Monday, April 25, 2016

Day Seven: Last Day....For Now

Today was our last day in Beirut.  We started the day off by attending a local church service.  David brought a message about when Peter decided to follow Jesus.  Peter knew about Jesus, and respected him.  He even referred to him as "Master", but after his encounter, Peter called Jesus "Lord".  He then left his nets and followed after Jesus.  It was a great message.

Afterward, we had one last meal with Dani and Gladys.  We then spent some time just talking, as always they proved to be gracious hosts to our team.  We said our goodbyes to Dani and Gladys, and returned to the seminary to freshen up and begin packing and preparing for our 20+ hour trip home on Monday.  Around dinner time, we gathered to have a small meal (we were all still pretty full from lunch) and debrief from the trip as a whole.  There where the little things that (with hind sight 20/20 vision) we would have changed a little, but what was really amazing is how much we wouldn't have changed.  This team was put together so fast. The timing of it falling on this week worked out for at least three people involved where the original time would have been problematic (if not prohibiting).  Over and over, we as a team saw how God pulled us together.  Each member of the team brought a strength to the group, and the group let that person work that strength to its potential.  I know a lot of that is good leadership and Jon, with his openness to adaptation and persistent positivity, definitely was the right team leader for this trip.

After the debrief we all took turns praying back and forth.  Some were prayers of thanksgiving, for the safe travel we have had on this trip, for receptive kids, and for cohesion within our team and the workers we came to help.  Still other prayers were for the kids and families.  Prayers of protection and provision repeated over and over for these refugees and displaced people.  And of course, there were the prayers for the team we leave behind.... And you see that is just it, we want to make sure that while we get on a plane and leave physically, we don't want to leave them in our hearts, our spirits, and prayers.  It's so easy to go back home and return to the life as we knew it.  But, I know that is not why God brought us here.  There is work to do, and if we can not be there to lend a hand physically, then we need to reach out a hand in some other means.  Praying daily, giving freely, and of course loving always.

Thank you friends for helping us go.  I hope I have given you something to think about, because I know I'm still processing everything.  I would imagine in a day or two I will stop myself and say "Oh man! Why didn't I talk about that?".  Thank you again family, and friends.  I couldn't say it enough, thank you.  I had heard from others who have gone on mission trips that it can really have an affect on you.... "It can change you" some said.
I hope so.

See you all very soon.

With love,

Tim and the entire Westover Beirut Short Term Team 2016

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Day Six: The Harvest and The Workers

It's our last day of camp and even more kids showed up.  We were blessed to see 77 kids today.

Today when David spoke he told the story of the prodigal son.  How even when we sin, the Father is there waiting to forgive us when we turn back to him.  After discussion time, we spilt the groups up so that at any one time half would be in crafts and half in games.

For games Jon and Maher (I will tell you some more about him in a minute) showed the kids a version of American football.

It seemed to be a hit.  Once the game was done we let the kids have some free play before switching with the craft group.

In crafts, Joe and Brenda worked to use a small coin and making it something the kids could wear or take with them.  The idea behind this was to show/remind them that they are of value.  When crafts and games were over, we handed out lunch and some gift bags for the kids.  Then it was time to go.

When the last kid was onboard the bus I turned to Yousef (I will also say more about him in a minute) and asked "How do I say 'I will miss you'?"  He told me.  So I quickly jumped on the bus, got the children's attention and repeated the phrase two or three times to make sure they heard me.  I then turned to Yousef to make sure I said it correctly.  He says I did.

Throughout our day I heard kids telling me and some of the other workers "I love you".  It was so nice to hear that because we sure love them.  These are good kids.  Sweet kids.  And, they are facing a hardship I would wager none of us will ever face.

So the camp ended.  We cleaned and packed our stuff, and then the team headed west to Beirut.  My prayer, my hope is that maybe some seeds have been planted.  And, maybe (just maybe) some of those seeds were watered as well, and I pray one day a beautiful harvest will come.

A camp like this does not get done by a short term team from thousands of miles away.  We are only here to help the team that is already in assist in the great work, in any small way we can.  Gladys has done so much to organize this camp and others like it, to keep the information flowing between those wishing to help and others who need it.  Poise and grace abound in this woman.  Her husband Dani has a great musical gift for all who have a change to hear.  (I have a short video of the worship time, but the program has been having trouble loading it.)  These two have been the greatest of hosts for our team.  I know we must have asked thousands upon thousands of questions, but they always listened and answered with a smile.  I have only mentioned some of the workers who are here on the ground reaching out to those in need, but to name them all and tell their stories would take more than a week long blog to do.  I do wish to tell you of two that mean a great deal to me and to the rest of the team.


