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.
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Psalm 8

Overview

    A psalm of praise, Psalm 8 is honoring the majesty of God apparent in all the earth. Here is the true use of “out of the mouth of babes”. This psalm is also sharing of the uniqueness of humanity, that we are made higher up within the hierarchy than evolution would place us. We are just under the heavenly beings, but above all the other works of God’s hands.

Characters

Our Lord, all the earth, the heavens, babies and infants, God’s foes, the enemy and the avenger, David the Psalmist, man and the son of man, the heavenly beings.

Key Verse

Verse 4-5 “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.”

Cross References

Hebrews 2:6-9 “It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet. Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

Psalm 144:3 “O Lord, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him?”

Job 7:17-18 “What is man, that you make so much of him, and that you set your heart on him, visit him every morning and test him every moment?”

Job 25:6 “how much less man, who is a maggot, and the son of man, who is a worm!”

Genesis 8:1 “But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.”

Psalm 80:17 “But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!”

Psalm 65:9 “You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it.”

Genesis 21:1 “The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised.”

Genesis 50:24 “And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

Genesis 1:26 “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Psalm 21:5 “His glory is great through your salvation; splendor and majesty you bestow on him.”

Conclusion

    It is important what we do with Scripture. To know that God has placed us almost equal to the angels, and somewhere else it says we will be over them in heaven, can go to our heads and we can build the Tower of Babel. Or we can realize with awe what God has done for us, that we fell so far and hard as to make it impossible for us to pick up the pieces and restore our lives to deserve eternal life in peace with God. Yet, God picked us up, put us back together, and accepts us back into his home with a party. This should humble us and draw us closer to him that he shows such redeeming love.

Louis and I saw the new Noah movie. It did a very good job of showing the sin of man, and that that sin resides in all mankind. It had stunning and horrifying sequences of the death that occurred all around that ark as the rain fell and everyone died. And it shows a Noah that realizes everyone deserves to die. I am sure that not all Christians who see it find it to be a movie worth watching, but to me it was a movie that proved my earlier point. The writer and director of this movie did not have the relationship with God that could move beyond the question, “What is man that you are mindful of him?” and so the movie ends in a quandary, and not in Scriptures truth of the story and what actually happened. Perhaps we think, as many in Scripture say, it would have been better if I was never born. But God put you here, created you, and made so many things in this world just for you, out of love. We live in false humility if realizing our own depravity does not send us running into the arms of Christ.

We are not merely extras in the movie of life for important people, but are the main star of the movie that God is making about and for us. He is an extravagant lover, pursuing us with zeal.

Jesus in the Psalm

    This Psalm follows the Cosmic Drama from creation to the fall to redemption to perfect completion.

Romans 1:18-20 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

The Hebrews passage above in the cross references clearly connects this Psalm directly to Jesus. “The One through whom the world was created (John 1:3; Heb. 1:2) came to restore the image marred at the fall (Col. 1:15). He empowers even the weakest to participate in his redemptive plan (1 Cor. 1:26-31). Verses 1 and 9 of Psalm 8 serve not only as bookends for the psalm; they also anticipate the end of all things, when Christ’s enemies will be made a footstool for his feet, and his name will be majestic through all the earth (Eph. 1:22).”*

John 1:3 “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”

Hebrews 1:2 “but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”

Colossians 1:15-20 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether or earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.””

Ephesians 1:22 “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,”

I just pray that as you read these passages of Scripture linking to the New Testament that your heart is as lifted as mine. I just want to keep reading and sharing with you because I am bursting with the good news that this all entails. God’s blessings on all of you. I pray that you are growing in Your Lord daily, and that your hunger for Scripture becomes famishing.

Tomorrow: Romans 2

*Note: I am using the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible for the Jesus in the Psalm section, so these are paraphrases of the commentary with my own ideas sprinkled in.

