Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cedars of Lebanon

5:30am now. Yesterday was not a good day. I woke up sick with a bug I picked up some where the day before. Might have been some food, don’t know. So early morning I started heaving . . . and other things . . . . hoping that everything will be okay by 9:30 when we leave for a tour of the cedars of Lebanon. Something I’ve been looking forward to for a couple of months.
It was not to be. The fever just got stronger.

So my day was filled with sleep, bathroom runs . . . and attempts to get as much water into my body as possible. The team got back last night about 7:30pm and they had a great time. They had communion under some cedars. There were some Bedouin believers that came as well.
Cedars are amazing trees. Did you know that the temple was built with cedars? Cedar walls, cedar ceiling, cedar beams. Everywhere but the floor, which was juniper (1Kings 6:14). The temple always portrays the presence of God. If you wanted to be near to God you would go to the temple. I love the smell of cedars and so every time I have an opportunity to breath in this aroma I take it all in slowly. It reminds me of God’s presence.

I like the picture of repentance in Hosea 14 where God’s response is to heal, love and be like the dew. Dew brings blessings and growth to everything it encompasses. And it’s complete and all encompassing. It’s like God is saying that he will bless me fully with his presence.

Hosea goes on to say that the repentant heart will be like a cedar of Lebanon. Fragrant and regal. A cedar that is continually growing upward, ever increasing in strength. A sweet fragrance to God and everyone that passes by. And with this great size comes the ability to be a great shade to others providing relief and comfort from the elements. This is quite an amazing thought. If I have a repentant heart, the impact is far more reaching than just my own life. I will be used in the lives of others to provide comfort and peace.

I wish to be like a cedar. Full of God’s presence, fragrant, full of beauty, having value and providing shade to others. To be rooted as a cedar where I am unmovable in my faith. To have the same vigour as one of these great cedars where new shoots are always presenting themselves and leading to new growth.

The Lord will be like the dew, I will be like the cedars. All that I am as a cedar comes from his ever abiding presence.

When I feel like I’ve been robbed of my beauty, filthy from sin, He restores beauty.

When I feel robbed of my strength, feeling week an unable to continue, He restores strength.

When I feel robbed of my value, feelings of worthlessness, He restores value.

This is a picture of great abundance.

I never saw the cedars yesterday but I’m okay with that. Another day perhaps. My day was spent reflecting on God’s presence in my life and the abundant fruit that is promised from such a gift.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Student of Jesus

Up early here in Lebanon. I started writing this around 5:30. Kathleen and I had a bad night’s sleep. I think it was something we ate last night that didn’t quit agree with our stomachs.

Kurtis and I had a great conversation with a fellow yesterday while we were painting. By the way, the Arabic word for “painter” is “dehan”. “De” as in the sound you make for a d. . . . “Du”. . . . and “han” is pronounced “hun”. Dehan. Say it! Dehan. So Kurtas and I were a couple of dehans yesterday. So you wouldn’t say “Jordan the dehan”, you would just say “Jordan dehan”. It’s got a ring to it that Kurtis Dehan does not. I was proud of that and Kurtis spent most of his day laughing at it all. Okay, maybe me too.

So back to the conversation with this young fellow. This young man is 28 and loves Jesus. We use the term “follower of Jesus” and he uses the term “student of Jesus”. That was sweet. So we get talking about marriage and discovered that all three of us would be shamed in their culture. I’ve got no boys (Faye and Ami! I love and adore you! No need for a boy!) and both Kurtis and the young man are single at such an old age. The importance of having a family here is huge and not just in a Muslim culture, we are talking about a larger culture that encompasses many people groups here in Lebanon. When I sit around the table with Matthieu and Siham I am struck by the family atmosphere, the love for one another, and the attention they give one another. It’s very hard to describe.

This young man is a Bedouin. There are few believers among their tribe. His heart is determined to find a women that has the same heart as he does towards Jesus. A student of Jesus. The rarity of a female believer is much higher than finding a man that has become a believer. In this culture the men come to Christ first, then the family follows but the wife has to confront the fears and realities of telling her Muslim parents what she has done. Because the life of a female is less than that of a male, it is not a safe thing to do. So Kurtis and I were able to drop our dehan titles for a while and prayed for him and asked Jesus to bless him with a wonderful wife that was a student of Jesus like he was.

If you think you can, please take a moment right now to pray with me for this young man.

