May 2, 2016
Several years ago I was working for an organization that was doing development work in Swaziland, Africa. Within the first two weeks of starting in that role, I was on a plane to visit the work first hand. As I write this I’m sitting in the lobby of an airport hotel in Frankfurt Germany, hours away from getting on a flight to Lebanon to experience firsthand MCC in action. Our group of 11 will witness both the front lines of the Syrian refugee crisis and the development and peace making work that has been taking place for years in this country before the current refugee crisis hit the headlines.
On my initial trip to Swaziland, I brought along a book to read titled, “28: Stories of AIDS in Africa” by Stephanie Nolen. At the time, Swaziland had the highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world. This crisis was the impetus for the development work being advanced in a small town called Bulembu. I found that reading the stories and first person experiences of those most affected by this crisis amplified the experience for me. Not only was my own story unfolding but it was being informed by a narrative that was the undercurrent of my interactions with the people I met and worked with in the country.
“I hope to bring back with me stories and messages of impact for you as an encouragement and as a “thank you.” Those of you who choose to live generously through MCC are not merely a partner or a donor… You are living out the MCC vision to share God’s love and compassion to all in the name of Christ…”
So in planning for this trip to Lebanon, I sought out a companion book. When it’s time to call it a night this evening, I’ll start in on “Beirut Noir,” edited by Iman Humaydan Younes. This book is an anthology of 21 Lebanese writers from different neighbourhoods in Beirut. I’m hopeful this book will do for my experience of Lebanon what Stephanie Nolen’s book did for Swaziland.
In the days leading up to my departure, my wife Margaret pointed out that “not everyone gets to visit Lebanon.” True. Though the country and the surrounding regions have been very much top of mind for those who follow the news, I don’t think it’s been a prime vacation destination for most since the most recent round of conflicts. So I feel a little like a proxy for all of you who have given so generously of your resources to support those in great need in Lebanon, Syria and the Middle East generally. I also feel like an ambassador for those who have been such faithful givers for the years and decades previous. I hope to bring back with me stories and messages of impact for you as an encouragement and as a “thank you.” Those of you who choose to live generously through MCC are not merely a partner or a donor, though these titles are appropriate. You are living out the MCC vision to share God’s love and compassion to all in the name of Christ, and therefore, really are so much of the heart of this organization.
The time change is starting to affect the weight of my eyelids. Tomorrow will come more quickly than I expect I’m sure. Time to try to get a good sleep so I can be ready to take in whatever is in store.