Thank you for reading. I am excited to hear your key verses, observations, and thoughts! Please leave a comment to share them with us.

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Christianese -Written by Louis Liss

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:2

I adore intellectualism. I lavish wading in the waters of hyper-cognitive conversations and am filled with a bolt of adrenaline at the opportunity to debate any given topic that pops up in daily dialogue. So when the Holy Spirit illuminated the Great Commission for me in high school as being imperative for my life, I felt uniquely equipped to stand in the middle of the courtyard and watch as my words brought down tongues of fire onto the campus. You can imagine how stunned I was when my incredible oratory and prowess in verbal sparring bore no fruit and sowed a lot of dissension towards not only myself but God in general. For some bizarre reason my puffed up pride did not convey the gospel of Jesus Christ. Beyond my arrogance, the greatest barrier to Jesus was the language I was using, which to me was clear and deeply significant. To my post-modern classmates the words, “Justification by grace through faith,” not only had no meaningful impact, but had no meaning at all. Though I had a comprehensive command of the theological principles of the road to salvation this did not impress my classmates enough to give their lives over to Jesus nor did they appreciate being dragged brain first across the threshold of salvation. So I stumbled through constant clumsy evangelism into college. It was there at our InterVarsity campus ministry that we played a game where we had to make a list of words that meant nothing or something completely different to our non-Christian neighbors. We made a long list of words including, for example, atonement, sanctification, and blood. Then we were asked to flip over the page and answer the following question without using any of those aforementioned words: What is the significance of the cross in your life? Jesus’ death on the cross was and is the most important manifestation of Christ in my life and so I feverishly began to write with growing fervor. I soon found that I was doing far more erasing than I was writing. I realized that I had become fully dependent on explaining my deep and passionate love for Jesus in a way that only I and those select few fluent in Christianese could understand. I then received a far deeper revelation from the Holy Spirit. I had been clinging to these insider terms during evangelism because I had placed my identity in my intelligence and not in Christ. I thought that it was more important that people were impressed by my knowledge of God than by God, and to bring the illumination to its completion the Holy Spirit finally told me that my amazing oration had drawn many people to myself but very few were then drawn to Him. So I began to take a John 15 set of shears to my language. I started to systematically reevaluate all of my beliefs about God and if it included any of the post-modern taboo words that I had listed then I moved it from the evangelism part of my brain to the discipleship section. I began to realize how deeply difficult this truly was. I found my post-modern friends were in no way interested with whether or not Jesus was true in what He said, but they were intently fascinated by whether or not these truths worked practically in my life. With my high church armor stripped I found myself exposed. These words had protected me from having to engage about my own struggles and failures. I now stood bare before the world with nothing but Jesus and my personal stories of his daily actions in my life. I sat one day in my hockey locker room surrounded by several guys I have known for well over 15 years. They would frequently recount the debaucherous exploits of our youth. After several months of stories a newer player who knew that I had been present for all of the depicted events asked me how it was possible that I could be a character in these stories from the past and now be a pastor and missionary who continued to consort with my former teammates. The characters in these tales were comprised of heroin addicts, a multiple rehab attender, a drug dealer whose family had to flee the state because of death threats, a prisoner for illegal pornography, adulterers, drunkards, three lifetime ban holders, and a rap sheet full of assaults to round out the tales that come to mind. Even as I began to speak I looked at my teammates through a haze of pot smoke. “How did you end up like you did after spending your life with these guys?” he asked. “I was lost, running in darkness and filling my life with anything that could make me not think about the pit I was in. I tried to pull myself out so many times and never could shake the darkness. Then I was invited to come to a youth retreat where Jesus met me and broke in with such amazing light that all of the darkness in me fled and all the venom in me was drained out. I was a new person with Jesus in my heart, and as for these guys. There’s no place that Jesus would rather hang out than in a hockey locker room. We all need that light in our lives.” The locker room that usually sounded like, well, a locker room was silent. One of my old friends leaned over and said, “Thanks Lou we need someone like you in around us.” Everyone agreed and as we were going out to play the game the new guy approached me and asked if we could talk more at the bar after the game. Of course I agreed and we had weeks of amazing conversations about Jesus and His light. While I am amongst someone who hasn’t yet taken that unfathomable leap into the arms of Jesus I now confess to know nothing but Christ and him crucified. It has transformed my life, my ministry, and truly proven to me that God was right when He spoke about all we need in Revelation 12:11, “They overcame [the accuser] by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony.” Amen and Ahmeen

