A "people sculpture" portraying the conflict in Syria
Exercise to "mirror" the emotions expressed in our bodies
Dan leading session in trauma training
Sharon leading session on trauma training
Sharon interviews "grieving mother" from 2 Samuel 21 story
One of the special privileges Sharon and I had on our recent trip to the Middle East was to serve those who work among refugees and displaced people from the civil war in Syria. These folks are heroes in my book, pouring out their lives to help people whose lives have been ripped apart by a terrible war now spinning into its 6th year. Just like Aaron and Hur held up Moses' weary arms in Exodus 17, we sought to hold up the weary arms of incredible servants of the Lord who work among "the least of these."
In January we were in Lebanon teaching at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition we led a number of workshops in the area, including two 2-day trainings sponsored by the Lebanese Society for Education and Social Development, one of IM's main partners in Lebanon.
The first workshop was with church and community leaders from Syria who came into Lebanon just for this training. Their stories of faithful service in places like Aleppo and Homs moved us to tears. We taught about the dynamics of trauma and trauma healing. We also taught about self-care: How do we not burn out and see our compassion erode away when faced with such intense, constant, and emotionally-sapping needs? We used experiential models of education, including people sculptures, mirroring emotions in our bodies, and dramatized Bible studies. A pastor from Aleppo told about his church building being destroyed and most of his congregation having fled. Yet the church was growing as they continued to reach out to those around them in love and service. He gushed with appreciation for the training even as he headed back to his ravaged city.
The second workshop was with Christian workers from Lebanon working among the Syrian refugees. We facilitated the same training design as before. Again we heard stories of profound sorrow as well as of miraculous provision and protection. Sharon and I were leading, but we felt like we were the students learning from these faithful witnesses.
As we were serving these heroes we constantly felt the sharp contrast with our own country's fearful attitudes toward refugees and immigrants, closing our doors in the face of the worst refugee crisis since World War II. The Christians in Lebanon are heroic in ministering to those in need, whether Muslims or Christians or people of no particular faith. They see Jesus, who was a refugee himself as a child, among those in need. We in the U.S. need to be challenged in our discipleship to live out the sacrificial love which we have received in Christ. Will we be among the sheep or the goats in that moment Jesus spoke of in Matthew 25 when we will be judged based on how we treated "the least of these"? For as we treated them we treated Jesus. These are difficult days across the world, and my role models are the people Sharon and I were honored to equip and support for their ministry in these two trainings in Lebanon.
In peace and hope,