Building a Job Description From Scratch: The Humor of Missionary Life

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.

The History

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

Housing Director

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).

Intern Director

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.

Curriculum Development

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:

-Youth Discipleship

-Storying the Gospel

-Having Spiritual Conversations

-Gender in the Middle East

-Lebanese Cultural Diversity

-Teaching Theology

-Personal Conflict in the Middle East

-Preparing a Personal Testimony

-Time and Creating a Personal Schedule

-Cultural Values Adjustment

-Missiology to the Muslim World

-Trauma Counseling

-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.

Staff Director

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.

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Grocery Shopping in Lebanon

Living Life With the Lisses in Lebanon

Whether you pray, send gifts or money, or just read our blog you are a part of our team. You are the encouragement that gets us through the hard times. You are a huge part of the work we do here in Lebanon. With the huge gaps in communication I feel the part of me that lived in America for most of my life getting stressed over the loss in relationships with you all. So, I had this idea to share our lives here in a more interactive way. It has taken me awhile to make it doable, and now I am inviting you to join us in a few challenges to pretend you are living life alongside us.

Life in Lebanon Challenge #1: Grocery Shopping

The challenge will be simple. There will be 3 to 5 basic rules to follow for the activity, and you can do it at your own convenience.

This first challenge is about grocery shopping, which Louis and I do every other week with a few side trips to fill in for ingredients we couldn’t find on the first trip.

1: Make your shopping list as usual. If you normally just shop the aisles make a list for this exercise, yes you can buy things not on your list.

I use a meal plan purchased through Bikini Body Mommy to take the guesswork out of meals for the week. Briana provides a grocery list along with the recipes and the meals and snacks all planned out for me.

2: Now give your shopping list to someone else and ask them to randomly cross out 3 items and circle 3 items.

This is a simulation of the lack of availability of ingredients in our stores. There is no guarantee of any item on our list being at the store every week or the kind/brand/type that we would like.

3: Go to your grocery store and shop. As you reach items that have been crossed off, do not buy them this trip. In your virtual Lebanon experience, that item is “not available”. As you reach items that were circled, buy a different brand than you normally would, your brand is “not available” this week.

4: Try to make it through the week without the items that were “unavailable.” If you absolutely need one of the items you can go to a different store to try again after 3 days.

I hope you enjoy shopping with us! Please share in the comments how it goes!

Prayer Is Where the Action Is

Prayer Is Where the Action Is

With my upcoming trip to America I want to be submerged in prayer from all of you. I hope to have a week of prayer like we did when we returned to America this summer, and I am currently drafting up 7 topics to ask for your prayer about. Please start praying now for our travels and that we would be able to accomplish God’s goals on this trip.

Without prayer we do not function as missionaries. It is by far the most essential type of support we receive from people. I would love to meet with people willing to join our prayer team to learn about ways to pray. Please sign up for an appointment and I can share with you ways to pray with us and for us throughout the next 3 years.

Sometimes we can’t express everything in our public newsletters and blog.

Sometimes we are struggling in areas that don’t make an interesting blog post.

There are times it is hard to find the words to tell people what to pray for.

Please read between the lines, ask us questions, and pray for us as God leads you to pray.

When you read our newsletter, feel free to ask about anything that God puts on your heart. You are a part of our ministry, and we need you. You will be able to see our struggles and adventures in a different light. You can bring us before God and receive insights from your own experience. You can offer encouragement in an area we are numb or discouraged or confused. We need your prayers.

It would be amazing to hear from you when you pray for us. It is wonderful to hear from people and know that they are thinking about us even though we are so far away.

Resources to Pray For Us

If you haven’t already, sign up to receive our posts in your email daily, weekly, or monthly. This is the best way to stay in touch with us because you can reply to the email and it will go directly to us.

Start a conversation with us, and keep in touch by downloading the app Whatsapp to your phone and giving us your number, Skype to your phone or desktop and setting up an appointment, meeting with Annie while in the States to share your availability for praying with and for us.

