of 5 people each. Home ministry is increasing, and we are able to dig in and raise up the next wave of believers to bring people to Jesus. God is using this season to heal my heart as well. Instead of being heartbroken at the pain and loss of a church divided I can sit and saturate in the hope of glory shown through smooth transitions like this. God wants His family to work together and when they do the gates of hell cannot withstand it.

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Fresh Start for Arabic (by Annie)

Starting a New Habit

In planning goals for the year, several were written with the purpose of beginning them after our first visa trip. This gave me several months to focus on living life in Lebanon and being a mom. We just returned from our first visa trip for 2016, and I am taking the refreshment and rejuvenation and harnessing it into my word of the year: Discipline. I am not going to lose momentum, so even though I came back from London with an airplane cold I have started studying Arabic for 1 hour every day.

Learning the Language

I want to speak Arabic. When we attended MTI in 2014 we knew that we needed to have some serious internal motivators because there are so many ways to get away with not speaking Arabic here. Many missionaries who come never learn Arabic. However, we were called to come here and love the people as Jesus would. God knows my language and he knows their language, and I am going to learn the language. There are many challenges, and as I walk this language learning journey I hope to share some of them. However, the biggest challenge, and the one I am overcoming this week is ME.

This is not a goal that others are going to be pushing me to complete. If I don’t pay attention to the lesson or follow through, no one is going to be upset. Everyone in my life is encouraging and understanding and giving me grace. So it is up to me to be internally motivated. To remember the purpose of learning the heart language of these people.

I have to move from WANTING to learn Arabic to NEEDING to learn Arabic.

Baby Steps

The second battle within myself is that Louis is so far ahead of me. He is at a Conversational level and I am not even at a Survival level of Arabic yet. It is hard every time I study to realize how little I know. In spending time staring at how far ahead Louis is, I have not moved forward. It is time to Just Start. Learning a Language is much like Losing Weight. I know what to do, diet and exercise, so I have to do that, and then stay off the scale. Stop measuring and judging, just do the steps day by day.

Self Study

To start taking steps I took a critical look at my life for just the month of May and wrote a plan. I am going to study on my own for May. My main method of studying will be the Pimsleur Eastern Arabic course which I have been successfully following through with each day since returning from London.

The second aspect to the plan is that it is the 3rd thing to happen EVERY DAY.

  1. Wake up = (Get Dressed for the Day, Breakfast with Davy, Coffee)
  2. Memverse
  3. Arabic

This way there is no excuse, and it gets done every day.

Future Outlook

May

This blog is how I keep accountable for a lot of my goals, and to keep me reflective, so that I can see progress instead of beating myself up. Therefore, I will be adding Arabic to my weekly goals. We have our first interns coming tomorrow, and I will be completing the language assignments Louis gives them as well.

June

By June I would like to have 2 language helpers.

July

In July I will be calling our language teacher as well to see if she will have any openings once Davy starts school.

August/September

Review the plan and revamp based on Davy starting school in September.