The Company We Keep
by Marilyn Borst
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers [and sisters!] dwell together in unity! These are the opening words of Psalm 133 and I know that each and every one of my Outreach Foundation team who went to Lebanon would echo this sentiment. It was, indeed, so very good and so very pleasant to spend eleven days learning from and in fellowship with our Church partners of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. After five intense days spent at the conference center of the Synod, north of Beirut, in the slightly cooler mountain air of Dhour Schweir, where our days were full with Bible studies and seminars, conversations shared over meals and oh-so-many hugs and even more photographs, we said tearful goodbyes to more than 85 Presbyterian sisters from the churches of Lebanon and Syria. Over the next day and a half, we shared with each other our impressions and “take aways,” and helped one another “fine tune” what we might share when we returned to our congregations in Omaha, Tulsa, Moraga Valley, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Evanston and Gaithersburg and were asked “how was your trip?!?!”
Each of us had gotten to know and hear stories of the lives of different women who had come to the gathering. For those from Syria, the impact of six years of war could not be missed: lives disrupted, jobs lost, displacement from one city to another, immigration of family members, uncertainty about the future… But there remained, in each of those same women, much faith, much hope and much love. It was humbling to be in their presence, and inspiring to see them sing with joy, pray with passion and delve into Scripture with fervor. They were eager to get to know us and grateful that we had come so far to be with them. We were often overwhelmed by their exuberant embrace and acceptance and “poured out” at the end of each day by the efforts of crossing bridges of language and culture. It was clear to ALL of us that the Holy Spirit was at work in knitting us together – “a mystic, sweet communion” as the old hymn goes.
I am so grateful for this team: Julie Burgess, Nancy Fox, Caryl Weinberg, Mary Beth Lawrence, Claire Levy, DD Blackman, Martha Erisman and Pam Hillis. And I am doubly grateful for Outreach Foundation’s long partnership with the synod and for our friends and mentors there on this journey, especially Dr. Mary Mikhael, Rev. Najla Kassab, Rev. Joseph Kassab and Rev. Rola Sleiman. We learned much from you as you helped us tune our hearts and focus our eyes and ears to more easily discern the work and witness of Christ’s Church in this place. May God continue to bless you and keep you, until we meet again – how good and how pleasant that will be!
Associate Director for Partnership Development