Sign up for Annie’s blog updates. Annie’s blog has more of our personal lives, stories about the kids, and an insight into her own growth and learning here in Lebanon.

Read Serving as Senders by Neil Pirolo, for an entire chapter on ways to pray for your missionaries.

Take our prayer requests to your church or small group for prayer. Share our need for prayer with others around you! Praying together is better than praying alone.

Why Am I A Missionary?

My Call To Be A Missionary

When I was in 4th Grade we did a unit on countries. My teacher gave us a booklet with the most basic information about a country in Africa where they speak Swahili. We learned maybe five words in Swahili, saw where the country was on the map, and learned about food and the safari type land in the area. I obviously didn’t master the material because I don’t remember the country, words, or food.

When it came time to pick our own countries I ended up doing Peru.

Why do I remember the day we learned about that country at all? Because sitting in my seat, holding that grey cardstock booklet, God called me. It was a clear call, and I was so sure of it that I didn’t get excited at all. It was as normal as my teacher saying, “You’re going to need a pencil, so please get one out now.”

Except God didn’t say now.

The call sat like a stone in my stomache for years. I remained as sure of it as in that initial moment, and have never wavered from believing God would accomplish His Call. Along the way I have been annoyed at the timing, confused by the places I have ended up, but I still know that God called me to be a missionary in Africa.

I am not in Africa.

When people come to Lebanon we want to know their expectations, what they hope to get out of the trip, why they feel the need to come. My answer is that God called me. Beyond that I usually can’t think of a reason. I don’t have the attachment to a people group or socioeconomic status or refugees, I only have God’s call sitting firmly inside of me.

Perhaps you are called to women, youth, artists, peers, large groups, small groups, unreached, ill, or battered people. Maybe you aren’t in a position to do what you have been called to do yet. Is there a way to equip yourself for that call where you are right now?

In my years here in Lebanon I have learned so much about loss. How could I have gone to Africa, a continent torn apart by wars, racial divides, and illness without empathy? I did not come to Lebanon with empathy. But now, this past month, I finally celebrated victory in that area. As we have been doing trauma counseling, I am finally learning the precious gift of empathy.

I needed these years of learning empathy and a vast number of other lessons. In addition, God has given me the gift of having the time to raise my children and to learn how to do that in a similar environment to America so that I would have a little less adjustment. I am blessed to be in Lebanon for this season. I am storing up lessons for the calling.

If you want to hear more stories about how Louis and Annie became missionaries, ended up in Lebanon, and what we are doing to help the refugees and Lebanese, please sign up to meet with Annie while she is in the States. This is the perfect time to connect with our ministry and be a part of our story.

How can you dig in where you are right now and get the most out of life?

Financial Update: May

The purpose of this post is to share the numbers, but I want to share the heart behind the numbers as well.

Before we came back to the States in December, I posted an overview of our budget changes for this coming year and our progress for 2016.

Since our return to Lebanon we have been having some paradigm shifts as we look at our future in Lebanon.

What Does a Term Look Like for the Lisses?

Initially we came with a 2 year goal in mind. We were coming with an open ended plan, but for my sanity and the sake of those we were asking to join as partners we said we were coming to Lebanon “For at least 2 years.”

Those first 2 years were nothing like we thought they would be, and full of so many joys and sorrows. For instance, the first 2 years after being sent out, I was only in Lebanon for a year and 3 months. When we came back after my unexpected year in America we decided to add a year to our first term and truly complete 2 years in Lebanon. It has been so full of changes and adjustments, that it doesn’t even really seem like it has been 3 years, while simultaneously feeling like it has been a decade!

Through prayer we have decided that Louis is going to dig in for another 3 year term here. We have new goals, and we believe 3 years is a good amount of time to get dug in on those goals and to continue our ongoing work. With this decision made, we can shift our fundraising to a bigger picture view. Rather than just focus on one month at a time, we can look at the whole 3 years and work toward the goals for our budget, while planning in some of the ventures we hope to be starting.

