Our team’s first full day began with our fearless leader Marilyn reminding us of Paul’s words to the church in Rome about the present of presence, or why we show up: “…that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” (Romans 1:12) The day unfolded in the time spent at the Near East School of Theology (NEST) here in Beirut where we were mutually encouraged by the faith and testimony of past president Dr. Mary Mikhael, current president Dr. George Sabra and Syrian pastor Salam Hanna.
At the weekly Friday chapel service at NEST, team member Rev. Kate Kotfila of Cambridge, New York, delivered a poignant reminder in her message that there is a transformation of suffering into hope. As Paul wrote in II Corinthians - in the “but nots” – “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted by not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.” (II Corinthians 4:7-9)
The gift of Kate’s message inspired the following lines.
Hope and the Lord of But Not
In a dark and scary place
Suffering shows its grief-filled face
A mother who waters her garden plot
The rest place of a beloved son lost.
But from Paul’s words to the gathered in Rome
He drives a gracious message home
This suffering will not lead to despair
But instead its product is to persevere
From this state strong virtue comes forth
And from that hope, and all it’s worth.
This wonderful gift of expectancy
In God’s gracious dose of love and of mercy
Reminds these fragile imperfect pots
That he is the I AM, and we, well we’re not.
This hope that comes from faith in him
Adds light to life that seems so dim
Our pots are pressed on every side
But not crushed or smashed or pulverized
We are perplexed, we wonder why
But not despairing, not high and dry
Persecuted, yes, it hurts, it’s true
But not abandoned by you know who
Struck down so far we’re on our knees
But not destroyed like sawed down trees.
This gift of hope in gracious God
This shepherd who guides with staff and rod
Gives life to us times of sorrow
A hope of what comes with the morrow.
We journey with him in this story
And to him we will give all the glory.
Contributed by Julie Burgess and Barbara Exley