(Maybe Kurtis too!)


Friday, August 28, 2009

Grace filled life

Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit with a group of men, of which one of them was a brand new believer. We had a great discussion on grace and what it means to be fully forgiven, no atonement needed as Christ took care of that for us on the cross. Muslims look at sin as something that must always be compensated for. So if I steal from someone, what would be an offsetting act of goodness that I could do to compensate for that sin? When a new believing Muslim comes to understand the grace that has been gifted to him, they are completely set free.

So I was blessed to spend time with a young man that was flying high because of this new knowledge. He was full of the joy of the Lord. Today when I go to the camp I hope to see him again.

Yesterday was a good day.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Birds on a wire

I’m sitting on a balcony right now at Matthieu’s home in Beirut at5 about 6:00am. I’m high on a hill so I can see all of Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea stretching out in the west as far as I can see before the heavy smog envelopes it. I’m in the “Christian” area. Everything is sectioned off. It’s a beautiful city from where I sit, yet full of pain and suffering in each of the segregated areas. The fighting and loss of life throughout the city remains evidenced through the ruins on the hill side and throughout the city.

I’m just sitting here reflected on my day yesterday. I was shovelling some gravel in the “back yard” of the compound. Well, back yard as in a gravel pit with a bit of sewage residue, some tin, and wood with nails. They have plans to make this a playground for the children that would come to the school. It’s a space that is maybe 12 feet by 30 feet. Sewer drain at one end. So a few of us were cleaning up and I finished alone with some gravel levelling using a shovel they had there. Along the side of this area is a wall that is about 4 feet high separating the compound from the rest of the Bedouin camp. I’m working at one end and I finish and turn around and there is about 8 kids from the camp sitting, some standing, on the wall. They are all watching me and laughing and giggling. Being my usual social self with plenty of charisma (NOT), I decided to visit with them for a while.

They were so full of life. They knew a little English because they had attended the school last year. They were all shapes and sizes. Little ones that might have been 2 and older ones that might have been 8. One little guy tried to get me to say “tree” in Arabic. It sounded something like Zeus. They all laughed at my attempt and then they started to throw other words at me, many words coming at me, two or three at a time. I started to laugh and that made it all the funnier for them. It got worse.

(No one is around, just me and the kids and I felt like time had just suspended itself for this moment to continue as long as I would allow it)

Then the little guy that taught me how to say tree also decided to tell me how to say “nose”. I think it was something like miloucah . . . . Yah, no kidding. They laughed, I laughed. I might have even let out the odd giggle, but I was glad no else was there to catch that. Then the usual head, eye, nose, ear, mouth, teeth discussion ensued. I was lost.

One little girl was sitting at the end of the wall. (They are all perched up on the wall like a bunch of birds on a wire. The compound where I was working was off limits to them so they stayed on the wall.) She just sat there smiling through all of the conversation and so I finally worked my way down the wall to speak with her and asked her what her name was. She was maybe 3. She said something that sounded like Helen. But it had something a little extra in it, but no mind, she became Helen to me. The one name that almost made sense to me!

They couldn’t get my name. I don’t know how many times I said Jordan. I found out later that if I would have dropped the “J” they would have instantly got it because they pronounce the Jordan River and the country without the “J”.

Matthieu showed up a little later to kick start time again and ran back to get the video camera. He returned and caught a few moments. Perhaps someday you might get a glimpse of my time with these kids if the video makes it back home.

My heart was lifted and I headed for home that night with a smile and a great memory.


At the camp

First day in Lebanon we got a tour of downtown Beirut. So many ruins all around from the war in the eighties. Bullet holes still in the structures although some have been resurfaced or restored where necessary. Homes still in ruins on the hill sides. The history here is both amazing and intriguing. If you are interested, check out the war details at

So after an amazing speedy drive through traffic with no lights, no lane markings, with a million vehicles scampering two ways, sometimes four, we made it to the crest of the Lebanon Mountains where we could see the Bekaa Valley spread out for miles running north and south in front of us. Syria to the east, Israel to the south. Matthieu explains to us along the way all of the internal and external strife that still exists and lays percolating just below the surface.

As we get down into the valley we get to the town of Saadnayel and having passed through it we came to a little community on the outskirts, a Bedouin tribe. As we drive down the road toward the camp we see a few kids, maybe 6, playing in the ditch alongside the road. The ditch has a little water and then some garbage floating on the top. They all stand up and with curious smiling faced they check us out as we pass by.

