Now the air holds a crispness in it, each morning and evening. Occasionally, we are beginning to reach for layers to keep us warm. The leaves are changing colors and the days are getting dramatically shorter. It is distantly familiar to us but seen with fresh eyes after not experiencing this for nine seasonal years.
We are two-and-a-half months settled. This means we now have cellular service, internet in the home, fresh drinking water being delivered to our door, a car with insurance, residency permission, and a bank account. While these may all seem like simple tasks, each one took extra effort, learning, time, and help. The reality of settling in a foreign country makes us quite dependent and we are indebted to the team that helps us arrange all these details. Darron and I have also begun learning Arabic. Our minds are being stretched as we try to understand, absorb, and sound out the guttural “haa” sound, (that requires saliva in the back of the throat), rolled r’s and much more. Seeing the appreciation of the Lebanese people makes our humble efforts in language learning worth it.
Meanwhile, we are absorbing the culture around us, and the work, and the community. Flavors of the challenges that lie ahead are being tasted, along with the joys.
One of the realities in the Middle East countries that tugs at my heart and makes me wave a banner of injustice is human slavery. It is very real and evident. Thousands of women and men are lured by internet agencies to come. The increased wage over their impoverished nation wages is appealing. Once they arrive, many of them, are forced to hand over their passports, cell phones, and other important documents. Supposedly, in two years, they should be free from their contract…but for many this is not the case. Every day in the grocery stores and around the city’s you will see these captured people following dutifully behind their “owner”. A few are treated well, many are not. I am just beginning to hear their stories. Stories of young mommies leaving behind little children in the hope of providing, and these are the mild stories of this tragedy. I pray that I can somehow make a difference in this specific area. Right now, all I can do is give an encouraging smile to each one I see. These people are gems, being trampled on.
We are so grateful that occasionally (every 2-3 months) we can travel with Darron. He is flying often, so it is especially meaningful to come along side of him and meet the people in different regions, hear their stories, see their work, hopefully be encouraging, see different cultures and understand more the nature of Darron’s work. Currently, we are in Jordan. Yesterday we saw camels and Bedouin tents as we drove to a neighboring city, from where we are staying.
It was especially moving, yesterday, to witness Darron coming out of a brief meeting with tears present in the corner of his eyes. When I asked what was wrong, he simply replied, “I just heard an unbelievable story, I will tell you later”. It was a story of remarkable courage despite pain and suffering. Two very young courageous gems. These are things that cannot be conveyed over a phone call when we are apart, so to travel together is a gift of time, connection, deep togetherness and understanding.
Ordinarily, when the boys and I are not traveling, we are clicking down school days (yes, I am counting) and sending down roots of establishment. Our friend base is growing and so is our ability to navigate our community. I am ever so grateful these two boys are wading through this year of transition with us as they give me courage to go exploring and are mature enough (and tall enough) that I can rely on them to be helpful. They are amazing at helping me navigate the complicated road system, while I suck in my abdominal muscles the entire time we drive, willing the van to fit in tight spaces. I am convinced it helps the van to be smaller. Absolutely, convinced.
I will close with a story of a gem, shinning brightly here in Lebanon doing her small part. Her story of how she came to be here is remarkable. I will share only the financial piece of it. Imagine a young single American mom of three, always struggling financially. Many years ago, she feels that one day she would like to serve overseas and believes that the Lord sends her a message that states, “as freely as she has received, she should freely give”. At that point in time this super mom had received nothing, and for the next eight years, she lived from paycheck to paycheck on what she could make as a massage therapist. Yet, in the back of her mind, she remembered and believed that one day she would receive and then she would “go”. She decided to start selling essential oils, with her massage business, and shortly after that felt really impressed to sign up a fellow therapist to sell essential oils. This new signed up representative really worked the business and the woman in our story began to receive commission checks. At first, they were just random one hundred dollars here and there and then they were two hundred dollars and became more consistent. After a year or so, those checks became so substantial that this single Mom recognized that “freely she had received”, so now she would “freely give” and go overseas. Here she is. In Lebanon. Living off commission checks from that one therapist she signed up. Unbelievable. Her journey has been far from simple and smooth, and this year is a real test as she is teaching Syrian Grade Three children every day, not giving massages as she had imagined. Her faith absolutely delights me. Her obedience is even more precious. A gem, in the midst of humanity. Thank you, precious gem.
So here we are, in the Middle East, surrounded by so many stories and gems. I hope to tell you more in the soon future. I am struck again, that it is our simple efforts that seem so insignificant that change the world around us. A smile. Being willing to go. Willing to listen. Willing to pray. Willing to teach. Willing to give up somethings that seem precious to us. Sometimes it is simply being present or willing to believe that funding will come. Unbelievable, but true and to think, we ALL can do the simple things.