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Romans 1

Welcome to the first chapter of Romans. If you have been reading along with us the Psalms, you already know how to fill out your own notebooking page for our chapter study. All you need is to put the headings into your notebook, and then follow them. Read through the chapter 3 times before you write down any answers.

Let me give you some of the basic introductory information in my Bible, and if there is anything that you find interesting in your Bible’s Introduction to Romans, please leave a note in the comments section.*

Written by Paul to the Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome. This is the first epistle you would come to reading straight through the New Testament. It contains many teachings that were foundational to the church that rises in the previous book of Acts. “[Romans] played a direct role in the conversions of many such as Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Wesley. John Calvin wrote that Romans is the doorway to the treasure of all Scripture.”* Louis says that reading chapter 1 in college is what sent him into missions.

Romans’ main message is the gospel, and this book “is certainly Paul’s most extended and concentrated presentation of God’s saving work in Christ.”*

The nouns Paul used most often in Romans provides its own sort of summary of the book.

1. God is used 153 times. He is the subject of this epistle.

2. Law is used 74 times. “Cultures may be diverse, but Scripture views humans of all cultures as having one thing profoundly in common: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23). We have all broken God’s “holy and righteous and good” commandment (7:12). Yet Romans trumpets that in sending “his own Son”, God fulfilled what the law demanded but we humans could not furnish (8:3-4). Believers are liberated “in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (8:2).”*

3. Christ is used 65 times, Lord is used 43 times, and Jesus is used 36 times. From the first verse, Paul labels himself a slave or servant of Christ. We, the readers, are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

While this book does contain “weighty words piling up into lofty teachings. It is also about ethics—how to live. No chapter is without gospel-informed implications for daily living”.*

Overview:

Paul is writing to the church in Rome about his constant prayers for them who live in Rome among unrighteousness. He expresses that there is no excuse: that God has made himself known and still they refuse to acknowledge him. He talks about the sins of dishonorable passions, leaving natural relations behind for unnatural, and that condoning such sins is also wrong.

Characters:

Paul, Christ Jesus, God, prophets, David, Spirit, “those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints”, Gentiles, Greeks, barbarians, wise, foolish, Jews, righteous, those God has given up to their own passions and depraved minds who did not acknowledge God.

Key Verse:

Verse 20 “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Cross References:

Psalm 19:1-6 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.”

Jeremiah 5:21, 22 “”Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not. Do you not fear me? declares the Lord. Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it.”

Conclusion:

There is no excuse for God to not be acknowledged among men. He doesn’t need our help, and it furthers our stance to not be ashamed of the gospel. We need to preach to help those who are perishing, and we have nothing to be ashamed of because God loves us and we are his saints.

This chapter tells us that there are things revealed about God that no one has an excuse to not know. We know that God exists and that He is Creator. This is called General Revelation in theological terms.

Jesus in Romans:

    “The gospel gains urgency in the light of God’s verdict on humanity.”* In Bible Study with Louis on this chapter we looked at verses 18-32 and the downward spiral that is talked about. The beginning of that spiral is people who know God, but do not acknowledge him or give him his due thanks. If someone told you that they hadn’t thanked God enough that day, you most likely would not be too concerned, but as you travel the verses in this spiral into darkness, you would become concerned. But the root seems to be denying God’s nature that was so obviously revealed in the previous verses.

