Last Day in Beirut

19 07 2009

Today was my last day in Beirut.  I had a great final week in Bourj Hammoud with the girls – they enjoyed the National Museum, the ruins downtown, and then we spent Thursday afternoon in the air-conditioned mall and movie theater.  I already miss them.

My time here seems like a bit of a blur.  I know I will be processing it for weeks to come.  For now, I am off to Jordan and then Syria for a final week of travel.  Even though I am ready to be home, I am excited to see these countries: Amman, Bethany, Mt. Nebo, Herod’s Castle, the Dead Sea, Petra, the Wadi Rum desert, and Damascus.  Pray for safety and that it will be a good time of rest and reacharging before I enter back into American culture.

I’m not sure if I’ll get to update much in the next week.  But I hope to update most of you in person when I get home, very soon – July 28th!


Overdue Update

3 07 2009

Hi!  I’m so sorry I haven’t been able to blog or share pictures as much I’d hoped – we got moved from the rooms with internet and so updates are much harder to manage.  Since a lot has happened since I last posted, I’ll share the highlights.

– I’ve spent two weeks in Bourj Hammoud now, working with the coordinator between the Armenian school system and World Vision.  It is a dense neighborhood, with tiny alleys for streets, and much poverty.  My placement has been a bit challenging, as it has lacked clear direction and I’ve had to really take initiative to understand how everything works, but I’ve been grateful to see how some development programs are working.  I’ll spend the next two weeks at Howard Karagheusian Center, a social service organization that provides education and health services.  I think I’ll be spending time with some teenage girls who have dropped out of high school but are receiving skills training at the center.  I met them last week when they were on retreat at Bylos and we bonded really quickly.  I’m excited to be in their lives for a brief period.

– This city is the most chaotic place I’ve ever been.  I spend about 3 – 3 1/2 hours every day in the car, which is quite draining, especially considering it’s about 92 degrees with 50% humidity, and often the cars don’t have air conditioning.  There are traffice lanes, but no one drives in them, and I am now learning the various ways one can communicate using their horn.  There is a honk to let someone know you are passing them, one to let them know they can merge, one to tell them not to merge, there is a Christian honk (yes, seriously) and a Muslim honk, and honks for various political parties, one to tell someone to hurry up, and one to let everyone know you are angry.  On a positive note, I am the last person to get dropped off in the mornings, which means I get to spend 2 hours seeing many parts of the city as people shuffle to work.  I’ve been praying for the places we drive through, and learning a lot from our kind and knowledgeable driver.

– On the weekends we are taking opportunities to travel.  Last weekend we went north to Tripoli and the mountains.  We saw the Cedars (referenced often in the Bible) and the beautiful Maronite village of Bcharre.  We then covered our heads and wandered the ancient souq of (the predominantly Muslim) Tripoli, picking up some hand made natural soaps and ate the BEST baklava I’ve every tasted in my LIFE.  This weekend we’re heading south to Tyre and Sidon (maybe you’ve heard of them?), and, hopefully the heavily guarded border region between Lebanon and Israel.  Please pray for our safety, though we are in good hands with a local friend who is taking us.

Overall, I’m really enjoying the hospitality of so many here, and am learning, learning, learning.  The days have been draining – we leave at 7:30 every morning and don’t return often until 9:30 or 10:00 pm every night.  But, I’m finally starting to feel more settled and find my rhythm.  Things take a little less energy now, which is good.  And, I have, after two full weeks of study, finally learned the Arabic alphabet!  I’m also trying to pick up a few Armenian sayings.

Please pray for me in the evenings/nights (my morning times) for digestive health (ha – yeah, I just blogged that).  Actually, the whole team has been having a lot of trouble for over a week straight now, and the mornings are the hardest for me.  It’s getting a bit wearing for us.  Many have been down for the count in the last few days.  Also, please pray for good recharging time and that I will find/create more alone time with God.  Seriously, things have just been nonstop, and I am really craving some spiritual refreshment.  Also, I’m really struggling with feeling inadequate – please pray that God will speak to me about this.

I miss home!  (And that means, I miss YOU!).  Actually, we’re about half-way through now…so I will see you soon!  I am praying for many of you, as God brings you to mind.  Hope to write more soon!

Water in a Wine Glass

22 06 2009

I’ve been in Beirut for five days now, and they have been both wonderful and difficult.  We arrived Tuesday night and in the middle of a Middle East Conference on “Muslim Women at the Intersection of Faith and Culture.”  It was wonderful to learn about this important topic, and to meet people from all over the world who came to the conference.  At the same time, the Lebanese must have more ability to stay still and pay attention for longer periods of time than Americans (this is not surprising), as the conference lasted from 9am until 10:30pm every day with only breaks for lunch and dinner and coffee.  This would have been challenging anyway, but the jetlag combined with only being at the ABTS campus, and in one room at that, all day long made the transition a bit strange for me.  Still, the people are wonderful, the food is great, and the view is amazing.  And I did manage to run the (very steep) neighborhood hills a few nights, which helped me burn off all the cheese and cream and bread that seem to be all they eat here. 🙂

