Lebanon/Syria Day Two: Saying "Yes"

by Brian Collins, for the team

Why are we here in Lebanon, poised to go to Syria in a matter of days? Observing the faithful gathered here from as near as Beirut and far as Brazil, I suspect that we all have quite different stories of how we got here, but essentially the same reason: because we are called to answer “Yes,” in a world that is all too often full of “No.”

Marilyn led us in prayer this morning, quoting Paul (no stranger to traveling long distances) in 2 Corinthians 1:20: “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ.”

We have been hearing a lot about the “Yes” at work in Christ’s name in Lebanon and Syria. Amid the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, local Presbyterians and their partners have stepped up, providing for material needs (such as food, water, electricity) for the displaced and spiritual and emotional support for those caught up in this seemingly endless conflict; launching schools for refugee children and job skills programs for their parents. They have been doing this and more from the front lines – quite literally. Presbyterian churches have been shelled and even destroyed in the fighting that has engulfed Syria.

One of the things that has impressed and inspired me most is how the pastors and parishioners have adapted to the situation to help those in dire need. I’m quite sure that none of the pastors began their clerical careers thinking they would one day have to learn the finer points of well-digging, electrical distribution, large-scale food provision – essentially disaster relief. But faced with the needs of their neighbors (which I hasten to add, include both Christians and Muslims) they responded – they said “Yes.”

I was only vaguely aware of what our brethren were accomplishing and experiencing here. We are learning a lot, and this is one of the advantages of a gathering such as this, a meeting of the body of Christ. For us to be truly called a body, we need to be in the presence of and in communication with each other, even if the geographic distances and differences in life experience are wide; in fact, especially if they are. We were encouraged to hold Paul as our model. Paul, that most itinerant of saints, who was in constant communication with the far-flung Christian communities of the day and traveled to be with them, sometimes at great peril.

Nobody really knows when this war will end, when or even if the refugees and displaced persons will be able to return to their homes, and in what form reconstruction and reconciliation will take place. But we can take comfort in the promise that God does know, and that his plan is good. And that he is working through the body of Christ, working through the men and women we are meeting here who are declaring – boldly – “Yes.”

Brian Collins
First Presbyterian Church, Norfolk, Virginia