Despite the differences between the Swedish and the Lebanese culture (think IKEA!), this past year and a half reminded us of the beautiful diversity within the body of Christ and that His “name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets” Malachi 1:11.
However painful the process of bidding farewell to friends can be, one can take comfort in the knowledge that our partnership in the Gospel, whether in sowing seeds or in reaping fruits, is a part of God’s great plan to have people of every nation and tongue confess his Name.
We are very grateful for all of Robin and Therése’s contribution during their time in Lebanon, and especially for their zeal and passion to see the name of God glorified in this part of the world. As they go back to Sweden to pastor a local church, we want to honor them and express our gratitude by sharing their story.
How did a young and smart Swedish couple like yourselves end up joining the ministry in Lebanon?
Therése: I have always been interested in exploring new cultures and meeting new people, and the Middle East has been on my list for quite some time. Besides the culinary attraction, I had recently made friends with Syrians in Sweden, which led me to want to know more! As I shared this desire with Robin, I had a small feeling that God probably wanted us to move to the Middle-East.
Robin: When Therése mentioned the idea of moving to the Middle East I was a bit skeptical. I really didn’t fancy moving abroad, but it seems God had other plans as he kept on working in my heart, pushing me to get out of my comfort zone. After a lot of prayer and talking to friends with some experience in the region, we felt that Lebanon and LSESD, a partner of our denomination, would be the destination for us, especially since we were attracted to a holistic approach to ministry.
Can you give us a flavor of what were your responsibilities at LSESD?
Robin: I was part of the Baptist Children and Youth Ministry that serves vulnerable children and youth of both Lebanese and Syrian backgrounds through camps and other events. I’ve played lots of games, created artistic masterpieces during craft time, shared messages, memorized lots of Arabic songs and enthusiastically participated in the motions during the worship sessions.
Therése: I worked with MERATH, the relief and development arm of LSESD, in the education and psycho-social support team for Syrian and vulnerable Lebanese children. More specifically, I was in charge of connecting with partner churches that run educational centers for refugee children to see what support they needed, to monitor budgets and to write reports and proposals. I also regularly met with students, parents and educators to get feedback on how we can improve! It’s been great!
What inspired you the most during your Lebanese experience?
Robin and Therése: The many inspiring stories of what God is doing in the region that we have heard from our partners and from our colleagues have been eye-opening and have meant a lot to us. Seeing His Spirit transform the hearts of individuals and entire churches to enable them to reach out to the vulnerable people in their communities fills us with hope and an expectation to see Him also move among the churches in the Western world in a similar way so that we can reflect His heart to our communities.
Besides some good hummus recipes what will you be taking back with you from your experience here?
Robin and Therése: First and foremost, the relationships that we’ve built with people here, friends at the office, in our local church and among the people that we’ve served. Sharing life together and hearing their life-stories has been deeply enriching.
The second thing which has had a big impact on us is seeing that God provides. Seeing how in many different and unexpected ways God has provided for us through the generosity of His people will leave a lasting impression on us and allows us to keep trusting in His ability to provide and inspire us to also be channels of God’s support to others.
What is your best and your most challenging memory from your experience here?
Robin and Therése:Seeing the impact of the work with the children, through their smiles and hugs was most certainly our best memory. Seeing how the blossom and grow when they receive love and attention from the different leaders also really warms our hearts.
As for the challenging memory, Mr. Nabil and his family were kind enough to take us to a restaurant in Zahle during our first week in Lebanon. We enjoyed getting a chance to see some of the landscape and were excited to eat Lebanese food. We ate hummus and tabbouleh and other small dishes before suddenly, the waiters came out with big bowls of intestines. Frightened, we looked at the bowls with long filled tubes and tried to build up courage but failed. After maybe five or ten minutes of panicked suspension, Mr. Nabil turned to us and said: “You didn’t think we’d force you to eat intestines, right? We’ve ordered other things for you”.
What will you be doing once you will be back in Sweden?
We will enjoy a few weeks of Swedish summer with family and friends (spending evenings out by the lakes or sheltering from the rain indoors playing games depending on the weather). In August Robin will start working as a pastor and Therése will start working as a social worker among vulnerable youth.
What is your advice for potential volunteers?
Don’t be afraid if you feel God is calling you– step out in faith.