Halfway Point of Our Summer

Time Has Flown By

Time has been going by so fast! The kids & I (Annie) are halfway through our time in America. If you haven’t seen us yet, please don’t hesitate to call or email, our schedule is pretty flexible and open and we want to see as many of you as possible.

I think the halfway point is a good time to share with you what my strategy for fundraising has been and is on this trip.

The idea to come for the summer without Louis was given to me by God when we were here last December and January. That winter trip was all about our family, getting Kyrie’s surgery accomplished, and celebrating her healing. We spent Christmas with our families, and we did not spend much time visiting with the people who support us, and we did not spend any time finding new partners.

Because of that lack of contact, I was inspired to start planning this trip to America around creating and deepening our partnerships. At the same time, I knew that the security training I would be attending would need a great deal of reflection and prayer. Needing a great deal of time to sit quietly and pray seemed at odds with running around to see every person who might be able to give financially or otherwise.

So, I asked God to give me clear directions that I could obey.

Engage

 

The word God gave me was Engage. Engage is the title of Horizons International’s course to teach people how to engage with Muslims. I have always been able to use the training to engage with basically anyone. It has given me a framework to reach out to non-Christians and Christians alike. Therefore, it was easy for me to hear God say I needed to use this framework in Arizona.

Not only do I want to Engage with people here, but to help people Engage with the ministry in Lebanon. There are so many ways to do this, and the first part is just having a relationship with us.

Also, I want to be an encouragement to people here in the States, to share ways that you have all kept us afloat and the joys of new ministries, stable ministries, growing ministries that I see in our communities here. These ministries that we have seen grow while we have been in Lebanon are such an encouragement to us as well.

Isn’t This a Fundraising Trip?

When I ask Kyrie a yes or no question, her answer is usually, “Yes or No”. While it is confusing when she says it, it is the most appropriate answer for me here.

Yes or no.

I am here hoping to be fully funded, but I am not raising money the way we did our first year of fundraising.

The money I am basically leaving in God’s hands. Yes, we are under funded and need to raise our amount in order to stay in Lebanon, but I believe God wants us in Lebanon, and so that part of the ministry will be taken care of by God.

I do not want to make it hard to give us money, however, so CLICK HERE if you would like to start giving monthly, or a one time gift.

Throughout this post I have linked previous articles that relate, so if you see a link, click on it to find out more of the story. Especially for those new to the blog, this is a great way to work your way back through time to connect with us.

If God is leading you to become a financial partner, CLICK HERE to donate through Horizons. There is a drop-down menu to designate funds for Louis Liss.

Annie will be in the States until August 20! Please sign up to meet with her to encourage each other in all that the Lord is doing! CLICK HERE to make an appointment, or reply to the email when you subscribe to our newsletter.

If the appointment page is confusing, I made a walkthrough HERE.

Field Security Initial Thoughts and Debrief

 

Last week I attended a training in San Diego along with other missionaries working in or headed to places all over the world to share about Jesus Christ.

This training was informational as well as hands on covering all types of situations that may cause a crisis in our various work places.

Of course, you might imagine the need for a training like this with Louis and I working in the Middle East.

Crisis Consulting International ran the training, so if you CLICK HERE you can find out more about it.

I have decided to take this week to process through the training and write up several journal entries before attempting to share my thoughts with the world, but I wanted to share a basic overview and to let you all know I am back in the State of Arizona to start meeting with people and fundraising again. Please CLICK HERE to reserve a time to get together, pray, and hear about what we are doing in Lebanon. You can call or email me as well.

If you have any questions, even specifics about our own security or about the Middle East, please leave a comment or send us an email.

What Did This Training Change About Your Plans?

Being able to do our own Risk Assessments will allow us to expand our mission work wisely. In the past a location we knew had risks was off limits because we felt unequipped to assess those risks. This training helped guide future risk assessment for our own travel within Lebanon.

This training also brought to light the limitations of our knowledge and our organization, Horizons International. Recognizing the essentials that are missing helps us pray and also act on our own behalf within our organization.

How Can You Use This Training Immediately?

My goal of gaining confidence and eloquence was definitely met. Of course I need some time to gather my thoughts about what I just learned before I could give a speech, but I know the direction to go in order to be an advocate for my family.

This week will be full of prayer about problem areas that came up in this training, research on topics and sites that were shared in the training, and drafting letters to the appropriate people in order to get Crisis Management Policies underway.

