After our whirlwind trip to the States for a banquet last fall, we wrote a newsletter answering some of the most frequently asked questions we received about life and ministry in Beirut.
As we travel around the country this summer, we continue to answer some of the same questions… many of you blog readers don’t get our newsletters, and we won’t see you, so I wanted to continue answering some of those questions here… because I’m guessing that they might be on your mind as well!
One of the big ones: Do you feel safe?
The short answer is yes. We do feel safe living in Beirut. Even though it is a big city, the (random) crime rate is much lower than what you would find in most major cities in the US. Isla and I feel completely comfortable walking around our neighborhood alone – even into the evening. We have never felt threatened or targeted or unsafe because we are Americans or Christians. So yes, in our day to day lives, we feel very safe.
The flip side of that answer is that we live in an unstable region and an even more unstable country. The possibility of major conflict is always just around the corner, and that is something that we really had to wrestle with before we even made the decision to move to Lebanon. (We wrote a few blog posts about the ideas of fear and safety way back when… you can find them here and here.) We have different ways of dealing with the ever-present tension – Caleb likes to be as informed as possible, while I avoid reading the news or listening to the rumors as much a I can. We have contingency plans in place but pray we never need to use them! It’s not something that we think about every day – we just try to go about life as normal.
For more answers to other frequently asked questions, check them out here!
Part of the work we do with our organization is called home assignment. It’s basically the time we spend back “home” reconnecting with our family, friends, churches and supporters. We do some debriefing with our organization and also attend a renewal conference and work on raising any additional support that we may need. It’s also a time to serve our supporting churches in any way we can and to take some much needed rest.
In the past, this “furlough” was often a year in the States every four years or so. Our organization gives us lots of freedom in the timing and duration of our home assignment. To us, it seems really disruptive to leave the field for such a long time – leaving behind ministry obligations and taking ourselves out of an Arabic speaking context are two of the big reasons we don’t feel like it’s the best plan for us.
Instead we will be coming back for the summer every 2-3 years. Which means this next summer is time for our first home assignment! We obviously still have a lot of the details to work out, but the tentative plan is to be in the States from June – August. We have two weeks in Colorado in mid-July, and then will be splitting our time between North Carolina, Dallas and Arizona. We’ll definitely keep you updated as we know more about our schedule (probably by early spring – so don’t be holding your breath! :))
When we were in the States last month, there were several questions that we got asked over and over again. In our fall newsletter we answered some of them (Are you fluent? Do you feel safe? How’s your support?), but wanted to answer the rest here.
I know the picture in many minds when the Middle East comes up is of women wearing head coverings. Many of the Muslims in Lebanon do cover to varying degrees – from just her hair and ears to a full body and face cover. Because there is a large “Christian” population, it is very normal and acceptable to see women without a head covering (Although many Christian women still cover their heads in church). Not only that, there is a large Western and secular influence, so it is also not uncommon to see girls walking around town in spaghetti straps and short skirts (or less!).
Dress is often used as a sign of one’s values. So as a God-fearing Christian, I do my best to dress modestly by the standards of the culture around me. Which means here in Beirut, I don’t dress too differently from how I would dress in the States. One of the biggest differences is I don’t wear shorts. But pants, knee-length skirts, T-shirts, sleeveless shirts are all fine.
Beirutis generally are a little more dressed up than we would be at home, which has been a fun adjustment to see Caleb go through (he is thoroughly Arizonan… shorts and flip flops to church or a wedding… why not?? A shock to my system when I moved to AZ, for sure… but that’s beside the point…)