Friday, August 18, 2006

A visit to Lebanon before the war

In May, a couple from our team and three volunteers went to Lebanon for a week. Our purpose was to pray for the 400,000+ Palestinians and search for ways that we might be able to minister to them in the future. We had named the trip “Fortress Gate.” Even before the war there was so much political division that it was very difficult to gain access to Palestinians. They were behind a wall--in a fortress. However, we were not discouraged because we knew that God had a gate.

The first morning one of our volunteers shared this verse: Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up of you ancient doors, that the King of Glory may come in. Who is he, this King of Glory? The Lord Almighty - he is the King of Glory. (Ps 24:7 & 10)

About 60% of the Palestinians live in the 12 UN refugee camps around the country. Most of the other 40% live in the neighborhoods surrounding the camps. The camps are located from the north to the south of the country. Most of them are near the major cities of Tripoli, Beirut, Sidon and Tyre.

We stayed in Beirut and traveled from north to south. In Beirut we tried to follow up on contacts who were friends of friends, but didn’t have much success. We had prayed before and all during this trip that God would open the doors He wanted us to enter so we considered these closed doors an answer to prayer. Although it was difficult to be turned down again and again, we kept reminding ourselves that these rejections were God’s direction for us. Access to Palestinian areas is restricted and Lebanese can’t understand why anyone would want to try. “Why do you want to visit Palestinians?” seemed to be the question we were most often asked. Even Believers were wary of any involvement with Palestinians. It was a very difficult process we underwent as we slowly began to realize how reviled our people group is in that country. We experienced a tiny portion of the rejection that Palestinins in Lebanon experience on a daily basis. We were finally welcomed by an organization in one of the smaller camps that provided services for handicapped children. We were very impressed with the work they were doing and felt that we could partner with this group to help Palestinian children around the country.

As we travelled to the north and south we saw most of the tourist sites. (We were, after all, in the country as tourists.) That was an added bonus that we all enjoyed. While in Tripoli, we did convince our driver to take us through El Baddawi, the smaller of the two refugee camps in the area. We were thrilled to be so close to the Pals we so love. It was a wonderful blessing to be able to look at them as we slowly drove through the camp, praying as we went for each person that God so loves….

Another day we drove south to Sidon and Tyre. In Sidon, we were prevented from entering Ein el Helweh refugee camp by Lebanese military. We prayed anyway as we drove around the outside of the camp. In Tyre, the camp, El Buss, is next to the ancient ruins of the city. So, we stood on the ancient Roman road overlooking the camp and prayed for all the residents.

We had a very good "first trip". We knew in advance that breaking new ground would be a challenge. Palestinians living in Lebanon have limited opportunities for education and employment. They are politically isolated. As a result, most Palestinians live in dire poverty. Because of the history of political and ethnic division it is difficult to gain access to Palestinian areas. However, we are confident that God wants the best for these people. We hope to return to the area soon. In the mean time, we will be mobilizing people to pray.

One of our volunteers made the following comments:

I returned home with a big question mark... ????????????????????

The entire time we walked N,S,E and W... I sensed something. It was difficult to say was different than what we were physically seeing on the surface. It seemed that there was so much hidden just beneath the surface. I had NO idea how true this turned out to be! [Br. Andrew helped me understand this. Upon my return I read his latest book, Light Force, and gasped at the similarities he sensed. He wrote what I sensed.] It was a sad affirmation that my discernment was accurate. I did not verbalize these deep struggles with the team. I did not want to "over spiritualize" things.

I felt no freedom in this land...perhaps because so many of our prayers needed to be spoken in secret silence. Strange. I have never had to be so verbally silent before! It tested my faith. My spirit felt kind of quenched. I had no access to my Bible...which is why the verses on those index cards were such a good idea! I regret that I had not understood this better at the time! I had kind of a dull spirit. Sorry about this. We were in the throes of unseen spiritual opposition and I felt it every step!

One of my distinct memories is standing on the world's largest rock in Baelbek, planting an imaginary banner of C. I celebrate the fact that I had the opportunity to proclaim "This territory belongs to HIM. He purchased on the day of Calvary." to the principalities, powers, and spiritual hosts of wickedness. I remember how our friend got kind of upset with me because of all the "eyes" around. His words surprised me. Even so, I was confident that praise words needed to be released into the air directly to the principalities of the air! His word will not return void! Hallelujah!

This is the brief version of my impressions of Lebanon. Surely, this is strategic work! Will the Lord ever allow for me to return with a powerful prayer team? Only He knows.
I want to thank you for allowing me to be part of this team. I am not over it, nor do I ever want it to be over!

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Dusty Day in Gaza

Gaza is never pretty in August. It hasn’t rained in months so everything is covered in dust. The heat makes everything look tired and dilapidated. People move slowly if at all. When I visited yesterday, everything seemed more forlorn than ever. However, the tension was not as palpable as it was last week.

I was able to arrive in time to worship with the small group who gathered. They seemed to be holding their own. The chaos has developed some predictability. They are without electricity 12-16 hours per day; if they have electricity during the day today, they will usually have it during the night tomorrow. Water remains a problem. Most people have pumps that push the water up to holding tanks on their roofs. Water is intermittent and electricity is intermittent. If the water doesn’t come when they have electricity, the water doesn’t reach the holding tanks. Most people use bottled gas for cooking like people in the U.S. use for gas grills. There is a shortage of gas and people can wait for days to get their bottles filled. I didn’t go into a grocery, but there seemed to be plenty of fruit and vegetables in the market. Of course, very few people have money to buy even basics.

Our food distribution project continues at full speed. We are really proud of our partners who are working very hard to minister to the needy people around them.

I talked with one friend who has been a surgeon for 30 years. He said that in the last few days they were seeing fewer injuries. In all his years of caring for victims of violence, he has never seen the kinds or degrees of injuries that they have treated recently. They have had to amputate many arms and legs because of the severity of the injuries.

I had planned to go with a friend to Deir al Bellah to visit a development project that we hope to jointly fund. My friend had a conflict and had to cancel. When the taxi picked me up to take me back to the border, the driver told me that Israeli tanks and bulldozers had just entered Deir al Bellah. Another example of God’s protection!

The war in the north has captured the attention of the media, but the ordinary people of Gaza continue to suffer. Please remember them in your prayers.

Friday, August 04, 2006

It Doesn't Get Much Better

I heard a great story today that I’d like to share:

Rita is Jewish and lives in a small town adjacent to Jerusalem. (I can’t say where, but you'd know what Biblical even happened there if I mentioned the name.) Rita is also a follower of Jesus. She has been having some remodeling done to her home. Almost all the builders in Israel are Arab. She’s been telling the men who are working in her house about Jesus. (in Hebrew) My friend and local co-worker, Jeries, got a call from Rita earlier this week – It was one of those friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend kind of things. Anyway, Rita wanted him to come out to her house and talk to these men. (in Arabic) One of them, Sa’ad, was very interested.

Jeries took Bibles to give to the men when he went to Rita’s house. Sa’ad told him that he was disillusioned with the faith of his fathers because it does not have the power to change a man from inside. They had a good talk and set a time that Jeries could visit him at home. He lives in a village not far from Bethlehem in the West Bank.

As I write this (Friday afternoon – our time) Jeries is at Sa’ad’s home. Please pray with us that Sa’ad can come to know the Power that can change his heart. We'll keep you posted.

Posted by PL