    Perhaps you read this list of sins and detach, even though you read it through 3 times you might not feel that any of it is for you. There are two parts to apply to ourselves. First, as sinners. Yesterday we talked about our need for salvation from all sorts of bondage in our lives. This section is pretty much a pile of chains that bind humanity. Looking at that massive list (Paul likes lists and run on sentences) makes me feel like I have no sin compared to all that sin. However, it is not that you must accomplish every sin to be damned. All sin, any sin, one sin is enough to separate us from God. Let’s see if we take them out one by one if any strike you. Using the standard that Christ sets forth, can you say you do none of these? We all have sinned. Pray through each of these and ask God to reveal any unrepentant sins in your own life and heart.

  1. Did not honor him as God
  2. Did not give thanks to God
  3. Their foolish hearts were darkened
  4. Claimed to be wise
  5. Exchanged the glory of immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things
  6. Given up to the lusts of their hearts
  7. Given up to impurity
  8. Given up to the dishonoringof their bodies among themselves
  9. Exchanged the truth about God for a lie
  10. Worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator
  11. Given up to dishonorable passions
  12. Exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature
  13. Consumed with passion for one another
  14. Did not see fit to acknowledge God
  15. Given up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done
  16. Filled with all manner of
    1. Unrighteousness
    2. Evil
    3. Covetousness
    4. Malice
  17. Full of
    1. Envy
    2. Murder
    3. Strife
    4. Deceit
    5. Maliciousness
  18. They are
    1. Gossips
    2. Slanderers
    3. Haters of God
    4. Insolent
    5. Haughty
    6. Boastful
    7. Inventors of evil
    8. Disobedient to parents
    9. Foolish
    10. Faithless
    11. Heartless
    12. Ruthless
  19. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

The second application is as one who sees others sinning in these ways. Romans talks about our responsibility as followers of Jesus throughout its chapters. The last verse in this chapter brings up yet another way that we are called to be responsible to each other. If we give approval to those who practice these debased and immoral acts, that is a sin. We do not want others to die, and we know that “those who practice such things deserve to die” (verse 32b). If my friend is struggling with any unrighteousness, I want to encourage her back to God, and his redeeming presence. I want her to be blessed, as we have been reading about in Psalms.

*Note: I am using the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible for the Jesus in the Psalm section, so these are paraphrases of the commentary with my own ideas sprinkled in.

I am excited to hear your key verses, observations, and thoughts! Please leave a comment to share them with us.

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To see the other posts in this study CLICK HERE

Tomorrow: Psalm 4

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.

The Liss Family Travel Log: A Lesson In Paradox

 

We began with an itinerary. We had two flights to get to Rome to spend two days there. Louis had the walking tours planned out so we could have plenty of time to find some café and just sit and drink coffee, eat paninis and take our time. This was to be all our missed anniversaries and Valentines Days and birthdays combined. A romantic Rome getaway. Yay! Then the Paradox followed us from MTI.

Any of you who attended one of our send offs heard us explain this. If you take a clean duck and a dirty duck what do you have, a Paradox (pair of ducks).

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This is like “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” Speaking in paradox is learning that while I may be having the best time of my life, I may also be having one of the hardest times of my life. Or when Louis is super excited about an experience, I might be super disappointed by that same experience. Learning to be accepting and loving of those experiences that are different from our own helps us live in the paradox. Learning to speak and live in paradox builds our resilience which helps us as parents and as people to be more mature and more able to persevere through suffering. The following is a detailed diary of our trip, and expresses this paradox language.

May 5: Day 1: A Yuck Duck Day

We arrived at the airport to discover that our Air Canada plane had had issues in Toronto, so had never made it to Sky Harbor to pick us up. First it was delayed until 4:00PM, then until 7:30PM. We asked where we would end up for the evening, and they realized that Toronto was not our destination. Eventually, they changed our flights over to British Airways. They were going to fly us to London then to Rome. British Airways was confused by us and not super nice in solving things with Louis. It was a very frustrating time and we weren’t sure at all about baggage rules for British Airways, so we ended up getting lectured for our baggage at each leg of the trip.

