Between two worlds

Between two worlds

Originally written for our May 2016 Picture of the Month email update

Living between two worlds is exactly what the month leading up to Home Assignment feels like.  There is so much to do to prepare for a summer in the US – buying plane tickets, hotel and rental car reservations, taking prayer card pictures, preparing presentations, getting Luka onto a one nap schedule, because c’mon, who has time for two naps, and the list goes on and on.

But of course we can’t only focus on our summer.  Ministry is still happening.  Safe Haven girls need to be taught, papers from class at ABTS need to be graded, Sunday School curriculum is still being written, sweet refugee children are eagerly awaiting their weekly music class.

There is also all the work needing to be done in order for us to be gone for three months.  Preparing games, crafts and homework for the Safe Haven summer program, arranging for someone else to teach a capstone course at ABTS, getting the house ready for guests to use this summer.

Add to that all the end of year craziness, a bazillion birthday parties, science fairs, final exams, end of year shows… I know you all can relate!

Oh yeah, there are also three children, who for some odd reason keep needing to be fed!  :)

It’s a lot.  We are busy.  Sometimes I look at my calendar and can’t decide if I should cry or laugh.  But to be honest, we can do busy like this for a limited time.  We are actually pretty good at busy.

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What surprises me every time we get to this stage of Home Assignment prep is how hard it is emotionally.  We were at a birthday party last weekend, and when I took the picture above, I was laughing at my crazy little girl in her fancy dress at the top of the tree, while all the little boys stood shouting at her from the ground to come down!  It’s not safe!  You will fall!

But as I looked at the picture later, it represents so much of what life feels like in this transitional stage.  Even though we are only leaving for the summer, it’s different than a family vacation.  It’s a big transition for us all.   And in preparation for the changes, I find myself disconnecting emotionally.  While normally a birthday party is a great time to connect and get to know other parents better, I kinda just want to climb that tree and sit and watch from afar.

It’s a normal part of this life… the back and forth, never really fitting in anymore, but it still surprised me when I realized it was happening again.  So I fight it, I force myself to stay engaged, to live in the present, and to leave well… knowing that it’s going to be a whole long summer of transitioning between hellos and good-byes.  I’m reminded of when Jesus was on His way to heal the sick little girl, but was stopped by the woman who needed His help.  He stopped.  He engaged.  He gave that woman all of his attention even though a little girl on her death bed was waiting for him.  It’s a great challenge to all of us… to focus on what or who is in front of us, no matter what our to do list looks like.

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Words are cheap. Do something.

Words are cheap. Do something.

I have been heartsick over the way the tragedy in Paris has so quickly been turned into an opportunity to spew hatred against the most vulnerable – those fleeing the same evil that blew themselves up in the heart of Europe.

I thought about writing a post about what I believe a Christian response should be to the refugee situation.  Put my masters of theology into good use.

I also had the naive thought that maybe if people just KNEW some of the stories of the refugees they were calling such hateful names, maybe that would change the way they thought and talked about them. I am in a unique position after all, in that I interact with refugees on a daily basis.

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But I (re)learned very quickly that trying to reason and discuss with someone who is blinded by fear and hate goes nowhere.  The names that I was called paled in comparison to the adjectives used to describe the men, women and children THAT I KNOW PERSONALLY who want nothing more than to live a life with their families without fear.

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I was tempted to take myself off facebook completely because honestly my heart just could not take it anymore.  But what changed my mind was the many messages I received from people wanting to know how they can help refugees RIGHT NOW.

I have no desire to get into a political discussion about vetting processes and the responsibility of the government.  Nor will I have another conversation about who Jesus actually meant when He said to love your neighbor.

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But I certainly can direct you in ways to help refugees here in Lebanon.

Even though it seems that those who hate the most seem to be talking the loudest, I know that most people really do want to love, want to serve, want to help, but just don’t know how.  So I’ve compiled a list of faith based organizations and groups that are working with refugees here in Lebanon that I personally know and trust.  I know what they are doing is good, and they will use your gifts well.

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This list is certainly not exhaustive.  There are plenty more doing great things here in Lebanon, and I’m not even touching those who are helping refugees in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey or Europe.  But for those of you wanting to get involved, this is a place to start.

Sad el Boucherieh Baptist Church
This is the ministry of our church here in Beirut.  We currently serve around 1400 Iraqi and Syrian families.  Gifts given are used to provide refugees with food vouchers, home cooked meals, winterization items such as blankets, mattresses, heaters and gas, rent money, school tuition, medical expenses and more.  Besides collecting and distributing clothing, toys and household items, I help run a music class for moms with their small children, providing a small reprieve from the stress and tragedy that follows their every step by allowing children to dance and sing and laugh with their mamas.

To give, click here.

Lebanese Society for Education and Social Development
This is the parent organization for the seminary where Caleb teaches. “LSESD’s humanitarian response to the Syria crisis served over 5000 households of vulnerable Syrians in Lebanon and Syria with food aid and medical assistance, also non-food and winterization items such as blankets, mattresses and stoves.”  They have different aid packages set up, for example $70 gift will provide a family with 4 blankets and one mattress, crucial to surviving the coming winter months.

