I Know I Don’t Know But Soon I’ll Understand – By Louis Liss

Thank you so much for your support over this last season of ministry. David and I returned to Lebanon 7 weeks ago while Annie and Kyrie stayed in America awaiting the impending surgery. I have always been gifted with a strong reliance on God’s plans above my own. I have often been the one counseling that God is in charge even if we don’t understand what He is doing. For now almost 2 months I have had a trying time of challenges and frustrations. This time has been concurrent with my devotional life as I have spent the last few years returning time and time again to John 15. Jesus continually calls me to trim what is not of Him so that the fruit that He has prepared can receive the light and attention it deserves. Right now I am going through a season of Spirit motivation and Spirit resilience. Tragically my default is apathy and I have relied heavily on my wonderful wife to speak inspiration into my life. Now that I only can speak to her when both she and I are exhausted, Annie and I have had to tap into our reserves of resilience to hear clearly what God wants for each day and rise early each morning to share the Gospel with the lost.

From this tumultuous ordeal God has been producing the following fruit:

  1. 6 Months ago Annie and I heard God calling us to start a new project where teams from around the world come and put on a VBS. We spent the next half a year planning and preparing a team of 12 from Denver to come and launch this new VBS Export project. Our national staff thought we might get 50 kids. Instead we got 150 kids. Every day kids poured in to hear the Gospel and have fun with our international team and national staff. We now have a new program to host each summer for kids to receive the Gospel and become disciples.
  2. We are establishing a silk road of Chinese missionaries from Hong Kong to begin sending teams and interns to learn how to reach the 23,000,000 Muslims in China.
  3. One of our missiological mottos is “Arab to Arab Ministry”. This week we are hosting our first Arab American team from San Francisco who is reaching out in Arabic to disciple new believers and pray for others to accept the Lord.
  4. I met with a leader of Walk Through The Bible to get more discipleship curriculum into the hands of our National staff as more and more people are coming to Christ in need of discipleship.
  5. We had two weeks of free clinics. From the people who served at these clinics some showed interest in returning to become local interns.

Though the fruit may be obvious, the attacks of feeling defeated, alone, and inadequate are constant. David has struggled immensely and because our organization does not recommend families separate for longer than 2 months, David and I will be returning to the states in time for Kyrie’s surgery. This has not worked out the way we planned at all and I don’t yet know why, but I know whether in this life or the next at some point I will understand.

Please pray for:

    David and I to get our exit visas this week so we can leave the country.

    Our flight back to America to be safe and uneventful.

    For the surgery to be blessed by God and in His timing.

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Good News

    First off, thank you to everyone who has joined with us in prayer the last few weeks. If you fasted and prayed along with Louis that Friday or any day since we so appreciate it. We truly do need your prayers far more than your money, and this would have been a terrible time if not for your prayers lifting us up.

We have good news!

    Because this time apart has been so hard on all four of us, and through much prayer, God has given us peace about Louis and Davy returning in the beginning of July. YAY!!!

Kids Camp VBS was a success.

    There were 150 kids at the VBS run by our first team every day. The gospel was preached, and relationships were built, so our goals were met. We are hopeful that some of the people from the team will return to Lebanon in the future with this same church group and as interns. We would like churches that partner with us to begin to build a yearly or biennially (every other year) team to return and continue to build on the relationships and work done.

    In addition to the VBS the team helped with our food distribution by packing bags. We were able to order more food because we knew this team would be there, so more families can be aided through the summer months with the additional food packaged. They participated in the evening services and attended church with the Syrian refugees.

    We were also thrilled to be able to improve accommodation options before their arrival so that they could stay in our new guest house. The male members of the team still stayed at the center, and the whole team got to experience the full immersion into another language at the center. It was a great team, and we were blessed to have them. Contrary to the past, this team was able to support and serve our staff instead of be a burden on them. We were very glad to have found a way to make this work because we know that the way that a person gets into long term missions is through a short term trip, and the way that churches and individuals can best invest in their missionaries is to continue to learn about and understand the mission they are on. We want to provide churches and individuals the opportunity to come to Lebanon to help out at the center because we know it disciples them.

