I arrived in Beirut, Lebanon a week ago. It is such a privilege to be here with my son Alan, his wife Christiane, and their children Matthew and Miriam. Christiane is from Lebanon so we are welcomed by her family with open arms.
We had wonderful fellowship with Dr Elie Sawaya (Christiane’s uncle) and his family our first evening and the following day we visited the Jeita Grotto, karstic limestone caves spanning an overall length of 9 Kilometers
Yesterday was a very inspiring day. Lebanon is such a beautiful and lush country. Hospitality is central so everywhere we go we feel so welcomed and are treated with true Christian hospitality.
Dr Elie & his wife Fina wanted to take us to their mountain home in Kfarsghab in order to show us another region of this beautiful country. It was a beautiful drive to the north. I enjoy listening to the conversation of Christiane and her uncle and aunt. I am learning so much wonderful history and culture.
As they had informed us earlier the country is small with just over 4 million citizens and you can drive in 4 hours from one border to the other.
This Christian country, with crosses and statues placed on the hills along with beautiful churches, has a history of being caught with and between conflicts happening with amongst their neighbors. Over the years they have helped and supported millions of refugees. The refugee camps are on the boarder of Syria.
The Kadisha Valley (Qadisha) is called the Valley of the Saints. This valley has been a place of refuge for those fleeing religious persecution since the 5th century. It houses some of the most important early Christian Monastic settlements.
Our first stop was the noon meal an authentic Lebanese Meal with some of the famous dishes from this region. This country is famous for its food all over the world. I told Dr. Elie unfortunately I can’t eat like I could when I was 16!!
A highlight of the day was visiting and walking around the village of Kfarsghab. This village of 800 residents has been a Maronite Christian community for over 1000 years. St. Awtel, a monk of the 1st century is the patron saint of Kfarsghab.
The village was a true sign of Christian hospitality. For me it was like going back in time to my childhood. Everyone wanted to talk to us, wanted to welcome us into their home. They had time to visit, no one was in a hurry with agenda that wouldn’t allow them to be present with us.
Over 25,000 persons from this small community live and work in Bethlehem/ Easton, Pa. USA. It seems many immigrant for work opportunity. Since I was born in PA it created good conversation.
Sitting in the Church of Kfarsghab which was built in the 15th century was very moving. In my quiet/prayer time I thanked God for his presence and protection with these his children over the centuries.
The host showed us the secret paths under the Altar where the locals would hide their priests during the invasions.
Today we are enjoying the Mediterranean Sea. Swimming with your grandchildren in a sea with such a rich Biblical History takes on a deeper meaning. However, today is a day to enjoy the warmth and sunshine. Thank God for family.
~ Wilmer Martin