New Opportunities

We are getting involved with our local church. They recently bought a center of their own, and we are hoping to be able to work with them as well. In order to be able to truly commit to them it has become apparent that we will need a car.

We have finally achieved our goal of making our home a place people will visit! We are going through our coffee, cakes, cookies, and water at a rapid rate, and it is so exciting! We love having people over to have the personal conversations not meant for an office, and to allow our family the space they need instead of dragging the kids around.

Arabic has been going so well, and we are recognizing the different ways in which we learn and the different topics we have to learn the vocabulary to speak well. In the upcoming year Annie is going to enter a student role to learn some new skills and also in Arabic to break the plateau effect in order to begin speaking.

Louis got a promotion because he has been doing three jobs worth of work. This is great, and we are also seeing ways we want to expand our ministry as he grows in competence and leadership here.

The Numbers

Louis and I pride ourselves on being transparent with people about our ministry. We want to share our ministry with you on all levels, including financial. Especially since we are always hoping to gain new financial partners. We are always looking for God’s provision through you all so we can invest even more into the ministries we have a passion for: high schoolers, training and curriculum development, church relations, parenting, and education, to name a few.

Basic Financial Goals

$8,239.05 per month

Currently Pledged: $2,742 per month (33% of Monthly Goal)

2017 So Far

January

Contributions: $2,848.97 (35% of Monthly Goal)

Salary: $3,317.80

Online Giving Fees: $19.74

Administration Fee: $284.90

Balance in Account at the end of January: $1,871.91

Total Contributions so far into 2017: $5,494.35 (6% of 2017 Goal)

1 New Partner!

February

Contributions: $2,432.26 (30% of Monthly Goal)

Salary: $1,599.89

Reimbursements: $1,595.84 (Ministry Expenses in America)

Online Giving Fees: $17.17

Administration Fee: $243.23

Balance in Account at the end of January: $848.04

Total Contributions so far into 2017: $7.926.61 (8% of 2017 Goal)

Please feel free to ask us any questions about our budget. Annie is our budgeting queen and is ready to clarify and help you understand our budget. Just because we write the budget does not put that money into our account. Horizons does not pay us unless our partners put the money in our account. You are our partners, our shareholders. You are the ones that make this budget possible or not.

We need more people joining with us financially all the time. We want to share this ministry with you. Please Give by CLICKING HERE. Write Louis Liss in the memo.

We are fully relying on God for this budget. We know He will make it all possible. If the opportunities we are getting most excited about start to become realities there will be a great increase in work and it will be self-starter, entrepreneurial work which will require a strong support team backing our passions. Join our Prayer Team, Annie’s Blog (for moral support and accountability for her), and sign up to meet with Annie while she is in America to hear about everything we have been doing the last 3 years in Lebanon.

Biblical Missiology by Louis Liss

How did Jesus preach the Gospel to a world in conflict with God? He, who was the perfect communicator, shared the good news in a variety of ways. Each means perfectly tailored to transforming the hearts of the hearers. He was fully immersed in the culture of first century Palestine, but was able to seamlessly identify when to embrace and when to challenge the surrounding milieu. My family recently moved to Lebanon. It did not take long for me to discover that my new Lebanese culture communicates very differently than I was accustomed to in America. In my desperation to proclaim the gospel I knew I had to grasp the complexities of these new cultural interactions.

I found myself reacting diametrically different in each conflict that arose in everyday life. Every time there was something that appeared to be an insignificant issue (or no one else’s business) I was faced with what I received as hyperbolic, dramatic, and direct conflict. Incidents include: Walking with my son in a street without sidewalks, sitting in the wrong spot during a meeting, and walking thorough puddles with an untied shoelace. Each time I experienced raised voices, eye contact, hand gestures, and a general befuddlement regarding my behavior. In contrast there have been mistakes I have made that I knew created tremendous hurt and breaches of trust, but I have never heard a word about it from the individuals involved. On the contrary, the people become even more polite and gracious in each of our direct interactions. Needless to say, I was bewildered.

