More Than Expected: Lebanon
by Dr. Dave Coryell; C.E. USA - Executive Director, World C.E. - General Secretary
Two years ago I traveled to Lebanon. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, Lebanon became popular for pictures of people with turbans hurling bombs at crumbling buildings. People heard of my impending travels and would immediately pray for my survival. One person even seriously asked if I had updated my will! I had an incredible and safe time in Lebanon and the people there appreciated me as well, which led to a second invitation.
During my most recent trip to Lebanon, my schedule was packed with an entire day to equip Syrian youth workers and pastors, the following day to equip both Syrian and Lebanese people, an address to the C.E. leadership for these countries, leading a church’s couples group, Sunday morning preaching, and teaching morning classes at two different Armenian Evangelical Christian schools. I even squeezed a ninety-minute trip close to the Syrian border in order to conduct a two-hour leadership development event for high school students, young adults and teachers. The teaching times were truly special. God seemed to be communicating ideas that connected with the people in tangible ways. I want to share two insights I learned on this trip that were “More Than Expected.”
Insight #1: Current Events
The first insight came while conducting the Syrian training sessions. This wonderful group of people had very few insights about Christian Endeavor and even less of an idea about youth ministry principles. Literally ALL of the previous C.E. leaders fled the country during the war period. Imagine waking up one day and having your church leadership gone. Fortunately, the people who remained behind were passionate enough to stay connected so they could receive further training. Next, at one of the breaks I asked what they thought about the remaining US military troops being removed from their country. More than one person said it did not make a difference. Russia is the major influence in their country. All of their high schools now teach Russian. It is interesting how I heard a different story before leaving home. Either way, may God bring peace to the entire Syrian country!
Insight #2: Historical Events
The second insight occurred on my last full-day. We visited the Armenian Genocide Orphan Museum in Byblos. I confess; I had no idea what the Armenian Genocide was about. I always enjoyed my history classes and I was pretty sure something from this event would have stayed in my mind. During this brief but exquisite museum tour, I discovered over 1.5 million Armenian men were murdered during WWI beginning around 1915. People from the Ottoman Empire, that is modern day Turkey, invited Armenian men to come to meetings. These meetings were supposed to be about the war as soldiers, financiers and strategists were needed. Men said goodbye to their families and went to the meetings. Most men were never heard from again as they were killed and piled in mass graves. The elderly, women and children were led on death marches relocating them in surrounding countries. A quarter of a million Armenians traveled to Lebanon. This event is believed by many historians to be the training ground for Hitler who served with the Ottoman’s WWI ally, Germany.
It was painful to learn about these events. My pain increased when I realized this event had been left out of most US history books. Concerned that my memory might have just forgotten this information, I began asking other people of various ages if they had been taught about this tragedy. No one knew anything about it. I finally asked my Uncle if he knew about the Armenian Genocide. I was pleasantly surprised when he said, “Yes.” Then he explained. He majored in history and did not learn anything about it. He learned about it from a special on the History Channel! Can you imagine a person majoring in history and not even learning about this in his classes? My nephew who teaches History replied to me that the entire event covered four lines in his college textbook. Along with this, the state where he teaches does list it as an area to be studied. He is fifty years younger than my Uncle. It is good to know we have made progress!
Overall, my visit to this museum reinforced the importance of listening to people’s stories without assuming I had all the information. I was invited to go to the Museum. I could have said “no”, but I realized it was important to the people I was visiting that I understand their story. We all must truly seek to understand another person if we want to share God’s love with them. Understanding does not always mean agreeing, but it does mean we must eliminate distractions and preconceived notions so they have the opportunity to speak. I am thankful that I did!