On the plane Davy fell out of his seat asleep three times. I couldn’t sleep because I was so scared he was going to get hurt. My back hurt from the strange position I had to sit in to put my legs up to block him into the seat.

Day 1: A Yay Duck Day

All four of our parents helped us out getting to the airport. My dad had gone early to the airport to get a gate pass so he could come see us off all the way up to the plane. In getting there early he was able to find out about all our delays before we got there. This made it so much less stressful to handle once we had arrived. My mom dropped us off at the gate and went home to pack for her own trip to Greece coming up. She had put off all packing and preparing so she could see us. Louis’ parents met us at the gate and took Davy on a walk of the airport while we waited to find out what was happening. Since we had not eaten breakfast we got the chance to eat together at the favorite Horner (my family) breakfast place, U.S. Egg. It was wonderful for Davy to get to spend extra time with these three grandparents, and for us to get to spend extra time with our parents. We are going to miss everyone so much, and God really blessed us with this meal.

Back at the airport we went through security without any issue other than Taju going through the conveyor belt caused Davy to panic. The security lady, however, as soon as she saw Davy begin to get upset put Taju at the front of the line and when it was going through said, “Don’t stop that bear!” It was a great moment of feeling secure in the midst of chaos for this mommy’s heart. Having my dad come through to the gate was also a real blessing. He carried Davy and since he was calm and peaceful, Davy felt better. He could tell that Louis and I were stressed, so it was great to have someone Davy could go to for calm. Once through security Louis also calmed quite a bit.

As the chaos continued with plane delays and cancellations we were able to calmly assure the stewardesses at the desk that we knew it wasn’t their fault and we just wanted to get to Rome. Because we mentioned early on we had no need to go to Toronto and only wanted to make it to Rome we were able to get our tickets changed. We got meal vouchers for lunch and for dinner, which was great because it meant two free meals that were food we really liked. Louis and I took several calming walks just praying through the airport and Louis found a playplace for Davy. After we ate lunch with my dad, another blessed meal, we just sat at the playplace the rest of our time in the airport. Davy even took a nap before saying a good goodbye to my dad.

The flight gave us an entire row of four to ourselves, and Davy slept in the middle two seats. He even slept through falling out of the seats three times during the flight. I slept for two hours at a time, but even that was better than nothing.

May 6: Day 2: Speaking in Paradox

We are going to be flying through London on our way back to the States, so it was good to get to see the airport and know a little about it so that maybe our next trip there will not be as stressful. It was nice to feel productive at least solving the internet and getting a mocha. And, oh my goodness, it was a good mocha. The chocolate in it was really good chocolate instead of Hershey’s syrup, so even Louis liked it.

As I check emails to make sure that our bed and breakfast is still good and to try to figure out how to salvage our trip, Louis tries to call Middle Eastern Air in the airport to change our flight to later. As I am discovering that we can’t go until Sunday if we do that, Louis reports back from the phone. Our brand new credit card has been frozen because we are trying to use it in London. We had never called them to tell them we would be out of the country because we got the card two days before we flew out, so we just didn’t think about it.

Louis decides he isn’t going to try any other ways of getting to MEA, and that we are just going to spend one day in Rome and then go to Lebanon as planned. I was so disappointed and crestfallen and mad and frustrated and upset that I just burst into tears. So much for an anniversary makeup. Everything I was hoping for (a break to rest from all the mania before we are required to think about ministry, a time of romance, sitting in a café with no hurry while Louis took pictures, seeing early Christian sites that might take hours to find because they were little known) all of that evaporated in a moment.

