Jennifer writes that her trip to Lebanon with Exodus was not a one-and-done excursion. How do we continue the mission?
Every not-for-profit organization has a mission statement. For that matter, most for-profit corporations have mission statements as well. Maybe it’s to make the best hamburger the world has known. Maybe the mission is to create a welcoming “third space” where people can gather, away from home and away from work. Maybe the mission is to make super-functional widgets.
Exodus’ mission is to mobilize the Christian community to welcome and befriend refugees. We see this happen at All Souls when we gather items for a Welcome to America! Pack. We see Exodus mobilize the Christian community as they accompany us to deliver Welcome Packs and introduce us to new refugee friends. We see Exodus mobilize the Christian community when we gather school supplies and deliver them to refugee families.
We are beginning to see Exodus mobilize the Christian community in their new Global Neighbor program as well. Exodus is gathering volunteers like me to travel to Lebanon to welcome and befriend refugees there. This past week was full of remarkable experiences:
Exodus did mobilize the Christian community.
Our American team of five did welcome refugees.
Our American team of five did befriend refugees.
Something else happened as well, though. One aspect of our partnership with the local Lebanese organization is they provided transportation for us throughout the week. Sometimes that was a 12-passenger van, along with translators, staff, and their families. Sometimes transportation was in two sedans, one driven by a staff member, and another by his friend. I’ll call the friend J, for the purposes of this post.
J grew up in a Christian home. He speaks Arabic, English, and French fluently. He’s been to university, has a good job, and is engaged to be married. J is involved in his evangelical church. His best friend is on staff at our partner organization. J’s best friend needed some help this past week to drive us around the Beirut area. He also needed a translator for us — from Arabic => English & English => Arabic. J and his best friend accompanied us on our visits to the refugees in the tent communities, translating so that we could talk to them.
We learned something near the end of the week: J had never visited the tent communities. His friend visits often for his work and has told J about how God loves the refugees who are arriving from Syria. J’s friend has spoken passionately about how God is using Lebanese Christians to welcome Syrian refugees.
Yet, J had never experienced this first-hand. His first visit happened to be our first visit. He was profoundly touched by the experiences this past week. In many ways, I believe he was more impacted than we were. This is his country. The families live within an hour’s drive of J’s home. He saw their poverty, their children, their challenges to find work, their sadness, and the complexity of their predicament.
Exodus mobilizes the Christian community to welcome and befriend refugees. We came to Lebanon thinking that we five Americans were the “Christian community” being mobilized. And we were. We are. But so is J. His life has been transformed by this experience. We are hopeful that he will continue to work with his friend to welcome and befriend the refugees God is sending to their country.