In travelling, so much of this training is applicable right away, and I am much more confident in future travels.

 

Did Horizons Send You to This Training?

No.

I was encouraged to attend this training by several other missionaries when we went to MTI back in 2014. When we were put in charge of internships in Beirut, incoming interns’ parents often have asked us what policies are in place in case of an emergency.

Horizons has no such policies.

Therefore, I knew that with or without Horizons’ support, I needed to attend this training in order to protect my own family.

I sent the kids fun pictures throughout the week and am happily back at home with them now, which is why some of the pictures are more silly in nature.

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?

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.

 

The Update You’ve All Been Waiting For

    I will get right to the point and then share some personal thoughts afterwards so that you are not bound any longer by suspense. We had the consultation with the urologist for Kyrie. He agreed that the surgery is necessary, but due to the specific equipment needed and his availability:

The surgery has been scheduled for August 27th.

    I will try to anticipate all the follow up questions, but if after reading this you have more, please reply or comment. We really do want to let you know as much as possible to inform your prayers.

Is it possible to get in for the surgery sooner?

    Yes, we are the first on the cancellation list. There were quite a few recent cancellations, which means two things: 1) Cancellations happen a lot. 2) The upcoming appointments that had cancellations have been filled. Therefore, we have a little bit of time to wait.

What does this mean for plane tickets?

    We are waiting to purchase plane tickets for Kyrie and I until we have a more secure date. We want to do this right and we don’t want to purchase plane tickets until she has had her follow up visit and is cleared to leave the country by the doctor. There are options for purchasing cancelable tickets, but we are still exploring all of the options available and discussing it with our organization to determine the best plan for all of us. Louis and Davy have to leave Lebanon by August 18 for a visa trip, so those tickets are the first on our list of decisions.

What would be your estimated departure date based on this surgery date?

    From our internet research we have determined that the follow up visit is usually 2 weeks after the surgery. This would mean we could possibly leave sometime after the second week in September.

What are you going to do in this extended period of time here?

    So much of the past few weeks has been a period of waiting for this appointment that I really just feel that runner’s instinct in me, so I took the adrenaline and packed mostly everything we are planning on taking to Lebanon into my mom’s car and we came back up to Mesa. I am going to spend the next two weeks up here and we are going to pack all the items that are not clothes so that my bags are all ready at a moment’s notice. When the surgery happens and the follow up we want to be able to leave ASAP, so we are going to be ready. I have a few activities that I am looking to put on my calendar, but I want to live in this season and find the reason God has me here every day. I am keeping myself with people, and will be working on building routines that will help me thrive in this difficult time. I will gladly get coffee with people who would like to see Kyrie and I. I will also gladly let you watch her for an afternoon so I can go clothes shopping or something. In this time I want to allow people to help out instead of pretending I can continue to do it all on my own. I am being brave, but I am also very sad to be in this season. I hope to post a blog post on my Mommy Book Blog soon about what this season is meaning to me.

How are Davy and Louis doing?

    We are all very very sad, and the day after finding out about this Louis and I were depressed. Davy has been having panic attacks and night terrors, so is in need of prayer and love. They are keeping busy and building routines. I have begun recording the Bible chapters I am reading onto mp3 files for Louis to play Davy at night. We are also going to be picking more consistent Skype times so that Davy and Mommy can have some time together to read books, tell stories, and play. Davy gets to play with kids every time they go to the center, and the team we just had visit for a Vision Trip really got along well with Davy. This Saturday we have our first VBS team coming and I think that will be an exciting thing for Davy to attend as well.

This Friday Louis will be fasting and praying for discernment on which of the multiple options ahead are God’s plan for our family.

Please join with us in prayer for the many decisions ahead.

Lisses in Colorado

For those of you closely following our itinerary, yes we made it safely to Colorado. We encountered very little ice, and we behaved like responsible adults driving during the day and sleeping in hotels at night. We took the drive up to be our only vacation on this two month trip so we went back to our favorite place, Bryce Canyon, and also got to experience several beautiful parks as we drove up the scenic byway 12 in Utah. We needed the family time and the break.

