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Brandon and I arrived safely in Lebanon late Wednesday night and were picked up by Brother John. The Arabic signs were the first signal that we had entered the Middle East. The military checkpoint in the middle of the capital city was the next. The city is divided in half and they stop to check for car bombs coming out of the half dominated by Hezbollah. Even so, we haven’t had any trouble – most of the violence is south. From Beirut, it is a one hour drive to Israel. Ten days before we came, a group of 5,000 Islamic radicals had to be beaten back from the northern border. ISIS views Lebanon as part of Syria. Lebanon doesn’t agree.

It is a bit of an anomaly in the Middle East. Forty percent of the population call themselves Christian – mostly Catholics. Thirty percent are Sunni and 30% are Shiite. The whole country is divided into thirds. They have it in their constitution that the president must be a Christian and the prime minister must be a Muslim. All this makes for interesting terrain for Bible believing Christians to navigate. As one man put it: “real Christians here don’t play games – there is too much at stake.” The main church we are working with was physically attacked in 2006…by the area Catholics. They had to abandon their building because of death threats.

Brandon and I have made some good friends already. The Lord has provided the church with a piece of property in the mountains north of Beirut. It is very dry and very rocky, but not as hot as you would imagine. They just finished a three story building a couple of months ago and it is very nice if a bit tight. It only sleeps 45 people. Land is expensive here.

We had our first day of training already and will be meeting all day tomorrow as well. Campers come in Sunday afternoon and we are expecting the maximum number. The food here is excellent – a bit stretching for us, but the cooks do an excellent job. Oh, and they love to stay up really late.

Report by Matt Collier

I’m writing this in good faith that the internet will cooperate long enough to send it out sometime today. In some ways, technology in Lebanon is advanced, but infrastructure (like power, water and electricity) is a bit unstable. We were eating in a restaurant on Sunday and the power went out, but when I looked around, no one in the room reacted at all – they are used to it. A couple of years ago, the Lebanese government declared it illegal to dig any more wells. So they have to pay for a truck to come up the mountain and fill up the underground storage tanks for the campers to have water. Pastor Raymond says that Lebanon is about 20 years behind America in terms of technology – but also in terms of morality – which is a good thing. Sin is not nearly as open here as it is in the U.S.

Our all-day training on Saturday went well. We had between 12 – 18 people throughout the day. We covered a lot of material in a relatively short time. Not exactly ideal learning conditions, but the counselors listened well and seemed to pick up the concepts of the counseling and program philosophy. They don’t show much expression, so it is hard to read them during the actual teaching time, but we had really good feedback after the training.

I’m writing on Monday evening – at the end of our first full day of camp. We had more campers show up this morning and are pretty much full. Space at the campsite is limited and that means we have to be creative about keeping them occupied. All the games will be played on a concrete pad about the size of a basketball court. The age spans of the campers run from 13 to 29 – pretty common for overseas camps.

On a sad note, we had an injury today – one of our team leaders fell hard during big ball volleyball and hurt his elbow. He is going to have to have surgery tomorrow and will miss the rest of camp.

Report by Matt Collier

I wouldn’t say camp went exactly like we planned. For one thing, we had a lot of older campers – many of them career singles with jobs and cars of their own. Because of that we kept having people drift in and out so it was hard to get continuity. The camp schedule went well enough after we made some adjustments. One major difference is that the folks here stay up much later than we do in the States – like 1 or 2 in the morning normally. We scheduled lights out for midnight – and made it our goal to tire them out so they would sleep – mission accomplished! But it ends up being a lot of extra free time. One adjustment we are planning on making for next year is to go against culture by limiting the age group to teens for the normal camp. We think that will solve some of the issues.

In spite of the challenges, the campers listened well in the services and God worked in hearts. We had at least two young people trust Christ as Savior: Serge and Rosette. Rosette listened well all week and responded with open eagerness. A young Muslim boy named Yamin came to camp very much opposed to Christianity. On the first day he was debating with everyone about why Islam is right. The second day, he listened to the gospel several times – during messages and personally from counselors and campers. He stopped arguing and started asking questions. On the last day, one of the pastors talked to him alone. He said that Yamin is confused and is not sure what to believe. He told him to go home and pray that God would show him the truth. Normally when a Muslim stops accepting things blindly and starts asking questions, it is only a matter of time until he accepts Christ. So please pray that God would continue working in his heart. His cousin also raised her hand to express interest in salvation, but as far as we know did not make a decision to follow Christ.

The Lord worked in the lives of many other campers as well. When I asked how they liked camp, they responded very positively. They are already talking about next year. God is working here in Lebanon!

Report by Matt Collier

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