We pass more kids, they seem happy and content with their lot.

Once inside the compound we are greeted by the chief, and given the royal tour of his compound which includes a community centre ( a room where chapel can be head), washrooms that needed some TLC, okay, a LOT of TLC, and 5 school rooms for the children, whose school year begins near the end of September. We receive some tea that is loaded with sugar, and then a second course of very strong coffee. A coffee that tasted something like I’ve had before in Jamaica. (I’ve had a few cups now and I think it’s growing on me!)

Then to the roof. From there you can see the camp and the many types of housing structures that are used. Some are tin shelters, and then a few sheds that are covered with large canvases or tin, anything to stop the rain during the winter season. A few goats and cows spot the camp and then of course is the widespread impact of sewage running freely throughout the camp. A trough was built some time ago, but it overflows into the land where the kids play and the homes are erected. Remember the picture of the kids playing in the ditch with a little water and garbage? Well, the water is not all water. We see the farmers, (not the Bedouins) watering the crops at the outskirts of the camp and we are thinking that we could just drill some wells for water. But we were informed that the tests showed that even out that far the water is contaminated and no good for consumption. Many of the men have a job working for minimal wages to bring home to the family. From what I can tell, work is very important to them. The majority of the camp is Muslim with a few believers mixed into the group. We serve them all when we will begin working on the classrooms and bathrooms.

These people are lovely and gracious. I am fighting to remember their names correctly, but will keep trying. My mind is on major intake right now as I consider all that is happing here in the camp and with my friend Matthieu. I trust that as I learn about life and God’s heart within this environment, God will use me in some small way.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Flight time

(on a plane, posted after arrival)

Matchbox city up here.

Heading to Doha. It’s about a 13-14 hour flight from Houston. We’ve got about 3 hours left. I’m amazed at the stats you can get on these things. Some computer feeds the screen in front of me with the altitude, the air speed, the temperature outside. It’s -55 Celsius. Like I care. It’s a balmy 21 inside, slight breeze, food, movies, music, cute blond with glasses . . .

I wonder if the plane goes down whether all the stats are still displayed on the screen in front of me. The big dip in the altitude, the temperature changes, the ground gets closer .... Do they have preloaded a jpeg of a plane with an engine burning or a plane with no wing? I would have. Why not sim it in real time. Take the mind off one’s immediate problems.

I’m going South-East-East right now.

Listening to Pink Floyd . . . D’oh! I just let you know too much.

Okay, now worship music on my iPod.

If you ever get a chance to fly Qatar Airlines then take it. This is great service. They treat you like a prince with all the stuff they give you. When I got on they had a pillow and a blanket on my seat. Imagine that, not having to ask for one. Amazing. Then they gave me a little pouch with some socks, a toothbrush and some paste, an eye mask for sleeping, . . . and something else I can’t remember. Then before dinner they brought each person a hot washcloth for you to wash your hands and boy did it feel good on the face. Too bad for those with makeup!

They just brought me a Tim Horton’s coffee!

Okay, I won’t do that again. Just the thought! It’s going to be 15 days before I taste another one of those.

Okay, breakfast time.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Off to Lebanon

Well, today Kathleen and I are off to Lebanon. I’ve had so many things in the air that I’ve been juggling that I’ve not really had much time to think about this trip and what it might mean to me, Kath, or Matthieu and Siham (the couple we have come to know and love form Lebanon leading the NGO – Bridges of Love). I suppose I’ll have some time on the plane! I think we are 4-5 hours to Huston, then a one hour overlay and then 15 hours to Doha, Qatar. We stay the night and then off to Beirut the next day. Yep, lots of time to think.

The team of 9 will be working on a dilapidated old school building for a Bedouin camp. We will fixing and painting. Then once some of the rooms get painted, Kath gets to go in and paint some murals. She is really looking forward to that! Another lady with us, Rita, will be helping Bridges of Love with their web site. I’ll also get to work closely with Matthieu and his team doing some leadership development and some strategic ministry planning.

Also in the mix of all that, we will be putting on a Children’s Program, a Women’s Program and a Men’s Program. I can fill you in a little more about that later.

So I actually have my bags packed, and just a couple odds and ends to do before I head to the airport. It feels a little weird!

You can follow us on the trip through this blog, the team blog perhaps Anton’s blog (not sure on his).

Later ...

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