A privilege to be in the Middle East
By: Alistair Brown
I will start with a confession. Taking a group of seven students on a missions course to the Middle East pushes me out of my comfort zone. I’m not sure why.
It has nothing to do with being in Beirut, Lebanon. From my past work with a mission society I travelled widely round the world, and that included Beirut twice. Some of the most wonderful and committed Christians I know are in Beirut.
The discomfort has little to do with the so-called Arab Spring. In several countries the movement for freedom and democracy continues to mean disruption, struggle and suffering. Thousands have died. Some of the students with me have had people ask: “You’re going there?” or “You’re still going there?” Lebanon is sometimes called the gateway to the Middle East but it has a democracy – not the strongest but at least it exists – and this is a good place to come. It is a privilege to be in the Middle East at this time.
My lack of ease is probably to do with hoping this visit means as much to my seven wonderful Northern Seminary student companions as I have prayed it will be. And my unease is due to the inevitable anxiety of being responsible for them! Perhaps paternal instincts are suffering even though every student is very mature and some have travelled widely in the world before.
This missions course is a program of academic study, and it is also something to which every person feels called. All of us have been studying missions together for some weeks, but now there are lessons to be learned in the Middle East about how faith can be shared over cultural and religious borders. Increasingly that is needed back in the US too, so wherever our students find God places them one day they will have developed vital understanding and skills.
So, here we are in Beirut. We travelled yesterday, and I’m taking the risk of starting a blog where I will record some of the major highlights of our trip. I hope it’s interesting. I hope too that it means you pray for us.