Lebanon #7: A Mountaintop Experience

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

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.”  Mark 9:2-3

As we snake our way down the mountain from Dhour Chouier into Beirut, there is a quiet peace about all we have just experienced. We talk among ourselves and begin to peel through the layers of this week’s journey with all its meandering paths and often-awkward connections with our new friends. We speak of the places they call home, to which they are returning, and wonder how these dear women from a distant land called Syria can be so much like us.

The day began with a breakfast of manaeish on the terrace as we eagerly sought out those special friends to have a final conversation, more selfies, and share Facebook names. We moved into the conference center for worship as Marilyn Borst reminded us how powerful and precious the gift of presence is. The bread and the cup were shared, beautiful hymns were sung in Arabic. Thanks be to God.

As we left worship, each woman was gifted a handmade cross. Julie Burgess shared the story of these crosses made by a man incarcerated for life in prison in Nebraska. She reminded us there are many types of prisons: prisons of war and loneliness, prisons of addiction, prisons of fear and anger. Each cross is emblazoned with the phrase “He lifts me up.” 

After saying our final goodbyes, our team meets with Najla Kassab who explains that this year visas for the Syrian women were difficult to procure, and they may have challenges as they cross the border back into their homeland. We pray for their safe travels home. Unspoken are the words that we may not have the opportunity to see the women here next year if visas become more difficult or impossible to obtain. Jesus, lift up our Syrian sisters. Hold them safe.

In this time on the mountain we allowed God to stir our hearts to a place of openness. We were open to tasting new foods, to learning basic Arabic phrases such as “good morning” (marhabeh) and “thank you” (shukran) and we were open to see Jesus as He connected heaven and earth. We have all been transformed and have seen a glimpse of glory on the mountaintop.