International Teams Coordinator à Director
Explaining Louis’ job as International Teams Coordinator is a big task, so this post is longer than our usual posts. In fact, after three years of expanding and deepening this job, it was recently decided in a meeting that Louis does the equivalent of 4 jobs and must be promoted in order to have a staff member in charge of each job with Louis over and working with all 4 of them. We are still working on the Job Title for this new venture because International Teams Director doesn’t exactly express the scope of his job.
When we arrived in Lebanon to be missionaries we had already had a cancelled plane, sat in airports for 15 extra hours (beyond the time we knew we would be living in the airports), missed an entire day at a hotel we had prepayed for, and two days later our son was in the hospital. It was not a good beginning.
As those first days became weeks and then months we were searching for hope, purpose, and vision. It seemed to Annie that God had brought us here to die, but I heard clearly from God that He did not bring my son here to die.
To determine where we might fit in, Louis began asking the few staff we had at the time what they did day to day. He was looking for needs they may have or people groups that may not be covered yet. Very soon he found both. The first need we discovered was the people who visit the center. At the time, back in May 2014, people who visited were usually dropped off at the center around 1 in the morning with no explanation (since the visitors spoke English and the staff all spoke Arabic) and then expected to get a taxi to get back to the airport. That was the extent of the staff’s involvement with the visitors.
Needless to say, it was not going well.
People were leaving angry, confused, and upset. The team here wanted all Westerners to be turned away and did not see the purpose of people coming at all. Where others may have seen this as hopeless, we saw this as the perfect place for us to plug in.
You see, we have been in this position countless times before. Working in education and churches means that we are constantly faced with people who do not understand why youth, children, poor people, uneducated, you name it need or deserve our time or energy.
So this was something we were well prepared for.
We saw the vision.
Bringing people together from different cultures was already happening on our staff as it grew to 15 people, all from completely different and in many cases opposing backgrounds. We knew that Jesus wants us a taste of Heaven here on earth, and in Heaven we will all be together. So, Louis and I began to take charge of people who were coming to visit.
In the beginning this meant downloading as much information as we possibly could from what was in our own heads and having debrief sessions every day for visitors to share all the negative pieces of their day.
It was hard, but it was worth it because we knew the value of what we were doing even when no one else around, no one on our staff, wanted us to be doing what we were doing.
It was a fight, but it was worth it.
In the beginning we were just scrambling, and it was chaos and we were trying something new every time someone came and creating forms and curriculum and constantly talking about ideas and ways to improve the experiences of visitors and the staff.
We accomplished so much in the first three years here because our focus was relational. The tasks we accomplished are wonderful in looking back, but at the time we were just working from crisis to crisis and thinking only about people.
Where Are We Now – Louis’ 4 Jobs
Truly this was a joint venture between Louis and I (Annie). Once we had guest houses and started getting visitors into those guest houses, I sat for about 40 hours per week learning everything I could about the processes and documents hotels use to reserve rooms and created my own spreadsheets, handouts, and emails to gather the necessary information from incoming visitors, confirm a reserved bed, inform all the staff involved in housing, and solving problems that inevitably came up with timing, flights, date changes, etc. It was not in my original skill set, but now I am feeling pretty professional at it. I set it all up so that anyone could come in and do it without needing to learn a lot. I created worksheets explaining the spreadsheet for bookings, worksheets explaining what visitors need before and during their stay.
Louis has become the person to pick up visitors from the airport, take them to the guest house, give them an orientation (explain about not flushing toilet paper and how the electricity works), often takes them to get groceries the first time, and takes them back to the airport at the end of their stay. He is also the main person to book people to the guest houses, communicate with the people who clean the guest houses, the other tenants, and he is the main mediator.
If you are overwhelmed reading, yes, it is a lot of work. It is a full time job, and it is only one fourth of the work we do (let alone having a family and getting involved at our church).
The second month we were here, just as we were starting to move again after Davy’s hospitalization and several week recovery, we discovered that there were two interns coming to Lebanon. There was no program for interns, and I already explained about how visitors were just dropped off at the center. This time there was one problem, there was a young woman coming. So far the only visitors had been male. Louis and I took a stand for this incoming intern and took over the internship program. If taking over a program that doesn’t exist sounds funny, please laugh, someone has to. We took Engaging Islam and pulled out the essentials and spent time just pouring into Annie Ostrander. We knew it wouldn’t be enough, and we knew that she would not have a great time, and we were just throwing everything we could at her and sending her off to do ministry when we didn’t even know what to join at the time. And she was phenomenal! God knew what He was doing because our weaknesses were made perfect by God’s provision in Annie’s life. In fact, Annie is now on our staff and you can read her own blog about her life in Lebanon HERE.