If you are missing us again already, just remember that we have all of our upcoming events posted for you. If you are in Phoenix and haven’t even gotten a chance to see us yet, your chance is coming. November 25th, next week, we have a dinner being held for us at Christ’s Community Church in Glendale. Please RSVP Kathy Twitchell at mktwitch@cox.net if you would like to attend this dinner. Thank you for your prayers for our travels, and be looking forward to pictures of both our trip and the first ultrasound very soon. (Since it is Annie writing the post and Louis is in charge of pictures, you will have to wait one more day, but it will be worth it in the end.)

We love you all so much! Thank you for being a part of our lives and for caring about us in so many ways.

Going “Home”

    Louis spent most of the month of October filling in for a pastor here in Lebanon at a Filipino church. He began his sermon series with a story about Davy. When we are out and about, shopping, at church, at the ministry center, or anywhere, and we are done for the day we turn to Davy and say, “Davy, let’s go home.” And Davy will be excited and reply, “Go home!” Sometimes even with a “Yeah!” which is super adorable from our almost 2-year-old. Then we arrive back to our apartment and it is a 50-50 chance that one of these two things will happen. He will at some point recognize our building and say, “Home!” OR Davy will come inside with and look around with a somewhat disappointed and sad expression and say, “Go home,” meaning we didn’t end up at the right home. What does home mean to him, we wonder? What does it mean to us?

There is a beautiful story told by many Christians of walking into a church for a service and by the end feeling that they have found “home.” I have such a heart for that in a church, the ability to welcome and love someone so instantaneously. I have never once walked into a church and had that feeling, but I hope that each person reading this takes the time to welcome new faces, to show love to those sitting in the services, events, meals, etc. so that we are home to as many as walk in our churches’ doors.

In the same way that I have never felt that a church had that “I’m home!” experience for me, when my parents moved our family to a new house when my siblings and I were young, I distinctly thought that it did not become my home. But the other house hadn’t felt like home. Everywhere it seemed was temporary. In college I felt that the NAU campus was the closest I came to a home, but going back there does not make me feel like a homecoming.

So, as I reflect on this homesickness I have, I hope that Davy also remains sad that this is not quite HOME. Because this earth is not quite home. There are tastes that people get, like that of walking into church, and for me the community of believers I had around me all the time at NAU. I hope that Davy always longs for the home that we have only tasted and imagined and dreamed about. And I pray that the people we love will be there. So, we must keep telling everyone about the hope found in Jesus Christ so that our friends and family here on earth will be our sisters and brothers in Heaven.

Tonight I am feeling this homesickness much more distinctly because as we attended the Filipino church today, Davy knew people’s names, and he played with the women without needing to see if we were still there, and he talked to them, and I was sad that we would be here only one more Sunday because this is our family. And I was sad that we will not be attending our Lebanese church who also has our family. And even in planning our many Sundays hopping around to different churches to share about what God is doing here in Lebanon and to grow our partnerships of spiritual and physical support, we will not be able to see all of our family every day. That is the dream. Every day getting to see our whole family, being able to worship and praise our Lord and Creator all together, not thousands of miles apart from pieces of our family, our body in Christ. And it does feel more and more like we are a body with parts all over, and the separation is painful.

So tonight, with 11 days left in Lebanon, I grieve the loss of new family members while I celebrate those I will get to see in Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. At our training back in April there was a very important life lesson that we repeat many times a month to one another:

I pray that when you leave here it hurts.

Because that means you were loved, and you loved well.

And it hurts. It hurts to do what we do. But what better joy is there for us as believers than to see the men and women who we are discipling and evangelizing in heaven? And you will get to heaven and will meet men and women who by your prayers and support of us here in Lebanon have come to Christ.

    

Mr. Feelings: AKA The 2 Month Review of Life in Lebanon

Today we wanted to share a graphic with you that was a great visual for us in our training in April. This visual was made even more absorbing by being acted out in front of us. So, imagine Mr. Feelings: Louis in this case, but it could me, or any person, you even! Standing in the middle with a rope wrapped around his middle being pulled back and forth between the two ducks. That is how paradox can make us feel, pulled back and forth. Sometimes we lean toward Yay Duck, and sometimes we lean toward Yuck Duck times. We already shared with you about the Yay Duck vs. Yuck Duck, living in paradoxes. We continue to share about paradoxes as they come up. And we hope that it has helped you to be more empathetic, and also able to find joy in the hard times using this example.

For other Paradox blog posts CLICK HERE.