For more information and to give, click here.

Tahaddi
Tahaddi is an education and health center in one of the poorest areas of Beirut where many refugees have settled.  Their “aim is to serve socially vulnerable families and victims of conflict and discrimination, regardless of their nationality, religion and social background.”  They currently have approximately 120 students attending school at the educational center, provide medical services to over 2500 patients, and provide follow up care to the most vulnerable families through in home visits by Tahaddi’s social workers.

For more information, check the website here.
To give, click here.
To give to Tahaddi’s current campaign for the health programs, click here.

Pioneers School Program
A friend of mine living in one of the suburbs of Beirut runs a school program for 37 refugee children in her neighborhood, where many refugees have settled.  There are no formal camps set up in Lebanon, which means refugees often end up in the poorer parts of the country, living many in a small apartment, often being taken advantage of by their landlords.  In addition to the school program, refugee families in need are provided with food packages and winterization items such as jackets, blankets and heaters.

To give, click here and enter account number 150106

Relief and Development in the border regions
Some dear friends of mine spend much of their time working with refugees in the Bekaa Valley and the North, both very near to the Syrian border.  The do home visits to assess the needs and then provide relief through the distribution of food, clothing, blankets, hygiene kits and more.  By sitting and having a cup of coffee, listening to the stories of those who have fled everything they know, and praying for their families, those who live on the margins are reaffirmed of their value and worth in the eyes of God.

To give to the general fund for refugee work in the whole region, click here.
To give specifically to the work in Beirut and the Bekaa Valley, click here and enter the code B12SyrRspLeb in the comment section.
To give specifically to the work in North Lebanon, click here and enter the code B12NorthLeb in the comment section.

Heart for Lebanon
This is an organization that I haven’t worked with as closely, but is closely connected to our community and has a wonderful reputation.  From their website, “Heart for Lebanon’s heart is to unconditionally serve those who have been marginalized and rejected.  We are committed to reach the lost and broken, to advance peace, justice, and equality and to empower the marginalized and rejected by the power of God.  We believe transformation is a process and not an event. Therefore, Heart for Lebanon is a faith- based holistic ministry that uses relief in many cases, but not exclusively, as the first step in the process of transforming an individual and their community.  This also includes bringing dignity to the marginalized and rejected communities in country, including Syrian and Iraqi refugees living in Beirut, the Bekaa Valley, and Southern Lebanon, as well as the Bedouin, Gypsy, and Turkman communities residing throughout the country.  Our goal is to build deep relationships with the families and people we serve. Serving them not once but over time through one of our two initiatives:  Relief & Community Care or Children at Risk.

For more information and to give, click here.

There are also plenty of international organizations doing good work among refugees here in Lebanon and across the region.  Samaritan’s Purse is one.  It you’d prefer not to donate through faith-based organizations, there are also some great options.  I don’t work as closely with these groups, but I’m certainly willing to do a little research if anyone is interested.

Vacationing with a TCK

Vacationing with a TCK

Every month we send out a picture of the month update.  Our August update about our vacation got a lot of responses from friends of ours who also live overseas and are raising Third Culture Kids.  I thought I’d share it here too, as it’s a better forum to dialogue and share ideas (though most of the conversation around my blog posts happens over on facebook :))


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Lazy days on the beach, hours in the playhouse, riding horses, chasing dogs, books with grandparents and laughing with cousins.  Our time in the States was exactly what we needed.  We were able to put aside worries about finances, security, and the stress of every day life and just enjoy.  We returned to Beirut last week feeling rested and rejuvenated.  We were exhausted of course from the flights and the jet lag, but our souls felt so fresh and ready for another year of ministry in Beirut.

We played the part of the hermit really well on this trip.  One of the big reasons we decided to only spend time with our families this month was for our kids’ sake.  Our girls (and Luka eventually) are classic third culture kids (TCK).  They are being raised in a country different from where their passport says they are from, and they’ve never spent more than a few months at a time in that passport country.  They think they are Lebanese, but they don’t truly fit in, but they don’t fit in in the States either.

One characteristic of TCKs is they way they make friends and build relationships.  I’ve heard it illustrated well by thinking of a swimming pool.  Typically, when you meet someone new, you hang out in the shallow end.  You may be there for weeks or months, maybe venturing into the deep end for a brief moment before heading back to shallow waters.  After trust has been built, you might spend more and more time in the deep end with your new friend, but it takes time to get there.

That’s not the case for TCKs.  They intuitively know that time is short, so they jump right in deep end.  That can be awkward for people from one culture, but when TCKs get together it’s the most natural thing in the world to do.  It’s how they relate.

What does this have to do with our summer vacation?  Our girls go deep quickly.  A visit to a friend’s house results in a new best friend that they just can’t imagine their lives without. And as we drive away, the question inevitably gets asked, “when can we play with her again?”  The answer “in two years” or “when you are six” results in tears and a huge sense of loss for our tenderhearted children.