Since then we have created a much more accessible, interactive, focused, relational internship program for one month Externships and 3 to 12 month Internships. Louis teaches in the mornings for the first two weeks and sets them up with a full exposure to our ministry and by the end of their time they are shadowing or apprenticing with one of our directors.
Last summer alone we had 8 interns! 2 of those are joining our staff this coming year!
The main purpose of the ministry is to prepare interns to go on to do their own personal ministry anywhere in the world. If you or someone you know are interested in the internship program here with us during a free month to year CLICK HERE. Annie is in the picture above with one of our recent interns from Hong Kong.
Vision Trip Director
Pictured above are a combination of 2 teams and an intern who we were in charge of housing, planning ministry events, and we have kept one of these men on as an intern past his vision trip time.
Vision trips are the hardest work for us, but we also have a huge vision for them. There is no missionary we know who goes into full time ministry without a short term experience that changed their heart. When people come to see what we are doing here it can make the staff and people attending services and events feel like they are living in a fish bowl. However, it can change the hearts of these visitors. They can see that refugees are people just like them, or that God has equipped them with skills and can use them cross culturally. God uses short term trips to connect the ministry with the world, with donors, with prayer, and with potential interns and staff.
While the Middle East would much rather live as separately as possible from differing culture groups, that is not God’s vision, and Vision Trips are a key component of bringing God’s Will to fruition. Vision Trip visitors often take more work because they are only here for 1 to 10 days. This means they want to make the most of every minute. In the beginning we were able to shift our own Sabbath around these visitors because there were fewer of them. However, if we allowed it there could literally be a visitor every day of the year. So, we have set apart a Sabbath that we guard each week with few exceptions or changes, and have also adjusted dates we allow visitors. This is also for their own protection. August is a miserable time to visit because there is so much heat and humidity and no air conditioning. Easter and Christmas are also terrible times to visit because the Lebanese have family holidays and visitors are not easily welcomed into those and also the center is usually closed down anyway during that time. So, with my administration and calendar skills, and Louis’ fantastic people skills, we are able to give people a great exposure trip which makes them want to join us as senders and partners and part of the team.
Currently at Horizons Beirut we have been able to bring together people who already have giftings to work together and have seen these teams be successful in sharing the gospel and raising up new leaders in each department. One of the things we would like to grow in is being able to train new leaders in areas that they are gifted in, but need growth and new skills. We have been doing this through an apprenticeship process. They follow other leaders and duplicate the ministries. We would like to strengthen this by developing trainings for cross cultural work within our team, region, and throughout the Middle East.
In addition to the Engaging Islam and Engage courses that Louis uses to train visitors, interns, and new staff, he has developed his own trainings to target basic needs of new missionaries to the field especially in the area of learning how to do cross cultural ministry.
Here is a list of trainings Louis has developed:
-Storying the Gospel
-Having Spiritual Conversations
-Gender in the Middle East
-Lebanese Cultural Diversity
-Personal Conflict in the Middle East
-Preparing a Personal Testimony
-Time and Creating a Personal Schedule
-Cultural Values Adjustment
-Missiology to the Muslim World
-Authority in the Middle East
-Hebrew vs. Greek Culture
Having standardized trainings really helps establish a framework and vision for people to grow from. We are helping to bring structure and reflection to ministry activities in a culture that does not usually reflect. Reflecting is a major component of Western minds, so the Westerners who Louis is training highly value these times.
Here is the tricky part of our job. Louis and I have a strong belief that as often as possible the national staff should fill every role, position, and authority. We are here to see what we can add to the ministry, and to work ourselves out of a job. While we believe that the greater Christian community in the world is called to be continually cross cultural, cross socioeconomical, etc., we also know that it would be best if Lebanese were helping the refugees, planning the trips, doing the trainings, etc. So our ultimate goal is to work ourselves out of a job as often as possible. At the same time, being overseas we have realized the real need for Member Care in our own culture group. Someone to hear us and understand us because they speak English, our own heart language, are from the West and can hear the cultural issues we are having as well as help us process, work through conflict, and grow in relationship with Christ and others around us.
Louis is now responsible for Member Care, conflict resolution, vision casting, and discipleship of our long term Western Staff.
Simultaneously to taking on being the authority over all of the Western staff, Louis must increase his authority within the national staff. Because he is in charge of staff it means that he is taking over responsibilities once held by the Lebanese and Syrian directors. This is a sensitive part of this transition and we appreciate your prayers as we walk this line.