The conference ended Friday, and Saturday we finally got out a little!  With the help of a local guy, we traveled north to Byblos, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world (check out the biblical references to it in 1 Kings 5:18 and Ezekiel 27:9).  It is such a beautiful place (despite it being a VERY hot and humid day), and if you’re friends with me on Facebook you can see the pics there.  On the way to Byblos, we stopped at Jeita Grotto, a breathtaking underground cavern of stalagmites and stalactites older than anything at Byblos.  They wouldn’t let us take pictures, but you can see some pics here.  It truly is the art of God.  We capped the day off with a drive up the mountain to watch the sun set over the beautiful Jounieh Bay.  It was a full and exhausting day in every good way.

Today we made it to church, despite the fact that our cab driver spoke no English, we spoke no Arabic, and had no idea where the church really was.  It is an international English speaking congregation, so, while not the most “local” of flavor, it did minister to our souls.  We spent the afternoon in meetings and attended the ABTS graduation ceremony (mine wasn’t enough, so I wanted to sit through another one). 🙂

Tomorrow I begin my practicum placement with the Armenian community in a neighborhood called Bourj Hammoud, and I am anticipating being able to be in the city every day and having more of a routine.  I’ll be there each morning, in various capacities, which I hope to write more about later, and then we’ll have Arabic language class every afternoon until 5pm.  Next weekend, we’re off to Tripoli!

water in a wine glassThe night we stayed in Dubai (en route to Beirut), we stayed in a very fancy apartment, courtesy of a friend of our teammates.  When we went to pour a glass of water, we discovered that this classy place only stocked wine glasses in the cabinets.  So, there I was in Dubai, drinking water in a wine glass.  As I looked out at the amazing view of that city from the 16th floor of our building, I couldn’t help but find the water in a wine glass as a fitting metaphor for how I’m feeling.  You don’t often find water in a wine glass.  Because, in fact, it doesn’t seem fitting at all.  Wine belongs in a wine glass.  There is something very odd about putting water in that kind of glass.  It’s out of context when it’s there.  I feel a bit like water in a wine glass right now.  I don’t quite feel like I fit.  Still reeling from the whirlwind of the last few weeks – finals, graduation, and getting ready to leave for Lebanon – I feel transplanted into this place not having processed what’s behind me and not fully prepared for what’s ahead.  I’m not exactly confident of what I have to offer this place and its people, and I’m not even positive of what I’m looking to learn.  To say this region has “much history” is an understatement; I am quickly discovering that it has many histories, each layered with the complex religious and political stories of the various people groups here: Maronite Christian, Evangelical Christian, Sunni Muslim, Shia Muslim, Palestinian, Russian, Armenian, Indian and Pakistani, to name but a few.  The different viewpoints are charged and the experiences of each are painful.  The potential to offend any given person is great, and it leaves me wanting to be silent and invisible.  I know water is good and purposeful, but in this glass I want to be wine.  I want to be potent and refreshing in this world, and I want to fit my context.

I have been reading and re-reading John 2 with this image in mind.  I’m so glad I have come here knowing the Christ who is able to turn water into wine.  And not only wine, but the best wine at that.  Pray with me that He will make me the right kind of wine for this time and place.

Safe in Beirut.

17 06 2009

Just a quick note to say I’m safe in Beirut!  I’ll write more soon!

Done with Dubai. Beirut or Bust.

16 06 2009

Greetings from Dubai!  We made it safe and sound (and groggy after our 17 hour flight) to Dubai last night, and arrived to the most wonderful surprise – the Hantla’s friend Jen (who we were supposed to stay with) rented us our own apartment on the 16th floor of a swanky tower by the beach, with accommodations comparable to any 4 star hotel.  So, I got a shower and a wonderful night’s sleep, with amazing views to boot (pics to follow soon!).  Today we spent the day wandering from air conditioned hotel to air conditioned mall (it’s currently 100 degrees with 33% humidity), and are now at the airport waiting for our flight to Beirut.  This brief stop in Dubai has been such a gift – a needed time of rest and re-grouping from all the finals/graduation/get-out-the-door madness of the last few weeks.  It’s a developer’s Disneyland – everything is new or unfinished, mile after mile of construction and towers.  It’s quite a sight!

I’ll write more as soon as I can from Beirut.  To those who traveled to Pasadena last weekend to celebrate my graduation with me – that you so very much.  I’m still processing post-event, since the whole thing was such a whirlwind, but all of the support and love has touched me deeply.  I am so grateful for each one of you and wish I could have spent more time with you!

Please pray for me – specifically for my adjustment to this new place and culture and task.  As I was lying awake early this morning, I was so grateful that my God is constant, because not much else is right now.  I’m longing for a sense of connectedness to my surroundings and even to myself, if that makes sense.  Please pray that God would ground me in ways that bring me comfort, confidence and assurance even amidst all this change.



Where I’m Headed…

5 06 2009

An interesting video on Beirut from Al Jazeera…