    

Next up is Reality vs. Expectations. This can be challenging. When our expectations are far from the reality, the rope is pulled very tight against us. When there is a “twang”, a snapping of the rope, it can really hurt. But as our expectations move toward reality, the slack that grows makes the “twangs” hurt a lot less. So one goal is to keep our expectations as close to the reality as possible. Here are some of the Twangs of life in Lebanon so far:

  1. Expectation = We will find language helpers and be able to work with someone on language every day.

    Reality = 1 Arabic teacher 3 times a week

    TWANG!!!    If we clung to the every day goal like we did at first, we would not be able to recognize the extreme blessing that our language teacher is. In addition, because we did not find other language helpers yet, Louis and I have been able to adjust to life here without overpacking our schedules. Our language learning is at an Intensive level with 6 hrs. per week of class, and while we still hope to find language helpers to practice more intentionally with in the future, we are pleased with our life now and have stepped our Expectations over toward Reality. The reality of our situation is that there are only three people on our team who speak English well enough to help us at this point, but they are already overworked and do not have the time. As we continue to live here we hope to find friends with good English and free time to have conversation dates. Also, we are now at a Survival Level of Arabic, and so are very pleased with our class as it is now.

  2. Expectation = We will be in Lebanon for 6 months, then we will fly back to the States to finish fundraising.

    Reality = Until Horizons is a registered organization here we are only on tourist visas which expire after three months.

    TWANG!!!    Due to the last traveling ending with David in the hospital I have been terrified of traveling with him again. I thought after 6 months maybe I would be over it, and to find that I have to take him at the end of THIS MONTH to another country was very overwhelming. But now I am excited about our mini vacation to Cyprus, an island the apostle Paul was on with Barnabus. We are going to have a beach day, an IKEA shopping day, and then come back home to Lebanon. The next three month trip should end at the time our flight goes back to America, and then we will be in Arizona until we can raise our funds.

  3. Expectation = We will get used to the noise.

    Reality = Nope!

    TWANG!!!    Our apartment is right above a very busy street, and when we first moved in the whole apartment echoed due to being completely empty and with only tile. In Phoenix we had lived next to a busy street, so I figured we would eventually tune it out, and as we got furniture the echoing went away for the most part. But as the World Cup happened there were fireworks every time someone scored, and then last night was a holiday for the Saint Elias (Elijah) which had unending fireworks for several hours….We are still adjusting our expectations on this one.

     

    I am sure many of you have experienced these same types of Twangs in your own lives. There are other examples as well, and we will continue to adjust our expectations toward reality in many areas. However, (here is a paradox for you) sometimes we must have higher expectations than the reality, and there will be many twangs as we do ministry. An example of this is that we see many needs at the center that we hope to help fill, and our continuing to have high expectations for them will eventually help us accomplish many amazing things for God here.

     

    One of our expectations is that people who are coming to visit the center from America are not having a good experience. This is ridiculous since there is so much amazing going on! There are salvations, healings, and religious freedom here. Louis really needs to write up some of these amazing stories for you guys! In any case, we are now in charge of helping these foreigners have a good experience and be better utilized at the refugee center, so our high expectations, and the Twangs that we were bringing up with Pierre brought about an excellent change! Yay God!!! There is more to this graphic, so stay tuned for a later update on Mr. Feelings and his family! We love you guys!!!

2nd Day Trauma

Matthew 5-4Louis and I fully intended on writing up a humorous account of our frustrating travels to Rome and then Lebanon. One of our underlying themes throughout the MTI training was to live in paradox, and we will still post both of our accounts written through that lens. However, we need to take the time now to debrief with you a different lesson. Grieving & Loss. We knew we would be missing home and friends and family. We knew we needed to take time to grieve these losses in order to recover and move forward in our new lives here. We learned a lot about the things we were already grieving when we went to Colorado. We saw that we are prone to deny or avoid these pains, but that does not help us grow and will stunt our maturity and adjustment to a new country.

In conclusion, we came to Lebanon prepared to grieve and knew that the first month would be our time to do that in.

What we were in no way prepared for was what happened on Day 2 of being in Lebanon.

