BEWARE: An extremely long post is to follow (and I can’t imagine how long it would be if we hadn’t returned home a day early)… you have been warned!
For the past three-ish years, some friends of ours in Lebanon (that we fellowshipped with often in Michigan) have been asking us to come visit… this spring daddy had two weeks off and we reserved the second week of his leave to go to Lebanon to visit them. Originally we had about a week there, but the flights were really full on the day we wanted to return, and since we fly space available, we had to return a day early.
I’m going to give you a rather detailed description of our trip, accompanied by pictures – mostly taken by daddy and Cait, some by myself and the S’s.
March 26 We got up at 5:30 to leave for the airport, praying that there would be seats on the plane. After 45 minutes of waiting at the ticket counter, they gave us tickets and we rushed through passport control and security, getting to the gate just as they were closing it.
We arrived in Lebanon and met up with the S’s. After a quick stop at Spinneys to get food and donuts, we drove up to Byblos.
There we explored ‘potholes’ in the sea bed. They appeared when the tide went out and were filled with fish, crabs, anemones, shrimp, and jellyfish. We walked and climbed around there for what was probably an hour.
This was followed by a walk through the market. We stopped to look at a fossil shop, which had fossils of stingray ‘evolution’ all dated at the same time (we asked the guide how that was supposed to work and she didn’t really answer the question…).
… then explored the ruins more…
… and then the castle….
… and then we drove to the ‘hotel’ (really a convent) where we played mind games and had family worship before bed. Jemelie, Candace, and I were sharing a room, and they begged for a story before bed, so I had them give me a prompt and then I wound a tale of time travel and ancient Egypt.
We had family worship in the morning, then clambered downstairs to a breakfast of ham (!!!), cheese, homemade apricot preserves, tea, pita, and eggs. Then we drove out to Mussaylha fort – called the Lord of the Rings castle by the S’s and climbed around there for a while.
We drove to a museum and restaurant where we ate delicious Lebanese food and wandered around the museum. After another car ride we stopped in Sidon, where we saw an old inn, went to the soap factory, and got Abu Rami’s Falafel (an event worth noting!).
When we finally got ‘home’ to the S’s house we had a dinner of popcorn and pita. The kids went to bed and I stayed up reading and playing with “Fluffy” (really Jasper) the cat until the parents went to bed. Cait and I were sleeping on the couches, and even though I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep, I wasn’t tired ‘cuz their couches are so comfortable.
Today we walked into the village for Church. It was all in Arabic, but I knew some of the songs from Jordan and the Arabic Church in MI, and managed to read the other songs fast enough to sing them. During the sermon us kids studied the passage on our own. It was so comforting to know that even though there has been great suffering and turmoil in Lebanon, God has by no means forsaken His people. The world may be roaring, but they rest in Christ. Even so, we must pray for a true body, not disconnected individuals. Pray for discipleship, community, fellowship, and mentoring among the Lebanese.
We walked back to the house for a Spaghetti lunch, then decided we weren’t too tired to go to Tyre. So we loaded up and drove farther South. For about 15 minutes we were along the border… for a while there were UN men and tall fences everywhere, but then we could get a clear view of the country just South of Lebanon…
We looke ddown on its beauty, and it made me want to go there even more…
In Tyre we walked on a Roman road…
… I got stung by a bee, which Mrs. S later killed, ‘taking dominion,’ as daddy said.
Then we explored the hippodrome:
(Judstinious the Great AKA Judson)
Then we spent a long while peering into graves – looking for bones and deciphering inscriptions.
We drove to the Christian quarter and walked out to the beach – one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
… after a quick stop at the Glass Beach (so called because there’s sea glass everywhere) we got ice cream and drove home. The drive was filled with rounds of 20 Questions.
In the morning, Joshua, Jacob, Nate, and I went for a walk around Dermimas. I recognized some of the people we encountered from Church. We came back and read for a while, then ate lunch – bread, tuna, and Josh’s foul. After lunch, the moms and kids (minus Cait) went for a hike up the mountain – fossil hunting, picking flowers, drinking in the beauty, and watching out for snakes and bees.