This culture that led with emotion took captive all of their passions in certain issues and unleashed them in others. I realized that there is a foundational difference in conflict styles based on cultural values. Refer to the figures below:

Dates are Posted: Get Your Appointment with Annie

On Our Way Home for the Summer!

Annie and the kids are coming back to the States for the summer to fundraise for our new budget for this next term of missionary work in Lebanon.

CLICK HERE

to set up a time to meet with Annie.

This may be too soon for most of you to be thinking about July and August plans, but for some of you out there reading this you know the dates you will be traveling already. I now have the dates I will be traveling and I want to be able to see as many of you as possible for this summer in the States, so please do not hesitate to sign up.

Ways that you can help out now:

Talk to your pastor about a day and time I could come and share about our work in Lebanon and needs.

Invite a few people who you think may be interested to have a small group sharing instead of one on one with you.

Talk to your Bible study or small group about having me come and share about our missionary adventures.

Set up an appointment with me so I can share with you personally.

Here’s how it works:

First, click the link and it will take you to a Google Calendar. The dates I will be in the States are June 27 – August 21. If you book an appointment early enough you will see a screen that says, “There are no appointment slots available until Jun 6, 2017 with a link to look for appointments further ahead. Click that blue link and it will take you to the dates I am available to meet with people to talk about Lebanon.

Second, scroll through the calendar to the dates you know you are free. Some of the days I already know which city I will be in, but some are entirely open so far.

Select one or multiple slots depending on how long you would like to visit for, or if you want to include a meal in the visit. Once you click on an appointment slot it will ask you to fill in details. Here is where you let me know who you are and which city you are in. This is a planning tool for me, so it can be changed as we get closer and adjusted for real times then. You do not need to use this area to put contact information because the appointmenst are public on this calendar, so just your name and city are enough for me to plan for.

Based on the plans I have made so far, I have given all my free time as appointment slots on this calendar. I do not truly intend on spending every slot meeting with people, but this is a good starting point for me, so please don’t hesitate thinking you will be taking away my time. I am coming to see you! You are an essential piece to what we are doing in Lebanon, and the people willing to take time to hear from me will be doing me a great service. Thank you for your prayers and caring for us!

If you didn’t click already, HERE IS THE LINK to make an appointment with me this summer!

Coming Back to America!

Yikes! You haven’t heard from us since December 30!

Then we were writing to tell you about our extreme excitement about Kyrie Rebekah’s healing. She was completely healed, and is a completely different child now with joy and energy! It is so fun to have her in our lives, and we are so blessed by God that she is well!

We Have Been Keeping Busy

While I feel badly for not keeping you up to date, looking back over the past months, there really hasn’t been any time.

Especially leading up to our trip to America, Kyrie’s surgery put everything on hold for us. When we returned it was a brand new beginning for Annie and has allowed so much ministry to expand from our homes and hearts because of the great healing in our lives.

We need to tell you all the amazing things happening, and we also want to let you know about new opportunities coming! It is an exciting time here in Lebanon.

We are right here in the middle of it, a strategic point of battle for the Kingdom. We are still receiving new believers into the center every week, discipling believers from fifteen or more different backgrounds, and starting some new ventures Beirut and throughout Lebanon.

A Timeline to Summarize 2017 So Far

So many other things have been happening with job changes, our team growing, and getting ready for summer teams and interns. Hopefully you can hear some of these stories more in depth by visiting with Annie when she comes to the States this summer. We bought our tickets for her partnership development trip back to the States for July and August.

May (So Far)

  • Engaging Islam Institute being held in Beirut at our center.
  • Louis got a promotion since it was determined he is doing the equivalent of 3 different full time jobs.
  • We attended a church picnic and had several meaningful and intentional interactions to deepen our engagement with our church here in Lebanon

You Can Help!

Annie and the kids are coming back this summer! I want to see as many of you as possible to share what we have been doing, the goals we have met, and what we are planning on doing with our new term.

In order to best plan my trip, I have a small survey I would like for you to fill out.