A Trip to Tripoli

by DD Blackman

What a fabulous day! We boarded the bus for a beautiful drive up the coast to Tripoli, the second largest city in Lebanon. The roads wound along the Mediterranean coast with its crystal blue water that sparkled in the sun.

We arrived at the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Tripoli, where we were warmly greeted by Rola Sleiman, the first woman to be ordained as a Presbyterian pastor in the Middle East! She was born in Tripoli and actually raised in this church. What an honor to meet such a dynamic woman!!!  She preached a moving sermon from Mark 5:21-24/35-43, the story of the grieving father who pleaded with Jesus to lay his hands on his dying daughter so that she might be healed. The sermon reminds us where there is Jesus, there is hope. In the Middle East the situation is so difficult we are always asking where is hope, what do we expect, where are we going? Jesus says don't be afraid, have faith. When the situation seems hopeless, Jesus brings hope. When you are afraid, Jesus gives us confidence.

Following the inspiring sermon we were allowed to be a part of a wonderful celebration to honor two young students that had passed their government education test! Pastor Rola and several of the church elders took us to a delicious lunch at a local restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. As we enjoyed the fabulous meal in this incredible setting, a very wise elder shared that there is war and suffering just 38 kilometers away, a thought that reminds us of the daily lives of thousands of Syrians that stands in such contrast to our own.

As I reflect on the day, I am so impressed with this congregation: The support and love that they have shown to their pastor, the graduating students, the school for Syrian children where they teach and serve, and the hospitality they showed us.

"Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."   Matthew 11:28

DD Blackman
First Presbyterian Church Tulsa, OK