    One very exciting part of this trip was the acceptance and involvement of our staff. From the shaky beginning when Louis and I became “In charge of the foreigners” until now there has been radical change. A wonderful sign of their love for this team as well as an exciting opportunity we had to share the gospel in a tangible and lasting way is that the team was able to hand out picture Bibles in Arabic to the kids at the end of the camp that showed up with our staff members the last day! God provides.

    Between now and when Louis arrives we will have another team coming. They will not be running a VBS because they were able to gather a team with a majority knowing Arabic. We are hoping to have them join the ministries already happening, take over some teachings, and be at the center in the same way our staff is with less guidance and oversight. They will be able to jump into discipleship and in depth ministry with all ages at the center. Then, with both of those debriefs in his back pocket, Louis will hop on a plane and head home.

What We Will Be Doing With Our Extra Time In America

    These two very different teams will help us continue to shape our curriculum for orientation and training of individuals and teams coming to Lebanon. The experiences we have had in Tirosh, Via de Cristo, and Chayah have all prepared us for being able to easily identify the roots of issues that come up and determine how best to handle them in the future. Photography, dress code, gender issues, etc. We are using the debriefs that Louis has and will have completed to make trainings, orientations, etc. effective and always better.

    If you are thinking that you would like to join a team or host a team to Lebanon in the future, just let us know and we can begin helping you determine what would be necessary to plan a trip.

October Newsletter: Written by Louis Liss

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A “Normal” Day At The Center
     This is the view from the roof of our ministry center. Many of you been wanting to know about what an average day looks like for me as we do ministry here in Lebanon. Three days a weeks we spend in formal language training, Sunday is church, and every other day is a new and unpredictable experience. I have had trouble answering this question until now because of the extreme variation from one day to the next, but over the course of enough time certain patterns have begun to emerge.
     1st Public Transportation: I leave home and walk to the main street to wait from 10 seconds to 30 minutes for either a bus, mini-bus (van), taxi, or serviice (cheap taxi) to come by and take me to our refugee center for between $1 and $6.66 depending on 10 different variables and situations. I get dropped off on the side of the 5 lane highway and must run across to get into our slum called Nabaa. 2nd Discovering the Plan: When I walk through the gates of our Hope of the Nations Center I discover either 50 things I expected happening simultaneously or 1,000 things I didn’t expect. I had a meeting scheduled last week with someone living in the center and walked in to discover that the shared men’s bedroom had been turned into an OBGYN (Embarrassingly I only discovered this after opening the door) 3rd Riding the Wave of Chaos: After finding out what the day will hold. I get the amazing opportunity to share the gospel with refugees in my limited Arabic, Disciple the men living at the center and the high school boys who spend all day there, and meet with our interns about all the new challenges they are facing. 4th Evening Worship: We have a dozen different meetings during the week, but four days a week we have worship services for Kurds, Armenians, and two big combined services where 200 people and 100 kids come to worship at the same time as the evening call to prayer is pumped through the speakers of the local Mosque. Out of respect we crank our speakers even louder and flood the neighborhood with worship music. Finally, I take public transportation back to our apartment for a late dinner and to begin day 2: e-mails.

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High School Ministry
It turns out I like high schoolers after all. After spending my seminary internship as a youth director and running two-dozen retreats for high school students, I was confident that it was just a stepping stone to a bigger role in ministry. So I moved my entire family across the world only to discover that youth weren’t a stepping stone they were the destination. The adult men are amazing, but the ones who truly have a fiery passion for spending time in the word and a desire to be discipled are the young men. I want to share with you about my friend Rizan. He and his family are Kurdish Syrians who have been living in Lebanon for two years. He has lost so much time in school because of the war that he is three years behind in school, so he decided to instead spend all day every day at the Center. He has been reading through the Bible in a year and I asked him to bring me any question he has. So every time I see him we get to stumble through broken Arabic and broken English to answer his deep theological concerns. The church he attends is now sponsoring him to attend the local seminary since he is too ashamed to go to school. Please be praying for Rizan as he embarks on this exciting new part of his life and I continue discipling him through this process.