Maher (Ma-hair), is a young man who's heart beats for the kids victimized by this war.  He is a youth pastor, with a commanding presence as he informs the kids of what they need to do next.  But you also see the compassion within him when one of the children is hurt or you speak to him about the situation.  When I see Maher standing in the crowd of children I am reminded of the strong sheep dog guarding those under his care.  He is stern, but it is because he cares so greatly for the childern's well being.


Yousef is a young man who has been here working with some of the families in need.  Everyday (and I mean everyday) he walks (and I mean literally walks) from camp to camp checking in on people and finding out how they are doing and what needs they may have.  He has been doing this for almost two years now.  I got to know Yousef as he was one of our interpreters.  He helped with the camp, and later was our guide as we met the people in their homes.  The humility of this man surprised me.  Just after the first day I noticed how he is received by these families.  By just being there, he seems to brighten the day of these people who are in such dark times.  The moment he arrives smiles are seen on every face.  I offered this encouragement to him, but he was so humble.  He looked has though he had never noticed...but I did.

These men and women are so outnumbered.  There work is long and demanding, and there is no apparent end in sight.  I recall how emotionally drained I felt after just two days of seeing this suffering, but those here have been at it for years.  They need resources in both materials, personnel, and rest.

Please join with me in this prayer:
Heavenly Father,

Please be with these families...these children who are lost and need Your protection.  Draw them into Your loving arms.  Just as You have done throughout history, Lord, do a great work where only You can.  Use this evil time for some good in their lives...their eternal lives.

Father, I lift these workers up to you.  I have seen thier fatigue at the end of the day. They are tired in both mind and body, but they press on with great spirit for the work you have called them to do.  I pray for them that you would strengthen their bodies, renew their spirit, and send others to help carry this heavy load.  Lord, please help us to find those ways we can help.  To seek out and actively persue how we can join with them in Your service.

Thank You Lord for giving me and this team the opportunity to meet these wonderful people.  I am blessed to say "I know them".

In Jesus holy name,  Amen

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Day Five: Reaching Out

It's day two of the camp.  It looks like things must have gone well yesterday, as our numbers seem to have grown.  The last count I heard was we were up 5 more kids, which brings our numbers to 70.  Very cool!

For our second day we followed a similar format as before.  A couple of differences were that I got to sing a contemporary Christian song for the kids, and David was the one delivering the message.

David had prepared to speak on the passage where Peter and Jesus walked on the water, and how this can be an example of how Jesus comes and meets us in our times of fear.  But, David came up with a great idea to help the kids remember the story.  He asked some of the interpreters at the camp to come and act out the story.  This allowed the kids to see and hear the message.  David then asked them questions to see if they could repeat the story back.

After the kids had left we gathered up our stuff.  We were asked to do a version of our camp activities at a near by school ran by the local church.  We loved the idea, and were eager to do as much as we could while we are here.  There were some adjustments and adapting to be made, but it all seemed to go very well.  As these kids left I saw nothing but smiles, waves and high fives.  We wanted them to have fun while showing God's love... I think that happened.  

Once we left the church we went out to some more tent homes to visit with families.  We came to a home and this lady and her husband have been in the tent for four years.  When they fled Syria, they came with their six children (2 boys / 4 girls).  Since becoming a refugee, they have had another little girl.  These are dangerous conditions for anyone, and even more so for those with a baby or who are expecting.  There is virtually no health care to speak of, and it is very hard to get treatment.  This point was made even clearer when, while we were visiting this home, a neighbor came by.  Our interpreter told us that we needed to hear this woman's story.  She began by telling us of how she and three of her children were nearly killed when a aircraft shot a missile into the market place where they had just left.  She was fortunate to escape without harm but one of her sons lost a hand, another was burned (but has since recovered), and her daughter who was with her in the market suffered nerve damage in one of her legs.  They called for the child so we could meet her.  She came in and she seemed to use her lower leg more like a person would use a cane.  Her foot sort of rolled underneath her.  When asked what could be done, we were told that there is a surgery that could fix the problem but they can not afford it.  I wondered how much a surgery like that would cost here, and asked.  I was not able to get a hard number, which may be due to the current situation they are in.
I guess word was traveling that there were visitors in the tent because another neighbor stopped by while we were there.  We continued our conversation, but soon we needed to get ready to leave.  

