How a Baptist youth minister recently spent his two weeks in Lebanon
When BMS worker Arthur Brown was looking for someone to help him train youth workers and teach young people in Lebanon about the issue of substance misuse, he turned to one of his link churches in the UK.
Last month, Martin Hills, Youth Minister at Central Baptist Church, Chelmsford, travelled to Beirut to stay with Arthur, his wife Louise and their children for two weeks.
Martin used his background in young people’s drugs education to provide a number of training opportunities at churches, schools, an orphanage and within one of the city’s poorest areas.
Here are some edited extracts from Martin’s blog, which give you a flavour of his experience.
My first impression of Beirut is that it is a city on the go. There are places of extreme poverty and places of extreme wealth, sometimes side by side. Beirut is still rebuilding from the civil war that ended in 1990 and so everywhere you look there are cranes and workmen.
This evening Arthur and I met with a team from a local Catholic church that is working with recovering addicts to see if there is anything we can do together whilst I am here.
The training tonight at the boys’ orphanage – fantastic. Really enjoyed the session, some refining of the programme needed as I discover more about the context I am working in. But the boys were fantastic and really joined in.
This morning I joined in a lecture at Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) about discipleship in a postmodern context. It was interesting to hear from students the issues they face in Middle East/North Africa in terms of engaging with young adults.
This afternoon I had my first school lesson, giving a 50-minute interactive lesson to around 60 students aged about 15. What a buzz! The students were great and I just about managed to fit everything in!
I attended a follow-up conference for growing leaders. The theme for the day was risk-taking behaviour. I presented a two-hour workshop around drug awareness. It was great to share experiences and knowledge with other youth workers.
Today I have experienced some of the most moving scenes in my life to date.
I have been privileged to visit the Tahaddi project – working in a refugee camp (one of the poorest in Beirut), providing schooling and healthcare.
I have spent an hour or so teaching these young people about the dangers of drugs for them, their friends and their families.
For many of them drugs are a reality, they know people that use, particularly solvents but also heroin, they live in a community that is overlooked and marginalised. They belong to a community that have to fight (sometimes literally) for the basics that we take for granted.
Tahaddi is trying to bring hope, providing education to young people that have been forgotten. What a privilege to be able to work with these young lives. Smiling happy young people full of humour and friendship.
My session felt almost irrelevant in the context of their lives, but I hope they will remember something of what I have taught and maybe, just maybe, their lives will be a little bit safer.
Today I had the opportunity to speak at a school chapel. I was asked to speak generally about addiction and I chose to think about the things in life that can take over our lives and damage our relationship with God… money, fame, phones, internet, power, etc. I finished with Matt 6: 24 “… you cannot serve both God and money”.
I have not led this type of thing before and I only had seven minutes to do something with meaning that was also interactive and engaging. I think I managed it.
Today we visited Tyre to give a drugs seminar in a Palestinian refugee camp (entry by invite only, and escorted), which was a really good experience and a great way to end my work. (photo: Luciano)
On the way back up the coast we stopped at Sidon for a drink. We left at about 4.15pm and, when we got home, we discovered that a UN convoy had been bombed in Sidon after we had left. This shows how fragile peace is in this country.
Well, I am home safe and sound and now need to process my thoughts so that I can give an update to the church. Social action, cultural relevance and community engagement are some of the themes that are bouncing around in my head
Loads to reflect on, lots to think about for us as a church and new opportunities to explore with our Lebanese friends.