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New Job
As some of you know we became the Coordinators for Foreign Teams and Visitors in Lebanon. The plan for foreigners visiting Lebanon to do ministry at our center before we came has been: When they arrive at 1:00 AM from the airport we drop them off in our lovely slum named Nabaa where no one speaks English and let them fend for themselves until they need a ride back to the airport. For some reason people have not enjoyed this experience so far. With interns already coming before we arrived, we felt a clear call from God to care for and disciple these short term staff. So far we have had a young man named Andres from Mexico who came for a month and we still have a young woman here named Annie who will be with us until December.

We quickly threw together curriculum for Pre-Arrival, Orientation, and Continued Teaching. It has been an immediate success and has solved a dozen issues with our foreigners, their ministry, and harmony with national staff. It has been a tremendous blessing to us as well. We thrive and grow by being able to disciple men and women to share the gospel. It has been a very slow process for us to grow as quickly as we would like for ourselves at the center, because of the huge language barrier. This has been an amazing experience to make disciples who can affect change in peoples’ lives at the center in a short term context.

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Davey’s Arabic
     There is a standard 6 month breakthrough that missionaries experience where they start moving from surviving to thriving. The feeling of drowning begins to turn into a felling swimming as we persevere through cultural and language barriers. Davey struggled a lot initially not just because of sickness. When we left America he had an extremely high English comprehension and then being immersed in Arabic caused him extreme frustration because he couldn’t understand anyone.
     We have been working diligently to teach him Arabic greetings and phrases. This not only has brought him a lot of joy but is an amazing testimony to every Arab that we see who understand how committed we are to sharing about Jesus that we would teach our child their language. Because many Lebanese speak conversational English, it is common for English speaking missionaries to not learn Arabic. Davey is an amazing avenue for us to share that just as Jesus came and learned our language we have come to immerse ourselves in their culture in order to share the salvation of Jesus in Lebanon.

Cyprus Visa Trip: Thank You For Praying

The Liss family had a three day adventure to Cyprus and back to Lebanon. Without your prayers it would not have gone as well and peacefully as it did. God is good! All the time!

As you have heard us mention in various blog posts and prayer requests, our Lebanese tourist visa only lasts three months at a time. After that, we have to leave the country and return in order to renew the time. There is no place to drive out of Lebanon, so we have to fly, and the two cheapest options are Cyprus and Jordan. We chose Cyprus for this trip because the friends we have in Jordan were not in Jordan when we had to travel. Here are some of the prayers that were answered on this short trip:

1. Easy Boarding

Going to Cyprus and coming back we had no trouble with security or boarding, no delayed flights, everything went wonderfully. God even provided wonderful people from our team to drive us to and from the airport.

2. Peaceful People

In Rome one of the biggest stresses we had was the owner of the little 4 room “bed and breakfast” was not very nice. He was upset about Davy crying, upset about the time we got there, and upset at us for only spending a day…Needless to say, we were a little anxious when choosing a place this time because many places are small like that was and are not really hotels in the way we would think in America. God provided us with a large hotel, which had our own bathroom in the room, a separate room Davy could sleep in, and the people who worked there were peaceful. We did not have any instances of people being upset at us throughout our trip, and we were able to peacefully spend our time, ask for directions, get a rental car. It made the trip so much more enjoyable.

3. IKEA

Since we do not have a car in Lebanon it is hard to find stores that will have items to make our lives more functional. We know that there probably are such stores, but until we have a car and can spend the day driving around checking the area out, we will have to wait awhile for that opportunity. Since Cyprus has an IKEA and we had a car, we took the opportunity to spend a few hours shopping in a semi-familiar context (everything was in Greek). This IKEA had fun stuff for Davy to do throughout the entire store, and that made our day. One of the big reasons we went there was because educational items are pretty expensive in Lebanon at teacher stores and toy stores are not very stocked with educational items. So, we bought the majority of items for him. We were also able to start thinking about bigger items from IKEA that we might get in the States and bring back if we can’t find our preferences here. It was a successful trip and a nice time to spend as a family and feel almost familiar.

