I was going to continue on in a series of Thanksgiving posts, but I have decided to put many into one, which I hope will not be too long, because I’m going to take a break from my blog during the Christmas season. You’ll see the usual three posts this week, and then a pause.
We all need to pause at Christmas. Take a deep breath and focus on the wonder of Emmanuel.
So, today, on this Mission Monday, I want to offer up thanks to the Lord for some of the hard places I’ve lived and strived to serve. I say, “hard places,” but if you put a ticket in my hand today, I’d be back on a plane to any one of them, faster than you can say, “Please buckle your seatbelts.”
I’m thankful for learning about the trials of refugees in Turkey.
Newly married, serving now as two, instead of one, I was so glad to have my husband by my side as we loved on Iraqi refugees that had fled into Turkey after the first Iran-Iraq War. I’m thankful that the Lord taught me I can still be salt and light without a language. Being Christ’s ambassador took on a whole new meaning in that place, as I watched and listened to their stories of trial and persecution.
I’m thankful for each language helper I had.
From those who worked with me in Ivory Coast, to Texas, to Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Tunisia, I’m grateful for native speakers who took their time to listen to me butcher their beautiful language. I’m thankful for my professor at the language institute in Damascus who pushed me way out of my comfort zone and pressed for perfection. I’m thankful that each person played a part in guiding me toward proficiency in Arabic.
I’m thankful for each life I was blessed to witness move from the darkness to light.
From every imaginable background and religion, the Lord granted me a front-row seat in watching the moments of change. As my husband shared and led person after person to faith in Christ, I listened and heard their prayers, watched the smiles come over their faces, and saw them grow and serve. I will be ever grateful that he’s given me a long list of faces to look forward to seeing in the life to come.
I’m thankful for those who have walked with me on the road of discipleship.
Being able to help them fill the blank pages toward understanding more about Christ, his Word, and how to live for him, has been my greatest joy in service. I’m thankful for each girl I was able to disciple and mentor. I’m thankful that God has allowed me to watch many blossom into mature women of God in the decades since.
I’m thankful for each and every church we visited and were part of in that region of the world.
Whether in homes or big buildings, I can say that the Church lives in the Middle East and North Africa. I have given witness to her presence, and God has allowed me moments to be reminded that the gates of hell will not prevail against his Body as she gathers. Trials and persecutions, yes, but resilience? Always, for God is on his throne and will not allow the Bride of Christ to be forgotten. I’m also thankful for all those who faithfully serve the churches, from the pastors to those who serve children, because they carry a heavy load and carry it still.
I’m thankful for delicious meals and fun times.
Every country has its unique dish and spices, and I miss them all. Even more, I’m thankful for all those who hosted us in their homes, cooking amazing feasts and showing overflowing hospitality. I’m thankful they allowed me to try to respond with my own simple cooking and American ways.
I’m thankful for each home where we lived and for God’s protection over us.
Each home holds special memories, and each neighborhood has its own uniqueness. We had good neighbors and shopkeepers who welcomed us and made us feel at home.
I’m thankful for countries that contributed to the lives of our sons.
From good doctors in Syria and Lebanon to safe deliveries in Beirut, this region is the area of their beginnings. I’m thankful for strangers who showed their concern for a new American mother, for colleagues who came to visit and help in the absence of my own parents. I’m thankful for friends, both national and ex-pat who loved on our children, babysat them and taught them about other cultures. I’m thankful for local and ex-pat schools that added to their learning and for teachers who loved them as they taught.
I’m thankful for our last six years to be in my husband’s homeland.
Being able to live in Egypt, the land of his birth, to be near some of his family, to walk the streets he walked as a young boy and man, and to simply be able to experience things I’d only previously heard about was a blessing. It helped me understand Raouf better, and for our sons to know their heritage as they walked alongside their father in that place. Our time in Egypt was a gift for many reasons, but this was one of the greatest.
I’m thankful that I can never be thankful enough.
I’m stopping here because this is long for a blog post, and I’ve only scratched the surface. I’m changed because of all I saw, heard, and lived through in this beautiful region. Yes, places of struggle at times, but places of beauty more often than not.
I’m thankful that even in the desert, God shows the beauty of his handiwork.
Have you lived in a hard place? Do you see the beauty despite the struggle? Share it with God with a thankful heart.
Grace and Peace