Posts in Lebanon 2018
Lebanon Day: Eleven - The Preaching Life

by Sheryl Wood, for the team

It’s Sheryl Wood on the road again in Lebanon. Greetings everyone. We started out this morning at 8:30 for about a two hour drive to get to our destination, which was The National Evangelical Church of Tripoli for a church service. There were just a few little spits of rain and then sunny skies ahead.

We arrived at the church around 10:00. It was a little earlier than we had expected. We went down several steps and the door of the church opened widely before we could even grasp the doorknob. There she was with a radiance that is hard to describe. Introductions were not even necessary. She had been following our group on Facebook and knew our names perfectly, along with a little something about the newbies, Evangeline and me. Her name is Pastor Rola Sleiman.

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Lebanon: Day Ten - Remembrance and Community

by Julie Burgess, for the team

After a full Saturday, I ask that you walk through it with us in reverse, for that is how I found the message of today that birthed the title of this blog.

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages[a] and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you,[b] and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”  Mark 14:3-9

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Lebanon: Day Nine - House of Hope: Part Three

by Julie Burgess, for the team

...but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:31

How did it get to be Friday already? Now nearing the end of the women’s conference, the hour for good-byes is not far away. What this means is that the rate of picture taking increases among us so we can capture that one last special moment of hugs and smiles before we part in tears. If our cameras measured the photos in hundreds per day, we will probably be in the thousands by later this evening!

How special it is when sisters in Christ gather to share their faith, their hope, and their love.

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Lebanon: Day Eight - I Am Waiting for My Children

by Evangeline Paschal, for the team

“We don’t call it a crisis, because a crisis usually lasts just a short time.”

A woman from Mhardeh is sharing with us her story of how hope has figured in her life. Standing before all of us during our morning worship period, she explains that life has presented her with many hardships since she married a few years ago. First, her new husband suffered serious health problems. And now she lives in an area of Syria, north of Hama, that has seen heavy fighting. Her house has been hit twice during the fighting, and just last week there was an explosion that destroyed 65 houses in her town. Her family is afraid to leave, though, because they worry that if they do their home will be confiscated, and they will have nothing to return to. For this sister, just attending this conference is an expression of hope.

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Lebanon: Day Seven - Houses of Hope: Part Two

by Sheryl Wood, for the team

Hello, here is Sheryl again to fill you in on what is happening under the skies of Lebanon. I must admit that I was flat on my back for about two days. I only share that with you not for sympathy but to continue to show you why you must make the trip with me. You may say I simply can’t go. What if I get sick? I am here to tell you prayer upon prayer goes up for you as very patiently all human needs are cared for and you get well, just as if you were at home. I was delighted to open one eye to check on my condition and find I was back in the ball game and up to bat for a home run.

Before I began to actually engage with the beautiful multitude of faces that awaited our little team, we walked across the courtyard and sat on the steps of the Cedar House and had our devotion together. Marilyn suggested that we begin by praying with our eyes open. It was not my first time praying with my eyes open, but I cannot recommend it highly enough. God spoke through our eyes as we prayed.

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Lebanon: Day Six - Houses of Hope: Part One

by Julie Burgess, for the team

Marilyn gathered our little team at the front of the conference center for the morning worship portion of the daily schedule. Sweet Elias Jabbour, now assigned as pastor to the congregation in Yazdieh, Syria, and his beautiful wife Petra, lead worship each morning so beautifully in word and song. Marilyn was doing a reflection for the group on hope, which is this year’s theme. You read about it yesterday. The theme verse is Psalm 71:5, but she took us two verses farther into the text.

“I have become a sign to many...”

As Christians, followers of Jesus, we do have this hope. It is not the wish kind of hope: I hope I get a close parking space. I hope I get into the university I want. I hope the cancer goes away. No, this hope is not about circumstance, but the assurance that a gracious God has already written the end of our story and accompanies us along the journey.