4. Beach Day

It was Davy’s first trip to the beach. We woke up early and headed down before anyone else was even awake. Maybe it’s the fact that the sun rises on the side of the island we were on, or that there was some serious partying happening all night, but we had the beach to ourselves. Davy was adorable! He didn’t much like the water moving so much, but he did enjoy himself for about an hour. He loved playing in the sand with his new sand toys, especially the dump truck. And none of us burned!

5. Christian Sites

We were able to accomplish more than we even though possible on our trip. Since we arrived at 8pm on Wednesday night and were leaving at 10:30am on Friday, we really only had a full day to visit. We found the church of Lazarus, which is where they found a tomb stating, “the fourth day Lazarus friend of Jesus Christ”. The church is Greek Orthodox, very beautiful, and very different from the Catholic Churches we have visited. This was very Jesus focused, with many paintings of the resurrection of Lazarus, of course. It was the first tomb we had actually gone into since we had skipped all such things in Rome due to time. Secondly, after IKEA we still had so much daytime left we drove over to the Angelotisti Church, which means “built by the angels”. This church was also gorgeous, and very Christ-focused. Both of these churches are Byzantine churches, and this one in particular had an amazing mosaic of Mary and Baby Jesus. We were so blessed to have the time and a peaceful child to take into these two amazing churches.

Want to see more pictures?
CLICK HERE for more Davy Pictures

CLICK HERE for pictures of the sites

Stay Tuned: Coming Up Soon

More Mr. Feelings
Interns Are Coming!
More Debriefs From Training, Life Lessons, and Arabic Learning
Bible Study Begins Again This Week
Trip Planning for America & Davy’s 2nd Birthday

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.

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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.

We Have Arrived In Lebanon

We’re here at last! As soon as we got to Pierre & Gigi’s apartment Davy was off and running to play with Rami. They are having a great time together. This morning Rami didn’t want to go to daycare so that he could stay and play with “Baby David”. They are attached at the hip already.

Today we went shopping for our new apartment. First we measured and got to walk through and decide where we wanted things and then we went to buy a fridge, a washer, and a dryer. As I am typing this Louis and Pierre are off buying Davy his mattress and our water cooler. We are learning all about the electricity and how to work a gas stove.

We began to plan out our language route today as well. This is one of the methods that we learned about in our training that we are very excited to begin using. The idea is to take one day to meet as many people along a specific route as possible. Hopefully these are people who will be there every day. From the 50 or so people we try to meet that first day we will find 3-7 with whom we could visit every day along the route to practice Arabic (and later French). Shop owners are great because they expect people to come in and the chatting times are short so that we won’t be staying long. There are many shops right around our apartment, so we are going to begin working on our memorized dialogue to begin our walk once we move in and my walking blister from Rome goes away. A reason we love this language project so much is that it initiates relationships right away.

Pray for Restful Travel

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Our plans are to add blog entries debriefing our training and updating you on our travel. Until we write that we took the 12 hours we spent stuck at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport to upload our favorite pictures from the trip in two new pages on this blog. Check them out and pray that this trip decreases in the chaos so we can take a break before jumping into Lebanon.

Upcoming Training

We want to let you all know about the training that we are going to this April. So here is a summary of the information pulled from the website (Click Here to see the complete website). We will be attending the Compass training from March 31 through April 26 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Compass is designed to help cross-cultural missionaries develop skills and attitudes to successfully make it through culture shock and adaptation. Many missionaries last a short time on the mission field because there is a lack of pre-field training, and there are huge expectations set on them. One of the ways in which Compass will help with this is by giving us tools to acquire new languages quickly, which will make us more effective immediately. This will allow us to connect with the people we meet in their heart language. We will learn techniques in entering a new culture in areas of stress, team dynamics, conflicts, Sabbath rest, and relationship skills.

