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A different vision for Lebanon
Sarah Adams is currently serving as the MCC Country Representative in Lebanon. Previously she served with MCC in Botswana, in India, and as the HIV/AIDS Coordinator in Akron, Pennsylvania. She is from Columbus, Ohio, and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church in Westerville.
After service with MCC in Africa, North America and Asia, I knew a term of service in the Middle East would bring me new experiences. But little did I know what I was about to witness! My three years here have seen times of amazing joy, as news spread that peaceful protests in Egypt had led to new leadership, and devastating sadness, as Syrian friends shared stories of death and destruction.
One of the things I love most about MCC is the chance to develop deep relationships with local organizations, religious leaders and individuals. Spending at least three years in one place gives us the time to build trust and understanding. As an MCCer, I am able to ride the big wave of cultural understanding and goodwill that many other volunteers before me put into motion. I am always humbled by the ways in which MCC is valued and respected. So many people here resonate with our values and our mission. They wish to see a world in which God’s kingdom comes and justice prevails. Sharing in the joys and sorrows of others is always a privilege. It is also sometimes with a heavy heart that we try to stand in solidarity with those suffering. Some days it feels like there just is not enough time or energy or love to do all that we wish to do. Trusting that God gives us the strength to do as much as we can has to be enough.
I expected to learn a great deal about Islam upon coming to the Middle East. I was unprepared for the fascinating things I would learn about Christianity and the way my own faith would grow here.
Humbled in the presence of Christian traditions that date from the time of Christ, I have learned a great deal from bishops, monks and priests who value the history of their church and share with passion the stories of their ancestors who walked alongside the disciples. In the face of such rich history, it has been particularly difficult to hear leaders speak of the many Christians who fear for their future in the region and their rights as minorities.
Lebanon is unique in the Middle East. With a Christian population estimated at nearly 40%, it is the most Christian country in the region. Beirut is a fascinating city where churches and mosques sit side by side. You can find Christians sharing in Ramadan iftar feasts and Muslims sending out greeting cards at Christmas time. There is a true sense here that both groups are strengthened and enriched by the other’s presence.
The complexities of life in Lebanon can be baffling. The country officially recognizes and seeks some form of political recognition from 18 different religious denominations. Political alliances change regularly and the government is prone to collapse before leaders have served out their terms. Lebanese move fluidly from French to Arabic to English in the course of a conversation. Women in mini-skirts sit side-by-side in cafés with covered women.
Conflict at times seems inevitable. Lebanese will tell you that every two to three years, a violent conflict breaks out. And every six years or so, an even larger, more violent conflict breaks out. It is spoken of casually over cups of coffee, so expected is this cycle.
But I get to glimpse the other side. I spend time each week with amazing organizations and individuals who have a different vision for Lebanon. At this moment, when there are grave fears that the violence in Syria will spill over into Lebanon, I get to sit with the impassioned peacemakers! I get to hear the brainstorming that goes on in rooms full of conflict prevention specialists about how we can all work together to prevent another war. As the MCC Representative here, I get to share the visions and the stories of these peacebuilders with our constituents, and help find the support to turn their passions for peace into reality in one of the most conflict-prone areas in the world.
- Sarah Adams
Popular Aid for Relief and Development is one of MCC’s partner organziations in Lebanon. To see a video about their work with Palestinian refugee families in Lebanon using compost to enrich their gardens and reduce waste, visit: mcc.org/stories/videos/lebanon-composting-spreads-opportunity