What's in a Name: The Beloved Community
We ended our time in Lebanon by going to Byblos, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Nineteen civilizations have claimed ownership of this place since 8000 B.C. It has had six different names throughout antiquity into the present. Some of us toured the ruins with Yazid, a former professor who shared the stories and history of his hometown.
Names. That is where we are going with this. Yazid, for instance, is an Arabic Muslim name, but our Yazid is a Maronite Catholic. He explained that his grandfather named him and all his cousins with a variety of Christian and Muslim names as a sign that in Byblos they live as friends and brothers. Names are important in this part of the world because they go hand in hand with your identity as being part of a certain faith group. This was why Yazid shared this story with us.
Our group consisted of these names: Marilyn, Mark, Tom, Meryle, Barbara, another Mark, Kate, John, Marshall and Julie (folks from different cities around the US). Some of us knew each other before, but we all know and love each other now. We know our names and each name brings with it a remembrance: the recognition of who we are because of the time we have spent getting to know each other. We came to this place on a journey with the living Christ to see Him at work through the National Evangelical Church of Syria and Lebanon. Some of our group reconnected with folks we have known from previous trips. We also came to know many others we’ve just met for the first time.
These names are seared in our hearts, minds & prayers: Nuhad, George, Joseph, Najla, Tala, Sanaa, Ma’an, Fadi, Nellie, Ramsey, Mark, Adeeb, Faris, Mae, Rana, Andrew, Riad, Azdirah., Suheil, Salam, Samuel, Hala, Hadi, Firas, Boutros, Gladys. It’s a long list of names (& not a complete list!) but with each one goes a face, a life, a story. So many stories! Some of them are happy & some are poignant, just like every family story. But the most wonderful thing of all was that a group of names came to be with another group of names and discovered that we all have the same family name – the family of God – the global church.
We have shared in the baptism of a young boy from Homs in Syria in a worship church on Pentecost Sunday. Happy birthday church! We welcome another one into this precious community. We have seen the transformation of a former school and church into new homes for people displaced from their own in the country on the other side of the mountains. A place is prepared for them. We have seen the pastor of a local congregation in Lebanon ministering to the children of Muslims now residing in a refugee camp: A bright spot in a place that is not home. We have experienced Sabbath rest at a mountaintop care facility for the elderly, Hamlin Hospital/Nursing Home. Such loving tender care in a place that has provided the healing touch of Christ for over 100 years. We have fellowshipped in the beauty of a church conference center Dhwar Chouier, still seeking to build community for the community since the late 19th century.
We have also heard the cries of brothers and sisters who are pressed, perplexed and persecuted, but they are not crushed or despairing or abandoned, living in the hope of our faithful Lord. Yes, they call on the name – Jesus – that is above all names. They know him, they love him. He loves them. He knows them. By name.
Submitted by Julie and Barbara