Advent is from the latin word for “coming.” It's a season when the Church prepares for the coming of Christ in our hearts and lives. On the four Fridays during Advent, we've asked a CRM staff person to share a reflection on what Christ’s coming could mean for their ministry context, inviting us to engage personally with the weekly themes of Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.
ISAIAH 9:6 | For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
In November, Lebanon appointed a new president. To avoid crowds and celebration I worked from home instead of venturing into the office. During lunch, I went to John’s work nestled in the hills overlooking Beirut where the 29 boys who reside were hunkered around the radio listening to the president’s speech. Upon conclusion of the speech, you could see celebratory fireworks and hear gunfire from different pockets of the city. One boy dressed up as the president and shook our hands. After he made his way around the group the boys stood tall, cheered, and sang the Lebanese national anthem.
As the country settled from the celebration, it was as if peace settled along with it. Regardless of agreeing with the choice or not, something about this appointed president brought a glimpse of hope for these kids and others I was talking to in the following days. Lebanon has been without a president for 2 ½ years, and because of this, many things have been delayed or deferred. These have been significant years to be without a leader, with the pressure of a civil war next door and fundamentalists at the borders.
While it is exciting to feel a sense of peace and hope breathed into this season, it is just that—a season. Leaders rise and fall, implementing great and horrid decisions; the effects of their leadership may remain for some time but they aren’t eternal. Many of the people we work with are here because their leaders let them down. Sure, a new president can help provide them aide, residency, and papers, but he cannot fill the cracks in their hearts or the wounds in their spirits.
The idea of Peace in the Middle East has been long recited, prayed for and encouraged. The unrest in this region is deep rooted. When a region lacks peace it resonates for miles and across borders. Similarly when a person lacks peace it rocks the individual’s core and those around them.
The boys John and I work with are either partially or fully orphaned. They have shelter, care, brothers in each other, schooling, and teaching of the love of Christ. But these 29 boys also have a longing to be seen and loved. You can feel it when you walk on campus and they swarm you, saying “looking, miss, what I can do,” each wanting to be known. You can also feel the impact of everyday tensions erupting out of the broken places in their hearts.
John and I have the unique opportunity to give these boys the gift of time: eating together, being with them on campus, or hosting one for the weekend. We have to daily choose to be loving disciplinarians relying on the Spirit’s discernment between their pain and brokenness and just being a kid. A few weeks ago I found myself awake in the silence of the night crying. Crying for these boys, for the situations that led them here, and recognizing parts of my own story that are still tender.
In this process, the Lord is using these boys to reshape my heart. I am feeling the unsettledness of their spirits, which forces me to reflect on my own lack of peace. Corinthians says, “Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Cor 13:11). It can be easy to avoid the painful areas of my story; ignoring those areas seems safer than handing them over to Jesus. I’ve known nothing other than the gentleness of the Father, and when my heart is heavy for these boys, or when I’m praying for them to turn over their hearts, I quickly realize that this is my Father’s heart towards me as well. He wants to bring peace to every area of discord in my life and theirs.
Two thousand years ago this same region where I live was looking for a leader, for change, for peace. In a manger, just a relatively short drive from where I sit now, a baby was born that brought the government to its knees and gifted the world with a peace that never changes.
Ultimately, we are all looking for a deeper experience of peace in our lives than temporary solutions can offer. We often forget that Peace is already here with us.
While I am praying this new president can bring a positive change, my deeper heart’s prayer is that these boys, and this country and region, can wholly encounter Jesus, a baby sent to earth by his Father in heaven. This one can do more—he can heal every wound, and dry every tear. This is our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
- What are the tender parts of your story you may be ignoring that need to be brought to Jesus?
- What external people or situations have you placed your hope in for peace?
- Pray for these boys and their journey to Jesus. Pray for the Middle East to be restored to the deep peace that Jesus came to bring.
- Pray for peace in your land, leaders, neighborhoods, friends and family.
- Ask God to bless your spirit, body, and mind with the unending peace Jesus offers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle has worked with CRM since 2010. She lives in Beirut, Lebanon, with her husband, John. Michelle serves with our CRM team in the Middle East and John serves with a local school and residental boys' program.