Your prayers are essential as we experience this opportunity together as a family. It has been many years since we have attended a training instead of running it ourselves. Davy has never had an experience of being in daycare throughout the day as he will there. I (Annie) am very nervous about it all, but feel that the Holy Spirit has been calling me out onto the ledge, to live less in safety, and more in vulnerability. I want to find God in every experience instead of relying on comfort and routine. I am excited to see what God is going to do with us there, and how we will be able to change our attitudes and increase our hope and joyfulness in these times of uncertainty.

Emotional Preparations

Lately I have been in a new stage of preparing for Lebanon. It isn’t the stage I planned on being in either. Isn’t that always the way? I inform God and those around me of my plans, and then God patiently and gently guides me down the path of His plan. I do not always understand that it is a path, but here I am again on God’s path when I suddenly look up and realize that this is not the place I thought I was headed.

Of late, my plans to physically prepare by downsizing our storage unit, purging our house of unneeded items, donating clothes and such to Savers or Goodwill, and organizing important paperwork, all of those plans have fallen by the wayside. However, as I reflect on the past month not making headway on those goals, I realize that I have been continually prepared by God in my devotional time with Him, in my prayer life, and emotionally as I have taken time to process those people and events that keep me sane and motivated in my life. Driving to accountability and small group times shows me how important those are to me, and I have cried over the probable loss of them and then been hopeful in determining how to continue those relationships and accountability sessions when we leave.

Even taking Davy to the gym to fulfill our New Year’s Resolution of preparing him for daycare when we go to our training at the end of March has had some emotional processing. Davy loves going and playing with the kids after his two month break from going to the gym at all. It was relieving and also a mommy sadness to know that he might adjust well to many of the upcoming changes. Of course, the training is 8 hours a day of daycare and the gym is only one hour every few days as well.

Finally, as I recognize changes in Louis and I that were only hoped for in the past, I am amazed to see how God has been molding us into missionaries throughout our marriage (and, really, the course of our lives). My comfort in attending church, joy in devotional time and Bible Study, prayer with Davy before meals and over those sick and hurting, and peace that stays with me; all of these are a change that has been slow and steady, but are drastic compared to several years ago when we clearly heard God tell us to head toward Lebanon.

I am currently teaching a Bible Study on Sundays at Mt. Zion titled One Story. The purpose is to see how the entire Bible points to Jesus and how the entire Bible is helpful for ourselves so we can share that story with others. I felt convicted to do this class even with my continued discomfort with leading adults because God has been showing me that my reading of His word and my comfort with this idea that even the laws and the genealogies matter to me, Annie, is something others need to hear about. Preparing for this past Sunday, writing down several stories we could discuss I realized that this idea of the Cosmic Drama, the endless cycles of Sin and Redemption, were not merely Horizons International curriculum to me. I own them. I see my story in Scripture, and I want to share it with others. This was a phenomenal discovery, and overtook my feelings of inadequacy to share my own story of being the Mark 5, bleeding woman: The Woman Who Touched Jesus. I have the audacity to reach out and hug Jesus, and call him my lover. And you can, too.

It seems strange to many people to find out about my layers. I have a teacher face (as I call it) which I have cultivated over my three years of leaving terrible morning meetings crying, but having to stand up in front of my students and teach science, math, etc. I had to put on a game face (as Louis calls it). This face keeps doctors from believing that I am sick, and keeps adults from seeing my fear in speaking to groups of them. But as I rely on Jesus more and more to show His power through my weaknesses, I am filled with a peace. The same peace as the woman in Mark 5 who, healed from her shame, throws herself at Jesus’ feet and proclaims her story. I can share my fears because it is truth, and it shows how Jesus can work through me rather than relying on a mask. Others can see it is okay to share their own weaknesses because I share mine. This is something I have known in my head, practiced at times, but now feel I understand and that it will help me immensely in any future undertakings I follow God into.

In reflecting on all of this a verse jumped out at me this week:

“The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.” Isaiah 50:4a