Vacation is over & I am back just in time to tell you about the day I had tea with a terrorist. Tuesdays this summer are dedicated to travel stories & this one takes us to the Middle East.
It was the summer of 2005 & I was with some friends in Beirut, Lebanon. If you have never been, you MUST put it on your list of places to go. The city is lovely & the people have their own hospitable charm.
My friend who lived there had some relationships in a particular part of town that is a bit off the beaten tourist path. It was a primarily Hezbollah neighborhood. In case you don’t know, the U.S. State Department has considered Hezbollah a terrorist organization since 1997.
One day we went to an apartment complex that was well-known for its Hezbollah ties. My goal was to talk to as many people as I could. Jady, my husband, and I went door-to-door on one floor while my other friends divided up among the remaining buildings.
I didn’t speak Arabic & most of them didn’t speak English. Each apartment door we knocked on resulted in a warm invitation into their home. And so we sat, apartment after apartment, speaking to these families.
Sure, it sounds brave and exciting to sit at a terrorist’s house in the Middle East over tea. But I was just talking to my neighbor.
Through hand-gestures & Arabic-English dictionaries we heard each other’s stories.
If you have ever been in the Middle East, you know that these visits can last for hours. The generosity of their culture puts us to shame.
Jady & I left each home by praying with the family that Jesus would bless them. Not one person declined.
Towards the end of the afternoon & after lots of tea ( plus some snacks that I couldn’t identify ) we came to another apartment. This time it was an older woman who answered. I think she must have been in her early 50s.
I’ll call her “Mariam”. Her apartment had lots of marble & her tea was exceptionally hot. The teacup had no handles & it was a flaming porcelain cylinder in my hands. Plus, I was nauseous at the thought of having to drink more tea. For the love…
Mariam started asking us questions about America & what our lives were like. We told her that we were newly married & headed to Seattle in a few months to plant a church. Mind you, this was through hand motions & very broken translations. She very well may have thought we said we were farmers with a lucrative side hustle in Japanese software for all I know.
Either way Mariam was a very curious lady. To my complete shock, she asked if we knew anything about Jesus. Uhh…is this some sort of trap? I mean you are technically a terrorist Mariam.
She began to tear up & tell us about a dream she had. A man dressed in white with the kindest, most peaceful presence came up to her & held out His hands. In one hand was a cup & in another was a piece of bread.
” Can you tell me what this means? ” Mariam asked. Jady pulled out his Bible & showed her the story of Jesus giving communion.
I wish you could have seen the tender look on her face.
Amazingly, that was only one of several people we met that had regular dreams about Jesus.
Going to bed that night my mind was reeling. So much of the world is not what we are told it should be.
Hezbollah does some terrible things & there are members who most certainly deserve the title terrorist. But most of the people who we met in that building were terrorists by association only. Their understanding of what Hezbollah does is very naive.
The terrorists I met that day were just like me.
Girls who wanted to fall in love & decorate their house all cute & trendy. Boys who dreamed of helping their nation heal from the wounds of the past. Grown men & women trying to forget the scars of a civil war that lasted over 15 years.
The terrorists taught me a lot about God that day. He cannot be limited or contained.
In the midst of what I had been told was a hostile environment, there were people who wanted to know about Jesus. Where man had made walls to keep Jesus out, He simply came in their dreams. Seeking them out in the midnight hours.
I sat in living rooms with people from opposite countries, faiths and political views. But conversations were had.
Our humanity overcame every difference & we were simply people sharing the same place in time. Dreaming, laughing & risking with what life had given us. So different & yet ultimately the same. I learned a lot on that trip to Lebanon.
In the end, no matter our differences, we should have conversations.
Sometimes our “enemies” have important things to say.
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