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Lebanon: Day Five - After the Clouds, There is Always Sun

by Evangeline Paschal, for the team

Just yesterday, a young Syrian seminarian named George read this passage in Arabic as the scripture reading for the Sunday service at the Presbyterian church in Deir Mimas, a small mountain village in the far reaches of southern Lebanon, just a few miles from the border with Israel. Less than twenty-four hours later, I thought of this passage again as we joined our Syrian and Lebanese sisters in kicking off the annual women’s conference at the Dhour Shweir Evangelical Conference Center. We are more than three hours away from Deir Mimas in another mountain town northeast of Beirut. The National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon owns this retreat center, which began in the nineteenth century as a Presbyterian mission run by physician and pastor William Carslaw and his family. During Lebanon’s civil war (1975-90), it was commandeered by militias fighting in the area, but after the war our host Reverend Najla Kassab and the NESSL patiently brought the center back to life, and it now regularly hosts Christian conferences and retreats.

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Lebanon: Day Four - Roads and Boundaries

by Julie Burgess, for the team

It is the Sabbath, the Lord’s day, and one of the joys of traveling to be with the church in the world is the gathering with brothers and sisters to celebrate and worship together. Language barriers don’t have to be a problem: hymn tunes are recognizable and if we don’t know the Arabic, we can sing the English snippets we know or create whole new hymns. We can confess in any language. And we stretch out our hands to receive the benediction. We were made to worship and to glorify our Lord, and that is what we set out to do on this Sabbath day.

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Lebanon: Day Three - Life Abundant

by Sheryl Wood, for the team

Upon hitting the morning air with Evangeline and Marilyn at 6:30, we set out on our morning constitutional upon the campus of the American University of Beirut. It was a typical walk except for the fact we were walking down the serpentine hill where the Mediterranean Sea lapped along the shores. There was an occasional gaggle of cats tussling along our path, but other than that the campus was still. The students were out for their most needed breaks. The quiet walk was broken as Marilyn read the plaque on the walls of the 1866 building. It read,” I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly.”

I knew what lay ahead in my day. I was going to a church that housed a school for the children of refugees from Syria.

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Lebanon: Day Two - The Circle of Life

by Evangeline Paschal for the team

“Take care of your talents, because they belong to God.”

Izdihar Kassis is speaking to a room full of twenty-two Syrian refugee mothers with their infants in tow. They have come to this monthly meeting to gather diapers, formula, and handmade crocheted dolls for their babies. Fifteen women were expected but once word spread, others eagerly joined walking from nearby refugees camps, some accompanied by their other children. Izdihar does not want to turn anyone away, and fortunately there is enough to go around today.

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Lebanon: Day One - Commencement

by Julie Burgess, for the team

The simplest definition for the word commencement is the start of something new, which seems counter-intuitive as I tend to think of commencement as the end of something. We graduate from high school or college (or even kindergarten nowadays) and we celebrate commencement. We’re done! School is over! No more teachers, no more books... you know how the old rhyme goes. But of course commencement is not about the end of something, but the beginning of the new thing: first grade, college, life.

Today, our first full day traveling with The Outreach Foundation, we found ourselves climbing up 105 steps to visit one of the six schools for Syrian refugee students run by the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL).

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Faithful Women on the Road: Lebanon

by Marilyn Borst, The Outreach Foundation's Associate Director for Partnership Development

I have returned to Lebanon for the 30th time and will soon be joined by a team of three women from Virginia, Nebraska and Washington, D.C! In the days ahead, we will meet with partners whose ministries with refugees from Syria are bringing hope and healing in Christ’s name. Grateful that Julie Burgess will return along with two wonderful "new women": Sheryl Wood and Evangeline Paschal. Late on Sunday, we will head to the Women's Conference at Dhour Shweir, sponsored by the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. We will be gathered, once again, for a week with 100+ sisters from the Presbyterian churches of Syria and Lebanon.

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