We arrived in Lebanon 4:30 pm on Thursday the 8th of May. We were staying with Pierre and Gigi, our team leader and his wife. Davy got sick Friday morning, our first morning in Lebanon. 6am he woke us up by throwing up all over us. He ate very little throughout the day and that night threw up his entire dinner. All night he would throw up anything he drank. In the morning I felt scared being in this strange country with a sick baby. I didn’t know why he was throwing up and while he slept hot during the night, he did not seem feverish. We decided to take all of our luggage to our new apartment, pick up the mattress for Louis and I and then leave Davy and I at home to try to hydrate him and rest so he could get better.

This plan progressed only as far as the mattress store. We put Davey on Louis’ shoulders and were joking around when Davey asked for water. Having thrown up everything for the past two days we asked him to wait until we left the store and then 30 seconds later he fell limp down Louis’ back. We immediately took him down off of Louis and he was unresponsive. His eyes rolled back in his head and he began to foam at the mouth. His arms tensed and shook and then went limp. We ran outside and sat on the ground with him  yelling and shaking him with no response and his lips turning blue.

A worker at the mattress store screamed for Louis to come with him. He jumped in the car and I followed with Pierre driving his car. I found out later that Davy stopped breathing in the car and Louis did CPR the entire fast paced, manic drive to the hospital. Just as they arrived at the hospital Davy began breathing again but was still unconscious. They took him in and took his vitals which had begun to return to normal right before making us leave to go to a hospital with a pediatric unit. We drove continuing to pray until Davey began to cry. The sound of his crying has been one of the most anxiety raising sounds in my life until that moment. I was so relieved and we all started crying. We brought him in to the emergency room where they performed a CAT scan and took blood work before hooking him up to an IV. Six hours later he was diagnosed as having experienced a seizure brought on by extreme dehydration and acidosis compounded by every other stress experienced in the previous five days. We took him home and cried for the rest of the night as he slept quietly between us in the intervals between us waking him up to drink.

David has made a full recovery.

In our training we discussed many categories of loss that would be unavoidable on the mission field. Several have hurt exponentially worse through this traumatic experience.

  1. The loss of “home”. The loss of the familiar makes this trauma even harder because of all the little things we did not have in place yet being only the second day we were here. We didn’t know where hospitals were, and didn’t have phones or internet to tell anyone outside of Pierre what was happening. We had an empty apartment with only mattresses to bring our still sick baby home to when we left the hospital. We still feel vulnerable and dependent.
  2. The loss of our support system. Not having the people we usually could run to even aware until days later was terrible for us. We couldn’t even send out an urgent “Please Pray!” email. We know that we cannot rely on your support the same way we have had it in the past, but we are feeling it painfully right now.
  3. Of course the largest loss experienced through this was the continued loss of safety. Already we knew the worry of so many followed us that we would not be safe. We knew that there was no more safety in Arizona than in Lebanon, but this has been an acute suffering. We were already prepared to struggle through the first few months deciding what are safe choices for Davy (food, drink, play, etc.). This experience concentrated the loss of safety, and has left us lonely because we fear the “I told you so” that will come from people back in America.

Make sadness your ally. God’s solution for solving these losses is sadness. Rather than something to be avoided, the sadness and grief allows you to let go of what you cannot have in order to make room in your heart for what you can have. It is important to feel safe to grieve. (Paraphrased from Hiding From Love by John Townsend) We have carved out this time to make less decisions and do less so we can take even more time to grieve, and to grieve well.

Please know that all the pain and feelings you are feeling are valid. We want you to feel the grieving along with us rather than try to minimize it. Grieve Well.

1st_peter_5 10-166635

 

The Day I Forgot The Rules Of Movies -Written by Louis

It was last Saturday when our team leader was helping us load all 10 of our bags into his car in route to our new apartment in Beirut, when he said, “I still can’t believe you carried all of this through the cobblestone streets of Rome for an hour at 1 in the morning looking for your hotel.” “It was probably the worst day of our lives,” I replied. He responded, “May it remain so.” Now any average film viewer knows that there are some cardinal rules to film such as: Never say, “Well at least it can’t get any worse,” lest you are immediately thrust plot first into an onslaught of tragedy. Little did I know that my declaration that our initial Rome experience was the most extreme stress we had ever encountered would jettison us into the actual worst day of our lives.

