10 Days & Counting! America, Here We Come!

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I really love this picture of Davy looking out over Lebanon and seeing the song he made up, “Our City”! What a beautiful moment.

If you want to receive our contact information when we get American phone numbers for the month we are in the States, make sure you are on our email list by CLICKING HERE!

This week we so appreciate those of you praying with us. If you are on our prayer team (which you can join by CLICKING HERE) you have been receiving detailed prayer requests straight to your email each day. Next week we are going to continue praying about these same 7 topics, and I will report a little bit on what we prayed about this current week. If you would like to receive our prayer letters in your email, please CLICK HERE!

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Our fundraising site for Kyrie has been such a success! Because we budget to travel every 3 months and this trip comes after only 2 months, and it is much more expensive to fly to America than Cyprus, our budget is struggling to manage this lurch in timing. On the site we asked for people to provide meals by either having us over to eat or by bringng a freezer meal to one of our parents’ houses. However, the link has not been working for people. Please don’t despair. You can just send us an email or comment below and we can coordinate with you. If you would like to give toward the travel costs and appointments surrounding the surgery, there is still time to donate on the GiveForward site (you can give on the site up until the day of the surgery, December 28th).

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Of course, if God is putting it on your heart in these times of prayer to join with us financially for a one time or repeat donation to support our ministry here in Lebanon, the high schoolers and visitors we hope to increase our time with and curriculum for and the expenses of life, you can always become one of our financial partners through the Horizons Donation Page, which has many options for joining with us as well. Just put Louis Liss in the memo. This will go towards our future here in Lebanon.

The final plug I have for today is about an upcoming Writing Challenge Annie is putting on. The purpose is to kickstart the blogging habit in the New Year. If you would like to Join this FREE 21 Day Writing Challenge, CLICK HERE! If you want to follow Annie’s blogs through this challenge so you can pray and stay up to date during our month in America, or if you are hoping to finish that Christmas letter by February, or if you also want to kickstart a writing habit for a journal, prayer life, or blog, this Challenge is for you, too! Please join Annie. You will only get the Prompts if you CLICK HERE! The Challenge begins December 15th!

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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

For Other References To Christianese Click Here

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.

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.

 

 

SAVE THE DATE!

Lebanon Send Off & Launch

Phoenix:

April 27, 2014
5:00 PM
St. John’s Lutheran Church

 

Tucson:

May 3, 2014

11:00 AM

Mt.Zion Lutheran Church

Come and bring anyone who might be interested in partnering with us to fund our mission work in Lebanon or find out more. Our team is desperate for us, and we are leaving this May in faith that God is going to provide the remaining funds.

Our team leader sent us a list of just a few of the things happening there and we want to be able to tell you the stories first hand from that country. So, the week following this Launch we are getting on a plane and leaving. (I am publishing this blog post as we are looking at plane tickets.)

Pierre, our team leader just sent us this encouragement in our email correspondence with each other:

Once you arrive you will be able to send back tons and tons of stories of God doing miracles and changing lives. This week a man’s shriveled hand was mostly healed and he’s writing with it, which he couldn’t do before , a woman’s face that had been saggy from her stroke was restored , a kid came out of a coma, Jihan came to Christ 6 days after she came from Syria and is eating up the word if God. A teenage kid named Roksha prayed to accept Christ last week, Boutros has a carpenter’s assistant named Ahmed who came to Christ a couple weeks ago, my dad preached last Thursday and over 30 people responded to the altar call. There are more new believers than we can follow up on.”

We need to be there. Right now those are just stories that are happening there, but that is just a taste of what is happening and our team needs us. We have a heart for discipleship to follow up with these people. We are being called, and we are changing our strategy from asking for money to just leaping out in faith. God will provide. Plenty of people know the need, and it is time to GO!

For many of you who have been with us along the way you are sharing our mix of emotions: Excitement, apprehension, nerves of all sorts. We are finally going! Now is the time to pledge a monthly, quarterly, or annual amount. We are running low on time for one on one meetings, and if you want to meet or visit with us, please contact us!

Many of you are giving to other short term missionaries, and we are thrilled because we have not been able to pour into those people (e.g. Charlie Wheeler). Please continue the commitments you have made. If you are considering giving to us after these short-term commitments end, let us know so we can keep track of the pledges.

Referrals

Maybe you cannot give at this time, or you wish you could give more to our ministry. You are a vital part of our work through your prayers and encouragement. Financially we are relying on God, and praying for people to be drawn into this work. At church this past Sunday one man encouraged me greatly when he said, “You are doing work that we should have been doing for a long time now.” Ministry to Muslims is relatively new work. As recently as fifteen years ago people thought Muslims could not be converted. When Louis and I were at our first training held by the founder of Horizons International, he said, “There are more people sitting in trainings about how to reach out to Muslims than there are people doing ministry to Muslims.”

So, we need you. We have been asking everyone who is willing to help us to pray about five names to refer to us. What this means is praying about people you know who might be interested in partnering with us financially. These would be people, churches, or groups who have the financial means, or who have an interest in global evangelism or working with Muslims. There are many ways you can refer them to us:

1) Plan an appointment where we can meet an individual or small group.

2) Invite us to an event at which people you think may be interested will attend and introduce us there.

3) Write a letter of introduction to the person whether by email, written, phone or in conversation. Then give us the information to follow up with that person.

4) Give us the name and contact information for a referral and we will tell them you referred us. Or, if preferred we can just use the names without telling them that you referred us.

As you can see there are many ways you can help us to get that last 60% of our budget in the next month. We really want to be fully funded by the end of March.

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