Lebanon #8: God Loveth the Joyful Giver

by Pamela Dellinger, for the team (Bethel Presbyterian Church, Cornelius, No. Car.)

“Let each man do according as he hath purposed in his heart: not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” II Corinthians 9:7

After coming down the mountain from Dhour Chouier, wondering what God sightings we would see next, the ladies and I spent a wonderful night at Casa D’Or in Beirut.  After sharing rooms, it felt almost strange to have a room (and bathroom) to myself and I missed the company and companionship of my sisters, the shared reflections of the day.

We rejoiced in the news that our Syrian sisters made it across the border with no issues, and we said goodbye to one of our own, Toby, who was headed back to the United States on a morning flight, and later Susan, who would head back to the Mercy Ship.

After a leisurely breakfast we hopped on the bus to Tripoli to worship with the church there. We sang old hymns, How Great thy Art and Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee, voices lifting up to the heavens, some in Arabic, some in English, all in praise of our Lord.

We were blessed with a sermon from Kate Kotfila. She reminded us of II Corinthians 9:7, God loveth a joyful giver. As the day went on, we realized that the Tripoli church was a great example of just that: Giving with a joyful heart.  Those at the Tripoli church set the bar high. 

Reem is the principal of the primary level of the Evangelical school for girls and boys. Marwa ran the school for Syrian refugee center in Tripoli. They serve those in need joyfully, as Christ calls them to do. There were tears of sorrow from both children and teachers when lack of funds threatened to close the refugee school. God had other plans, funding was found, and with tears of joy they learned the school would remain open. 

When asked why these Muslim mothers would send their children to a Christian school, their answer is the same: because here both children and parents are loved and cared for, here they are safe, even as others have grown weary of their presence. God loveth the joyful giver.

After worship we hoped to shop the souq, a street of markets famous in Tripoli. However, Sunday was the Eid al Adha holiday and most stores were closed. Tripoli is famous for its soap making, and we found a shop that said, “in business since 1480.” Many gifts for family back home were purchased.

After a lunch of many, many appetizers (the traditional Middle Eastern mezzeh), an entrée, and dessert, we stopped by Rola’s house and were again greeted with Lebanese hospitality.  Beverages, nuts, and ice cream were passed as we sat and shared each other’s company. Rola told us the story of the long journey to being ordained as the first woman pastor in the Middle East. We heard stories of the hardship of the civil war in Lebanon, how the family used to cower in the bedroom, hiding from stray bullets. We listened to the story of moving the school to an unfinished building, because the war in Syria had trickled across the border, and the office was full of bullets, and parents were scared to drive their children to school under fire. Now the old school is the school for Syrian refugees, and the new school is finished and has more students than ever. 

As we headed back to Beirut, I reflected on the giving hearts of our sisters in Christ, and where they got such joy in giving.  On this Muslim holiday, which honors Abraham and his willingness to gift his son in sacrifice to the Lord, I wonder, what can we joyfully give?

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that we may have eternal life, the greatest gift we will ever receive.  Now that we know we received such an amazing gift, it is our turn to share it with others. How can we live fully, joyfully, and with grace? What do we have to offer our brothers and sisters of this world?  What spiritual gifts were we given by God that we can share with others? Will it be the gift of presence, a listening ear, monetary support, the gift of music or art? How can we put into practice the joy of giving?