It was the trip from Heaven, which is to say that it was the trip from hell continually shown to be under the protective authority of God. It began by us realizing in Phoenix that our initial scale was inaccurate and our bags were extremely overweight. Annie’s dad was quick to jump to the rescue and help us move all of our heavy items to carry-ons which are never weighed at check-in. So we arrived at Sky Harbor Airport at 8:00 AM on Monday morning for a 10:45 AM departure only to find out that our plane was delayed for two hours. This meant that we were able to go have breakfast with our parents allowing them unexpected time with Davey that was greatly appreciated. We returned to the airport and loaded our bags only to be informed that our plane was broken, had to be flown to LAX and then to Toronto to be repaired returning to Phoenix at 8:00 PM for boarding. We were blessed with meal vouchers and so ate at the airport for free and we found a play place for Davey to spend the day waiting, though he was too stressed to eat or drink much. Then we were told that the plane was non-repairable and we were being transported to a new airline, rerouted to London, and would miss a whole day of our two day stay in Rome arriving there at 10 PM Tuesday. We e-mailed our bed and breakfast in the center of Rome to inform them and they told us the last thing we heard from them before boarding the overnight plane to London was that our new arrival time would force them to cancel our reservation. 10 hours later we touched down in London and began to try and contact the hotel owner, who did not speak English, over a payphone using credit card #1. We tried calling three times before our card was frozen having not informed the credit card company we were being rerouted to London. We then looked up on the board and saw that the connecting flight was also delayed so we rushed to the counter to see if we could get an earlier flight only to be told that the flight was not delayed but boarding right then in another terminal. After a mad rush we jumped on board at the last minute and landed four hours later in Rome at 10 PM.

We got on the phone with the hotel owner who said that he would hold the reservation for one hour. We picked up all of our luggage including 3 checked bags (50 lbs each), 3 carry on bags (30-40 lbs each), 2 backpacks (40 lbs each), a diaper bag, a car seat, and a stroller then rushed to catch the last train of the night to the center of town. We got off at the terminal at midnight and the Google Map 15 minute walk from the station to our hotel began to lengthen as paved roads quickly turned into cobblestones, sidewalks began to disappear, road signs became non-existent, and two carry-on bags broke their wheels. An hour later we arrived at the front of an apartment building in an ancient monastic section with one buzzer with the name of our hotel. Annie was in tears as we stood outside and rang the bell only to receive no response. Rang it again, no response. Time after time we buzzed the door at 1 AM with no answer. Finally a group of bikers in leather jackets came over and helped us call the number on the booking sheet. At last the owner came down yelling in broken English, “Why did you not tell me you had a baby!? I can’t have a baby staying in this room! You have too many bags, you can’t stay here with this many bags!” He eventually allowed us to come up on the condition that Davey makes no noise at all. We set Davey down in the room, and he took two steps back into a shelf corner and began to scream uncontrollably. After an hour of yelling in Italian and English from the owner and my child we all go to sleep in our bed.

We woke up the next morning to a group of Germans staying in the closely adjacent rooms who informed us that they were in no way bothered by Davey and were glad he got some rest. He could sense our anxiety and so had trouble eating and drinking that day as well. We left early with one bag and one stroller to see all of Rome in a day, and indeed we did! We went to the Coliseum, Palatine Hill, the Forum, Trevi Fountain, 5 Oblilisks, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, St. Angelo’s Castle, the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. We hopped on the Metro to head home when we realized how close we were to the Spanish Steps so hopped off and I climbed all the way up to the church at the top of the steps which had a service in progress. After taking a moment of reflection I began to head down only to find that my wallet had been stolen. We then began retraced our steps and discovered it had been taken by a questionable 55 year old woman on the crowded Metro who pushed through to get on at one stop and off at the next. After a considerable amount of directions from half a dozen locals we were able to locate the police station and call Visa to cancel Credit Card #2 on the only phone in the station. The American number on the back of the card wouldn’t connect internationally from the landline, but thankfully the officer happened to have the number for Visa International with whom I was connected but who had no information related to my American account. The woman was kind enough to transfer me to American Visa while the officers yelled at me in Italian to get off their only phone. The American Visa people had to transfer me to my credit union who was of course closed, but I was able to contact stolen cards and cancel the card causing us to only be out of pocket $200, a driver’s license, and some Harkins gift cards. We finished the day at the top of the Spanish Steps overlooking the city of Rome at sunset.