Olive trees galore!
Looking down on the monastery and up at the Crusader castle.
We returned home with pockets full of fossils and pyramidal juice boxes in hand. I helped make dinner – mujadareh and the salads that accompany it – my favorite, though tied with hummus and falafel. Two men came over and we journeyed out to visit some Bedouins.
The visibility of the curse is everywhere. Thorns, thistles, bullet shells, poisonous snakes, land mines, bees, 44’s… people living in poverty without basic knowledge of hygiene and nutrition – or the gospel. But it is exciting to know of the work going on there.
When we got home, we ate dinner and stayed up late talking – and ate brownies fresh out of the oven.
We went to Beirut today. After a long drive (mostly filled with 20 Questions) we stopped at the National Museum.
The most fascinating part of the museum was seeing how they preserved and restored teh artifacts before and after the Civil War.
We drove down to near the clock tower. War-torn buildings were everywhere – it was heartbreaking.
We ate a Lebanese lunch, then ran around the clock tower.
… got ice cream…
… took some pictures…
(the mosque and the Church)
(the church that became a mosque)
… and stopped by Martyr’s Square and Pigeon Rock…
On the way home, which seemed even longer sandwiched between two rowdy boys playing Roshambo, we stopped at the Monastery in Deirmimas: St. Mama’s.
As Mr. S commented many times throughout the week, whenver someone mentioned St. Mama’s – “Almost all mamas could be saints…”
Deirmimas from the monastery…
The monastery looks out over the Littani River. The S’s told us about how the day after truce, Israel dropped cluster bombs all over the area. Many of the bombs are still there, waiting to detonate on whoever steps on it. The monastery itself had been vandalized during the 2006 war.
Why must there be such war between brothers? It breaks my heart… but it has been going on since the fall – Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Isaac and Ishmael…
Most of us kids ran back from the monastery. On the way home we ate dinner, watched Judson goof off, listen to Mr. S imitate Gollum, Gandalf, and the slug from Monster’s Inc. Then we played two rowdy games of Empires and Cait told the Mr. Pickles story… then Josh, Cait, and I stayed up late talking with the parents.
The intermission had to begin today. We left their house after many almost-tearful farewells and headed back to the Beirut airport. It was very much a homeschooler vacation – filled with history, language practice (French and Arabic!), Bible, and math (currency conversions). Joshua would sometimes comment about “it’s supposed to be vacation!” and I’d say “But we’re homeschooled!” 🙂
It was neat to see how much all of the kids had grown – last time we saw them, Christopher was 2, now he’s a sharp 5-year old, always surprising us with his intellect. Judson still hams it up every minute of the day. Jemelie is a beautiful young lady. Jacob is so sweet and conversational. Joshua is now taller than “the shorties,” (Cait and I).
It was such a blessing to be with like-minded friends for so long and have so much great fellowship. I remember from Michigan how much we loved being with the S’s, but I never caught the depth of the relationships between our parents or the deep fellowship that passed between us all until now. Now we better understand the Neals when they are constantly talking about Texas and GFBC. Only once have we had fellowship like that, and that was at Oasis Christian Fellowship with the S’s and others. How I long for fellowship like that again.
We are all longing for the intermission, as Mr. S called it, to be over and to be together again.
“The boys sleep in ’till their guts come out.” – Jemelie
“The sign of the American empire -the golden arches. 100 years from now, people will be searching through the ruins – “Look, it’s a cheeseburger. See that yellow stuff? It’s cheese – at least, that’s what they thought it was.” – Mr. S
“Nike – pay a lot of money for a little bit of clothes.” – Mr. S
“Jemelie, are you Betsy?”
“Bebsi!” – Judson
“Do you have your swimsuit?”
“No, but I have my underwear!” – Jud
(and the above 2 you’ll probably only get if you know Arabic or Arab culture…)
“There are some toasters that can be bigger than toasters.” – Judson
“Oh, we come here once in a blue moon…”
Later: “Is it white?”
“Yes, and sometimes blue, too.” – Christopher
Later: “The moon!”
“This is a popular graveyard – people are just dying to get in.” – Mr. S