This year has seen an escalation of mission trips made by members of the Church including trips to Rochester Kent, Normandy France and a trip to Beirut, Lebanon.
Lebanon has a family connection. Mary, our daughter in grace, is from Beirut and planned a two-week holiday with our son Ben to visit her family. The latter part of that trip happened to coincide with the half-term holiday meaning my wife and I could join them for the last week. Plans were put in motion and we booked a hotel that was not too far from Mary’s parent’s house in the east of Beirut.
We landed in Beirut on a direct flight from London Heathrow late on the Saturday evening. Lebanon is two hours ahead of UK time so it wasn’t too tiring a trip. Nadim, Mary’s father, collected us from the airport and drove us to the hotel and we quickly settled in. We were thankful for the air conditioning as the night temperature didn’t differ a lot from daytime temperatures which were in the mid to high twenties throughout our stay.
Next morning, we started the holiday part of our trip and had a wonderful time with Nadim, Mary’s mother Phoebe and her younger brother George. We were treated with good hospitality throughout our stay and could strengthen the family ties.
During our visit, we visited several areas of the country which were of great historical interest. We went to Sidon in the south, the Cedars in the mountains and Byblos which was in the North. It was a fascinating time. We were chauffeured around by relatives which enabled us to get a picture of the country not normally seen by tourists.
The roads were crowded and the driving crazy. I decided whenever I could I would sit in the back seat using front seat passengers to obscure the view as much as possible. We took many of the local taxis to get around the city and were well received by drivers once they knew we were from the UK.
As the week unfolded we began to realise that Lebanon is a sectarian society very much divided along religious and ethnic lines. The addition of about one and a half million Syrian refugees has certainly been difficult. We saw many begging. You could sense the tension.
Even in religious terms the divisions are marked and complex. It is not just simply a case of Christian versus Muslim. Within each of those groups there are many different factions and sects. We have never been in such a society before.
Even though we felt safe there was much military presence. Our hotel was near to the French Embassy so we felt secure, there were lots of troops and even a small armoured vehicle positioned opposite the building. Evidence of the civil war was everywhere, war damaged buildings from the seventies and eighties are many.
As Friday approached, the day of the meeting, I began to pray about how that should go. Ben had flown home earlier in the week so the three Harvesters left were my wife Ann, Mary and me. We were meeting in Mary’s parents’ home and we knew there would only be a few there. We had contemplated worship but I had no guitar and although we had access to a piano we felt it may be too much to introduce our style of worship. We decided just to share and pray.
The three of us met in the afternoon in the hotel and prayed together. Mary remined us that when she was new in the Church in Birmingham I had prophesied that we would go and that we would meet in houses as the start of doing a work there. We had forgotten that. As we prayed we asked God to help us to be accurate and that we would be led to do and say the right thing.
The meeting was attended by Mary’s parents and brother, her Aunt Sawsan who had visited us in the UK for Mary and Ben’s wedding, a neighbour and a work colleague of Nadim, Jimmy. Jimmy arrived early and we had a chance to speak to him about the Church and our beliefs. He was very open. As we began I felt the Spirit emphasise that we should just testify. That is what we did. Mary translated for Annie and I and we felt well received.
As we began to minister I felt led for Mary to bless her parents and so we laid hands on them and she led the prayer. Next we prayed for the elderly neighbour who was there and prayed form her healing. She had just had an operation and was unable to walk well so we prayed for a speeded-up process of recovery. We then prayed for Jimmy. Nadim came and prayed first and in his prayer he agreed with all we had shared about the move we are part of and asked God to take Jimmy into the things that God had revealed. It was remarkable that he should pray that way. What we hadn’t known because her testimony was in Arabic, Mary had shared about God releasing her from depression. Jimmy shared that this was his current state. We prayed for him and God gave a word of knowledge concerning root issues that had led to this state. As we prayed he began to weep. He later testified that something had happened to him as we prayed and something left him. It was a real breakthrough. He is considering coming to Birmingham to complete a PhD next year so maybe God wants to continue the connection.
As the non-family members left Sawsan testified. In the meeting, she was very open, much different from when we saw her in the UK. She shared that when she came the Church in Birmingham I gave a word. It was about someone worried that their landlord was going to put their rent up at the next review but that God would touch his heart and there would be no raise. She heard it and knew it could fit her circumstances but not being used to prophecies she pushed it to the back of her mind. Later when she was back in Lebanon it was time for her rent to be reviewed and she was worried because money was tight and she might have to move. The landlord visited her and to her amazement he told her he would not increase the rent. She remembered the prophecy and knew it was fulfilled. This convinced her we heard God.
It was our last evening so before we left I thanked Phoebe for her great hospitality and welcoming heart. As I did I felt to say more and ended up ministering to her with many words of encouragement and wisdom form the Spirit. I sense it was a beginning and there is a journey to still be made but it was precious.
As we said our goodbyes Nadim commented that next time we must have the meetings when we arrive not on the last night so that they can have more people coming to meetings we hold as the time goes on. A door has been opened for which we praise God.
We were dropped off at our hotel and got ready for our early start the next day. Mary’s brother George commented to her on their way home after taking us to the hotel that two things had surprised him. When we said, we wanted to meet in the home the family were mystified, they don’t have meetings in homes and they didn’t get it. He saw how God used that. The second thing was the way I was led easily to minister to his mother and his to his amazement she began to open up. He knew it was God.
It was a different trip than we expected. We were well looked after by God’s help. Mary made us proud and we left with an open door to return to minister. We look forward to what happens next.