We asked if would be OK for us to pray for these people.  When we asked about what specific needs they would like us to mention, the lady who's home we were in said that they are looking for a new home as the current land owner had told them that rent was about to be raised by $40/mth.  (I hope we can all understand how much of a increase something like that is for these people.)  We took a moment to pray for these three families and then we took another moment to pray specifically for this one little girl.

It was beginning to get into the evening hours, and we needed to start heading back to our hotel.  As we left, our driver was able to take us through some more areas where the tents have been set up to make camps for the refugees and displaced people.  We stopped only for a minute outside one of the camps to get a better look at the conditions of the area around it.

Please pray for how God might use us to help these people in a tangible way, and in a way that can show His love for them.  

Friday, April 22, 2016

Day Four: East to Zahle

Today we packed up our stuff and headed east to Zahle.  This will be our first time meeting the kids and seeing the camp.  We are joined by a few new people today.  Some are locals believers working with LSESD, but three new comers (Mark, Pam and John) are from a church in Ireland and wanted to help out with the camp.   

The differences between Beirut's urban feel and the vastness outside of Zahle is very noticeable.  It is also hard to tell just how big this city is with the number of refugee/displaced people who now call it home.

(This was the view as we came over the mountain and saw the Becaa Valley for the fist time.)

We arrived and setup, and before we knew it a bus load of 65 kids (34 boys/31girls) came rolling in.
As the children, came in I was taken back by all the smiling faces.  These kids were so happy to be here.  Once everyone was in the meeting area, we made some quick introductions, and the went right into the worship time.  

When the singing was over, Mark (from Ireland) came up to share a word with the help of an interpreter.  Mark is a youth minister back home, and that shined through his time with these kids.  
(Me and Mark)

Mark's message started with creation, and how sin entered the world.  He used a great illustration for this by having each child write on a black slip of paper a sin they had committed or seen committed by another.  Then we placed those sins on a drawing of a tree.    

Then to help them visualize what Jesus has done for the sins of believers, we taped golden slips over the black ones.

When the message was over, we broke up into four different groups for a time of discussion.  Our team members divided up as well, and once the discussion time ended, it was game time.  One group would stay indoors to work on crafts, while the rest went to the outdoor court.

One of the big hits was a dice game that came from the mind of our team member Joe.  We worked and refined it a little bit, but the kids seemed to have a great time.

David looked after a relay race which was quite fun to watch. 

Jon worked on a variety of ball games with the kids.  I remember looking down one moment and they looked like they were playing a version of "keep away" and then next time the kids were all lined up shooting hoops.  

After games, it was lunch and after lunch it was time for the kids to return to their families.  As we cleaned up and put things away, we got ready to go into some of the camp areas to meet some of the families.

We met several families, and each seemed so eager to have us as a guest in their home.  We were offered coffe, tea, and once even a meal.  Every family was so eager to be hospitable, offering up something when they have so little.  Through our interpreter, we asked about their story.  How they got here?  How are they getting by?  Over and over we heard that they have been living in these tents for years (4 years was the most common answer).  Multiple times we  heard that the family left when the bullets from the fighting  began hitting their home.  They all have stories of lost loved ones.  One shared that the husband/father of the home had been killed by sniper fire in the streets back home. They then spent four days walking by night (to avoid detection) to make it to the boarder.  Now they  are by themselves, and work when they can in the local fields.  When would always ask if we could pray for them there and when we got home.   When we asked what we could pray for, most said for the fighting to stop, and for them to be able to go home at some point.  

They all lost so much, but there is still a smile to greet you, and there is laughter.  Surely these are strong people.  One family really broke my heart.  This father brought his family here (wife and 5 children) they left there home hopeful that other family members would arrive soon after.   Five of their family members didn't make it to Lebanon.  They were kidnapped along the way in two separate occasions, and this family hasn't heard any news from them or about them since. From the five one was a surgeon, two were married women, one was a single woman, and the other was male (I never got his age).  If that was not enough the daughter cannot go to school because the family can not afford to pay for the transportation.  When we asked what their hopes were for the future, they said for the daughter to get an education.  We asked what she hoped to study and she said "French".  David took a moment and with the inturpretor told them a story about Jesus and then we asked if we could pray for them.

These people do not need pity...  They need compassion, and they need action.  Please join us in praying for both.