Lebanon. You’ve heard about it on the news. Hezbollah. Israel. War. Bombs. Shell-shocked buildings. Yes, those are all part of Lebanon. Yet, those are not all of Lebanon. They don’t even begin to let you understand its people.
This place has experienced so many trials that it makes most other countries seem like a kindergarten playground. Driving around Beirut there are sure signs of past trouble. There are also sure signs of impending trouble. If you look just past the first row of buildings as you drive along the highway, you will see buildings with acne like scars. One very disconcerting site was the anti-aircraft gun that was perched on a cliff, complete with fake-leaf netting, only a few feet from an apartment complex. So, those all too familiar descriptions of Lebanon are there as we have all heard on the news.
But, that’s not nearly the whole story.
Lebanon is beautiful! It is green. It is alive. It has a life and energy that is remarkable considering the uncertainty and repetitive uncertainty year-in and year-out. The people exhibit an unusual ability to continually rebuild. But, they don’t just rebuild. They improve and make every effort to allow their rebuilding to be a beautiful rebirth in architecture, art and expression. Some call Beirut the Paris of the Middle East. I don’t agree. It is much more remarkable – and, I love Paris! To respond to death and destruction with such vibrancy and speed without any guarantees is a testament to the uniqueness of these God-created people.
The people, in my experience, are warm, friendly and caring. They know how to enjoy life. This is evident in the amazing food available everywhere. I found them to be helpful and willing to not just give the quickest answer, but to truly help. They seemed to actually care that I understood.
To witness this place is more remarkable when you appreciate the fact that the uncertainty of their future isn’t far from their minds. History says that summer is a time for war in Lebanon. I’ve heard someone recently say, “There’s the smell of war in the air.” So, when I asked a driver how he felt about this summer, it said a lot when he responded, “Well, they say that if everything is ok, we will have 2 million tourists. If it isn’t. . .” He left it hanging. The alternative is far short of the livelihood that they would benefit from during a peaceful tourism season. The alternative is more of the death and destruction. But, for now, they press on, with hope.
Acting on hope. That’s a good concept I would like to embody. I was reading this article about one of my favorite musicians. It made me realize that there is much we could worry about and that could limit our ability to serve in the Kingdom. But, we know we aren’t to worry but are only to simply follow our Lord. Both Josh Garrels and the people of Lebanon seem to embody this paraphrase of the Gospel well, “I freed you from death, now go be who I made you to be.”
Let’s all do this more, right?