Loss is a part of life, we know, and our kids will need to learn to navigate it.  When we are back in the US next summer for Home Assignment, they are going to gain and lose a lot of new friends. But we decided that for this vacation, we were going to limit that for them.  So we sequestered ourselves with our families, letting the girls really go deep with people that they could wake up and see again and again.  Of course it was hard when we left.  Isla bawled her way through security lines in multiple airports and Ruby whined her way halfway across the Atlantic Ocean. But they know that we’ll skype soon, family will come visit, and we’ll be back to see everyone “after Ruby turns 4.”  :)

We are so grateful to you all for understanding, for the way you cared so well for us from afar while we were visiting and for your continued prayers and support!

The definition of a church home

The definition of a church home

Last night we spoke at a prayer meeting at Scofield.  This is an incredible group of saints who get together EVERY WEEK to prayer for the workers that they are supporting overseas.  It was a privilege and honor to share some ministry updates and prayer requests with them.

When we walked into church this past Sunday morning – for the first time in more than three years – an elderly man greeted us with a huge smile and a big “welcome back!”  I honestly don’t think I have ever seen him before.  But he – and many others throughout the morning – knew us.  Because they’ve been praying for us.

We felt so loved and supported and cared for.  That is what church family is all about.  Thank you, Scofield.  We couldn’t do what we do without you and thank God immensely for you!

Summer Schedule

Summer Schedule

For those of you who don’t get our email updates, here’s our schedule for our summer Home Assignment.  If you will be in any of these place while we are, we’d love to connect over coffee, lunch, play date, whatever!

May 27 – June 8:  Littleton, CO

June 8 – 18:  Dallas, TX

June 19 – 28:  Frisco, TX

June 29 – July 2:  Southern CA

July 3 – 6:  Hutch family vacation

July 7 – Aug 2:  Phoenix, AZ

Aug 3 – Sept 6:  Cary, NC

Sept 7 – 12:  King family vacation (My brother is getting married!  Whoo hoo!!)

Random thoughts

Random thoughts

1.  We leave for America in 11 days.  Gulp.

2.  I found a Gymboree today.  You have no idea how hard it is to keep reminding myself that we leave for America in 12 days and I can buy things at Gymboree for half of what they cost here.

3.  Tomorrow I’m taking two of the girls to a birthday party at Burger King.  The entire kindergarten was invited, plus brothers and sisters.  There could very well be upwards of 100 five and six year olds running around the very small play place at Burger King tomorrow.  Big Gulp.

4.  Apparently I’m late in potty training Isla.  I found out that in Syria, if your baby isn’t potty trained by 1 year it is recommended to sit them on a toilet, light a match, blow it out and put it on their skin…. it basically scares the pee out of them.

5.  I need help helping a 1st grader do a science project on the life cycle of a dog.  Without using any posterboard.

6.  Today some poor child lost their balloon.  Somehow it landed on our balcony.  Totally made Isla’s day.

7.  The spelling bee at the girls’ school got pushed back a few weeks, and I’m really sad about missing it.

8.  Operation: eat all the food in the pantry and freezer before we travel has commenced!  I actually came up with quite a nice spinach pastry the other day.  But we’ve also had pasta three times this week.

9.  Isla has started calling all women “mama” and all men “daddy.”  This can be really embarrassing when she and I are walking down the street and she points at and calls out to a random man, “Daddy!!!”

10.  Censorship on TV here is so interesting.  The other night Aladdin (the Disney movie) was on, and huge chunks of the Genie’s song were cut out.  I was watching Masterchef Australia (I’m addicted) and the contestants were in a market searching for BEEP fat.  I was so confused.  Then I realized they were looking for pork fat.  Yep, the word pork is censored.  So is Jew.  More interesting TV thoughts… one channel interrupts their programming for the call to prayer five times a day.  BUT, during the royal wedding, which was broadcast live, it didn’t actually pause the wedding like it normally would.  There was just a little ticker scrolling across the bottom that reminded everyone that it was time for the mid-day prayer.

11.  I’m not really sure how to end this post.  That’s all.

Logical conclusions

Logical conclusions

The girls often contort Bible stories they’ve learned into some really funny stories with hilarious applications.

Recently, my two first graders have been talking about how if someone doesn’t have clothes or food and you give them some, it’s like you are feeding and clothing God.  Very Biblical.  Or if you lie to someone, it’s like you are lying to God.  Or if you hit someone you are hitting God.  Sometimes, they get a little carried away… If you study something, you are studying God!  If you forgive someone, you are forgiving God!  Usually I can twist their words a little to make their thoughts correct:  Yes, we should study in a way that brings glory to God.

Other times though, I just have to leave the room so they don’t see me laughing.

Yesterday we were talking about their Sunday school craft… we studying the Parable of the Sower and so they each planted flower seeds.  The girls had thought that their house moms had thrown the flowers out and they were bemoaning the fact.  “Haram!  They shouldn’t have thrown them away!  We worked so hard on them…  That was our craft… It was to help us remember the story… whine whine whine…”

And then this gem:  “Yes, they shouldn’t have thrown them away, because when you throw something away, you throw God away.”

End scene.