Pride is a funny thing.
It’s a deadly sin and yet we embrace pride when talking about our children or our friends, or even about ourselves. (Hello Facebook.)
My understanding of the sin of pride is that it makes my achievements about me. It kind of makes everything about me.
I’m a proud mother. My kids are remarkable human beings with good hearts – and while much of that is about grace and luck, the underlying message could be that HH and I are superb parents. (There’s the sin part right there.)
I returned safely home from ten days in Lebanon and Syria last night and I didn’t want to go with a post about being “sinfully proud to be Presbyterian.” That makes what I experienced about me, as in: I am smart enough/faithful enough to be part of an amazing denomination that gets many things right. No, this trip was all about what God does through unlikely people.
There’s a lot of toxic charity out there. There’s a lot of charity that makes us look and feel great about ourselves – whether we actually helped anybody or not.
I built a well! We made friends with poor kids! We put a new floor in that flood-destroyed school!
So many Heaven Points.
The world is heartbroken with Syria today and rightly so. They have now been gassed after being shot, bombed, burned, maimed, killed, starved, and terrorized – sometimes by their own leaders.
But I thank God for the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance program which is in no way a toxic operation:
- Long after organizations have left Katrina-battered parts of the Gulf, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is still there. We stay after the sexy is gone.
- Presbyterian Disaster Assistance works with local partners supporting what they want to do – not what we think they need.
About a year ago, the Presbyterian Churches in Lebanon near refugee camps wanted to provide schooling for the refugee children – many of whom had never been in any school of any kind. Many up to age 13 were illiterate in even in their native language – Arabic.
Now they are learning to speak, read, and write in both Arabic and English (because they will need English if they ever hope to go to an accredited school in Lebanon or in most places in the Middle East one day.)
They are not only given free schooling. They receive transportation, medical care, a school uniform, and love. Five refugee schools now teach Christian and Muslim children through northern Lebanon. One meets in a former auto garage. Did you read this carefully? Five schools were established in less than one year.
These schools are often staffed by barely paid directors (often the local pastors’ spouses) and members of their congregations. And those congregations are all members of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL) which is Reformed in theology and Presbyterian in polity. You can support these schools here. (Note that we Presbyterians are not new to this ministry. We’ve been partnering there since 1823.) That’s right: 1823.
Through NESSL, we Presbyterians in the PCUSA have been helping to build schools, hospitals, and nursing homes for a long time. Yep, I’m proud. But I’m mostly overwhelmed that God would move exhausted people who are unspeakably patient followers of Jesus in a war-ravaged corner of the world to step up and create five refugee schools in less than a year.
This is what God does through us. If you are filled with sorrow of the deaths in Syria this week, if you are moved by the plight of people fleeing for their lives out of Syria (and for the overwhelmed nation of Lebanon which has received more refugees than a country smaller than Connecticut should have to take on) you can do something. Here. These people are heroes.
One more thing:
Most of these children are Muslim by identity and faith. The Christians who teach them are respectful of their beliefs unlike some schools who seek to convert. NESSL seeks to love in the image of Jesus and let God take it from there. When I asked what that looked like, one teacher said that when two boys were fighting, she reminded them that “Jesus does not like fighting. Jesus wants us to treat each other with love.” Better than any lecture. One school director said that a student told him that he “never wanted to leave the school because people love him there. No one hits him at school.” Seed planted.
This is who we are as the people of God. At our best and our holiest, we followers of Jesus do not hate people. We love people in the name of the one whose death and resurrection we honor next week.
I am unspeakably grateful and simply proud of my brothers and sisters in Lebanon and Syria.
Image of some of the Syrian refugee school children we met last week.