I exchanged the last of our saved money at the hotel for taxi fare to save our luggage and our marriage after the previous “15 minute walk” from the hotel to the station. We arrived at the airport three hours early only to discover at check-in that when our tickets were transferred from Air Canada to British Airways, Davey’s lap-infant ticket under my name did not transfer. After an hour of the lady talking on the phone she began to take a good look at our luggage and correctly assumed that our carry-on bags were overweight, our stroller was too large, and our car seat wouldn’t be allowed. An hour later we had rearranged all our weight and even found a service that could shrink wrap two of the bags together. An hour after that we had paid the fees at the counter that was still using carbon copies for credit cards. The lady eventually scribbled something on our tickets and we ran through the “dear God please help us, we’re about to miss our flight” security and hopped on the bus that took us to our plane that after the tickets were transferred over no longer had us sitting together. Thank God for Arabs who had no patience for this inconvenience and moved us around three times until we got a row together to ourselves.

Four hours later we landed in Beirut. We breezed through immigration, which was a nightmare last time, and they didn’t check any of our bags at customs. We were picked up by an old friend and taken to the apartment of our team leaders, Pierre & Gigi. Davey promptly laid down in his car seat and fell asleep having not eaten or drank well for the previous four days only to wake up at 2 AM, crawl into bed with us, and throw up everything in his stomach. He spent the next day screaming as four new teeth came in, and he continued to throw up two more times at various places in Pierre & Gigi’s home every time we put anything in his body. He woke up the next morning and we gave him water on the couch on which he promptly vomited. I then declared that it didn’t matter if we had nothing in our new apartment except a mattress we were going to move in that day and he could throw up all over the house all he wants. So we began to load all of our belongings into Pierre’s car when He said, “I still can’t believe you carried all of this through the cobblestone streets of Rome for an hour at 1 in the morning looking for your hotel.” “It was probably the worst day of our lives,” I replied. He responded, “May it remain so.” Needless to say, it didn’t remain that way.

We unloaded our bags at our apartment that only housed a 100 cm mattress for Davey and went together to buy us a mattress downtown. We put Davey on my shoulders and were joking around when Davey asked for water. Having thrown up everything for the past two days we asked him to wait until we left the store and then 30 seconds later I was holding onto his legs as he fell limp down my back. We immediately picked him up but he was unresponsive. His eyes rolled back in his head and he began to foam at the mouth. His arms tensed and shook and then went limp. I ran outside and sat on the ground with him in my arms yelling and shaking him with no response and no breathing. A worker at the mattress store screamed for me to come with him. I jumped in the car with him as he drove like a maniac through the streets of Beirut towards the nearest hospital. All he could tell me in English was, “give him breath.” I began to perform CPR on Davey whose lips had turned blue and was completely limp. After two minutes of screaming, praying, and compressions Davey woke up. The color returned to his lips and he began breathing again, but he was still unconscious as we pulled up to the hospital. They took him in and took his vitals which had begun to return to normal right before making us leave to go to a hospital with a pediatric unit. We drove continuing to pray until Davey began to cry. The sound which had been a source of stress so many times before became the sound of life that brought tears to our eyes. We brought him in to the emergency room where they performed a CAT scan and took blood work before hooking him up to an IV. Six hours later he was diagnosed as having experienced a seizure brought on by extreme dehydration compounded by every other stress experienced in the previous five days. He was released that day and we took him home and cried for the rest of the night as he slept quietly between us. He has made a full recovery.

We’re sharing this story with you for several reasons. One is that you are our family and our support system. By sending us you share in both our joys and our sufferings as we do with you. We want you to know the reality and the cost of sharing the gospel in the calling of God on our lives, but also because this is a story of God’s unending provision in times of unfathomable, crushing pain. We’ve prayed for years that God would prepare us to go and do what we have now embarked on. In so doing He has prepared stores of resilience within us that we did not know were there. As we left the first emergency room in a foreign country without any Arabic to explain what happened, without a diagnoses, carrying our unconscious child in our arms we sang this song: “God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He’s so good to me.” That came from our most profound depths to which we know that the lamb of God is worthy of all of the honor and all the glory and all the praise forever and ever. No matter the circumstances and trials of this life the majesty of the cross cannot be shaken from its foundation. His love endures forever and his mercy is everlasting. We are ineffably thankful today that the grace of God was made manifest in such a way that we still have Davey with us. We thank you for your continued support of Jesus’ ministry here in Beirut. It is your love through Christ that sustains us and holds us as the darkness of the valley gives way to an impenetrable light of healing and salvation.