Gone But Not Forgotten

Today we participated in a historical event.  Four female pastors, two Americans, and two Lebanese stood together and served communion. Earlier this year, these two pastors received the honor of being the first females to be ordained in the Middle East.   It was emotional, lots of tears and lots of photos! The message  Reverend Najla Kassab sends home to America, “Convey our love to your churches and thank them for their prayers”.

We represented seven churches from the United States, visiting different churches throughout Lebanon.  What we learned is there is only one church, with the same ministry ….love and service!

God bless, Syria, Lebanon, and the United States of America.  God bless you and your family!

DD and Pam

DD at church with Rev. Najla Kassab (far right) and a precious church member (center).
Our translator…Arabic to English!
Famous homemade Tripoli frozen lemonade while we fellowship at the Presbyterian church in Tripoli.
Our transportation for the last two weeks…Evangelical School for Girls and Boys bus!
Pam and her new favorite Christian leader…Rev. Najla Kassab.
Stopping on the road for a snack!
Saying goodbye to these women we have grown to love!
The wonderful and kind couple, Associated Pastor of a church in Latakia, Elias, and his wife, Petra.
2:00 a.m….Wishing the women from Aleppo goodbye as they prepare for a 12-hour journey through 17 checkpoints. They must reach home before 4:00 p.m. when the army closes the highway.

Sitting in the Clouds!

It was a remarkable day!  A cloud like fine mist came rolling in from the sky and sat right on the mountain tops where we are staying.  It was like sitting in a cloud,   I have never seen anything quite like it!

It was another great day of study, fellowship, and learning.  We are beginning to form relationships and bonds with many of these women. It’s hard to believe next week we will be across the world from each other!

Dr. Mary Mikael, past president of Northeast School of Theology

Tonight is the beginning of the close of our conference.  At 2:00 am, 14 women will board the bus to return to Aleppo, Syria. They are leaving in the dark as it is a very long and dangerous return to their home.  Please pray for their safety! Just a reminder how important this time of peace, calm, safety, time with friends, worship, prayer has been.

Dhour Shweir Conference Center

Today’s scripture teaches us that we can not do this alone, we are all without a home until we abide in him.

“Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”

John 15:4

DD

A Trip to Tripoli

What a fabulous day!  We boarded the bus for a beautiful drive up the coast to Tripoli, the second largest city in Lebanon.  The roads winded along the Mediterranean coast with its crystal blue water that sparkled in the sun.

We arrived at the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Tripoli, where we were warmly greeted by Rola Sleiman, the first woman to be ordained as a Presbyterian Pastor in the Middle East!  She was born in Tripoli and actually raised in this church. What an honor and dynamic woman!!!  She preached a moving sermon from Mark 5:21-24/ 35-43, the story of the grieving father who pleaded with Jesus to lay his hands on his dying daughter so that she might be healed. The sermon reminds us where there is Jesus, there is hope.

In the Middle East the situation is so difficult we are always asking where is hope, what do we expect, where are we going?  Jesus says don’t be afraid, have faith.  When the situation seems hopeless, Jesus brings hope.  When you are afraid, Jesus gives us confidence.

Following the inspiring sermon, we were allowed to be a part of a wonderful celebration to honor two young students that had passed their government education test!  Pastor Rola and several of the church elders took us to a delicious lunch at a local restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. As we enjoyed the fabulous meal in this incredible setting, a very wise elder shared that there is war and suffering just 38 kilometers away!

As I reflect on the day, I am so impressed with this congregation.  The support and love that they have shown to their pastor, the graduating students, the school for Syrian children where they teach and operate, and the hospitality they showed us!

“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28

– DD

[Quick correction to yesterday’s post: Lebanon is not the oldest country in the world, but has the oldest city in the world, Babylos!]

The Sights & Flavors of the City

Today is a light and fun day for us to enjoy the many beautiful sights of Beirut before we travel north to Tripoli.

A few facts:
Lebanon is a small country making it easy to visit in a short amount of time.  TRAFFIC permitting you can drive from the north to south country in three-to-four hours! It has remarkable topographical diversity from Mediterranean coastlines, mountains, valleys, rivers, waterfalls….truly beautiful! Lebanon is considered the oldest country in the world (correction: Lebanon has the oldest city in the world, Babylos). Three languages are spoken prominently: Arabic, French, and English. It also has a very diverse religious makeup with approximately 50% being of a Muslim sect and 40+% Christian.
At present one in four persons is a refugee ( about 1.5 million Syrians, and 750,000 Palestinians). The refugees are usually contained to life in crowded camps, in one-room homes, and work is limited to menial jobs or no employment as to not take jobs from the locals.

Lebanon has been gracious to open its borders to house these refugees, however, it is a tremendous drain on its economy.  Many of the refugees register with the United Nations and wait years for any response.  They are people with no country, no home, no hope.  In my short time here, my observation is that it is the church, its ministries and the love of God that are providing an authentic, constant and unconditional help to these Muslim families.

We are currently staying in Beruit, the capital referred to as “where East meets West.” It’s on the coast, fast-paced, fashionable, and has a rich history.  We have visited some renowned museums and seen some historical sights.

Please enjoy the pictures below

DD

Day One

The peaceful feeling of God’s guidance and protection is amazing!

Thank you, family, friends, and church for your powerful prayers!

Hanging on to God’s promise in Deuteronomy 31:8….The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

As a child of my LORD, I wish I harnessed this peace in everything in my life!!

Growing in our walk!!!

See you in Beirut!!