April 30, 2011
So many adventures in just a few days! Here are just a few:
- Having a Lebanese driver who likes to pass the car in front of him on a two-lane highway, while that car is already passing the car in front of him! Yup, three cars side by side on a two lane highway … with a fourth car coming straight at us. We survived the first time, then the second, then the third … and finally I realized that this is simply how people get around in this fast-moving country.
- Visiting Jeita Grotto, an enormous cave complex found only recently, just a few miles north of Beirut. Its size reminded me of the caves of Moria shown in the movie The Fellowship of the Ring. But instead of being dark and foreboding, this cave is stunningly beautiful, sculpted by the hand of God from molten rock.
- Standing on the parapet of the Crusaders’ fortress in Byblos, the oldest city in the world, and looking down at ruins left by 17 different civilizations over the past 8,000 years (including Phoenician, Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian, Greek, Hyksos, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and French). Civilizations come and go but the Word of the Lord stands forever!
- Having lunch in a café just eight miles from the Syrian border, in a town whose loyalties lie with Hezbollah. Even though both of these terms raise apprehensions in most American hearts, I felt completely safe. Every person we met was warm and friendly, and many were eager to have a conversation with “an American.” I know there are intense and often deadly politics rippling throughout this land, but my impression is that the vast majority of people simply want to have a job, raise a family, and live in peace. May God grant that wish.
- Walking through the ruins of Baalbeck, an enormous Roman temple complex in the Bekaa Valley, over the mountains east of Beirut. This is the largest and best preserved Roman temple left in the world. It took 250 years to build, and appallingly, the work was accomplished by ten generations of 100,000 slaves. Some of the foundation blocks weigh 800 tons (1.6 million pounds). Hundreds of granite columns weighing several tons each were transported all the way from the upper Nile in Egypt, being dragged on bronze rollers 250 miles from the Mediterranean coast. As we walked through this incredible complex, one of my companions, Ray Cureton, had a profound insight. Given the awe-inspiring size of this structure and the political power and religious devotion of those who built it, just think how courageous the apostle Paul was to walk into cities with such temples and boldly proclaim, “I will tell you of the one true God, who made the heavens and the earth …!” May God give all of us such faith and boldness in proclaiming the Savior of the world.
- Witnessing the amazing contrasts of Beirut itself. When we drove downtown for dinner, we passed shelled out hulks of buildings that have still not been repaired since the 2006 Lebanon war. And yet just a few blocks away is a gleaming complex of new office buildings, stores, and restaurants that rival the most modern of cities. Everywhere we walked there were laughing children, smiling parents, and romancing couples … some robed in stylish but traditional Muslim dress, and others in blue jeans and the most modern of fashions. People from very different faiths live peacefully in a city that has been repeatedly reduced to rubble during religious wars.
Please pray that our visit here will contribute in some small way to the Church’s ability to promote and preserve this peace between the diverse peoples of this land, but more than that, to give witness to One who is building a kingdom that will last forever.
Next report: our visit to Jordan, the land of Ruth and Boaz, and to Mount Nebo, where Moses looked down at the Promised Land.
Yours in Christ,