Many of you saw me this summer back in the States, but may not know that I’ve switched continents and am spending this year with the Middle East Council of Churches in Beirut.
It was a whirlwind summer, and I continue to be grateful for the time to reconnect with friends and family. My five-year- old nephew was a little confused when I showed up at his door and not on the iPad screen, but he came around. I’m not sure I realized just how much I missed you all — so distracted by daily life and the Augean task of integration — until I was again in your presence and fully felt the emotional weight which had accumulated during my absence.
My emotions spilled over unexpectedly and frequently. And, I discovered that home is not just the house I grew up in, but all the places I feel accepted, where I can let my guard down and cry without fear. My deepest thanks to all who provided those spaces over the summer.
Moving forward to the present, I’m loving my time in Beirut. I live in an academic community among a diverse, spirited and fascinating group of people from all over the world who have whole-heartedly welcomed me into the fold.
My work as the communications officer at the Middle East Council of Churches has proven a satisfying mix of challenge (social and political context) and opportunity (putting my skills to good use). As I settle in and take on 2017 projects, I’m excited to see what the year brings.
I visited the ruins at Baalbek with friends in December. It’s difficult to describe just how imposing the complex of temples is. Walking among the pillars one feels tiny and inconsequential. We still don’t know how they managed to move massive blocks of granite from the quarry to the site.
What we do know is that generations of slaves worked to build these temples over many years, for multiple masters. Their artisanship is exquisite. It’s easy to get caught up in the grandeur of the ruins and forget that the hands who built them were not free hands. Likewise, it’s easy to dismiss the fact that slaves built the ruins as an issue of the past. But, we know that’s not true. Great monuments to progress continue to be built by immigrants and the poor, while refugees take shelter in UN tents and urban slums.
Visiting Baalbek was a reminder that while human progress is in some ways spectacular, it has come to pass through oppression as much as innovation. And as children of God, we continue to be challenged to do justly, now; love kindness, now; walk humbly, now.
Bethany Waggoner serves as a Long-term Volunteer with the Middle East Council of Churches in Beirut. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.