Then, the B&B email shows up that says he didn’t know we were bringing a baby and he might not be there when we get there. As I replied to the email our flight was called, and they had moved us to another terminal so we had to hurry to get there. At the gate they tell us we have to many bags, that this flight is not a regular flight, but an economy business flight of some sort. However, we weren’t charged for the “extra bags.” Praise the Lord!

We arrived in Rome after sleeping some on the plane and called the B&B. He said he had held the reservation for us and he would let us in when we got there. With a sigh of relief we took off. While buying tickets for the train many taxi drivers were soliciting, but Louis wanted the cheaper train leaving “just 15 minutes” of walking. I said, let’s just use a taxi since we have so much stuff, but Louis was sure we could handle it. I was happy he was confident, so followed his lead. He figured out the tickets for the train out to the main terminal, and we were all happy to not be flying.

Once we got off the train, however, I was done. I was overdone, and I was so tired of disappointments. I felt lower and lower as we walked, feeling no closer to our destination. We had too much baggage to be going through cobblestone streets this way, and I felt my temper begin to rise. Louis felt terribly when we weren’t sure where the hotel was on the map. Finally we made it to the location to find that the man had gone home rather than stay at the hotel to wait for us. I burst into tears. A few people on the street came over and called him on their cell phones and soon he was there lecturing us in Italian and English about having too many bags, not telling him about the baby, that the baby would get him bad reviews from people, basically we felt like scum. Finally, however, Davy stopped crying, so the man stopped lecturing him and us about crying and we were able to begin settling down in peace. We got warm showers and sleep.

 

 

November, Babies, Ministry, Prayer, Oh My!

Louis Preaching

October was a month of Sundays for Louis preaching! Louis was asked to fill in as a supply pastor for October and November at Concordia Lutheran Church in Phoenix. This has been an excellent time for Louis to be able to do what he loves to do: share the message of good news in Jesus Christ. It has also allowed us to take weekly trips to Phoenix to visit Annie’s parents and to continue to be involved in Chayah. October 27th, Annie and Louis gave the marriage talk for Chayah #58 Boys’ Weekend. This will be the third time they have given this talk this year in the juvenile detention center, the first two being to Girls’ Chayah weekends #55 and #57. Even with all of these commitments, Louis was able to serve on the Community Team for the Men’s Via de Cristo #31. His father attended the weekend and had a great time! Finally, Louis is the Lay Director for the upcoming Tirosh weekend in January and meetings begin this month. All of these are opportunities to stay involved in God’s calling while we raise support and also to continue to build those supremely important relationships that we want to continue in even when we go to Lebanon.

Still Pregnant

This picture is from October 2nd when Annie was 8 months pregnant. The baby is due November 6, so by now she is basically 9 months pregnant and he could be here any day. From September 29 to October 28 we have had four different baby showers of all kinds. A very girly, a co-ed, a man party, and another girl filled which have provided many reminders of the support we have. To those of you who haven’t received thank you cards yet, I have adored the advice, gifts, and the overall showering of love provided by all of you throughout this pregnancy. I really do believe that you are a necessary part of our lives. Of course your prayers are welcomed for the little one and as soon as we return home from the hospital and I get a moment to upload pictures of the little guy, I will send everyone on this prayer support list an announcement all about baby!

November Prayer Requests

November 1-3: Pray for this month of preaching by Louis at Concordia Lutheran
November 4 – 10: Pray for Via de Cristo women’s weekend November 8-11. Pray that after this weekend both men and women would be forever blessed by new friendships and strengthened relationships with Christ.
November 11 – 17: Pray for our baby who will be here by the end of this week for sure. The due date is November 6th, and to keep the baby from getting too big we are inducing some time this week if the baby has not come prior.
November 18 – 24: Pray for Louis and Annie to be able to continue to have a great relationship together with the little addition!
November 25 – December 1: Pray for Louis’ sermon at Desert Hope Lutheran in Tucson followed by a Sunday School period all about Jesus’ Hope for the Middle East.