A Chicago-area lady who owns a coffee shop just spent a month in Lebanon, visiting her American son, his Lebanese wife, and new baby. Any search of news on the Middle East brings reports of Hezbollah and the Islamic State, refugee camps, car bombs, human trafficking…a mind-numbing array. Yet my friend’s vision penetrates this web of regional conflicts and misery. She looks like a typical suburban mom in knit shirt and Capri pants. And yet, she’s a world-hopping heroine. In recent years, she has twice left comforts in the U.S. to fly into the heart of the Middle East. Love draws her. This summer, she made the trip to meet her new grandbaby and spend time with her son and his little family. They are all Christian in territory where being Christian can get you killed.
My friend stayed in her son and his wife’s little apartment, taking cold showers and having power just several hours daily. Even tap water was contaminated, and everyone washed vegetables in a bleach solution. Meals featured pita, hummus and olives, and the cracked wheat salad called tabbouleh. One day, my friend’s daughter-in-law took special pains over stuffing and baking a squash. At a friend’s house on another evening, the visitor from America was presented with mysterious little packets wrapped in grape leaves. Their taste was so pungent, she secretly transferred the bundles to her son’s plate. Meat is so costly, many people in the region eat largely vegetarian. Kabobs with meat are a special treat. But one of this lady’s favorite meals, was the night she prepared for her family and friends American-style Sloppy Joes, mixing the precious ground beef with barbecue sauce made from scratch.
Hearing details of Lebanese cuisine had me forgetting for a moment the dangers families face in hotspots across the Middle East. But then our conversation turned. My friend told how tourists must be as saavy as local residents in choosing destinations. Some areas are strictly off-limits. Others seem stable one day, only to have bombs dropping on them the next.
It’s tough to imagine any sort of business taking place under such conditions, and yet people go about and forge their lives the best they can. This lady’s son supervises and teaches at a little school. During her visit, she helped four hours daily, teaching English to the children. When other teachers called in sick, her son called his wife to pack up the baby and come teach Arabic. They had a bug-out strategy, said my friend. If fighting edged into their area, they planned to flee into the mountains. They spoke about get-away plans like families in the Midwest talk over emergency plans in case of tornado.
In Lebanon and in countless regions worldwide, families just like yours and mine plan their daily meals, their occupations…and life has a patina of normal. But reality can turn on a dime. The coffee-shop owner told how she visited a winery in Lebanon, and enjoyed the tour. But just one week later, bombs fell in that region, shutting the whole area down.
How are we to keep happy and sane in such an uncertain world? I’ve had mom friends admit they refuse to follow the news. But if we educate ourselves daily on local and world events, we can better target our prayers. And taking time to hear the stories from our world-traveling friends, and generating friendships of those in our neighborhoods of different backgrounds, will help us remember that many people all over the world are a lot like us. They’re striving to live holy lives, to raise whole families. But in war-torn areas, the struggle takes on Herculean proportions. People need our prayers and support.
We must daily pray and work toward peace in this world. We must nurture a world-vision and as moms, we can make a difference. Look at my coffee shop friend. I’m sure that many years ago, she never anticipated that her all-American son would follow a missionary vocation to and fall in love in Lebanon. Now, news from the Middle East strikes her in a deeply personal way.
Let’s start by turning courageous eyes to the news and then opening generous hearts to prayer. God will lead us on how He would like us to work toward world peace, whether it be a simple Hail Mary offered daily for this cause, or involvement on a deeper level.
May God help us save bodies and souls at home, and across our struggling world.
Copyright 2015 Marianna Bartholomew
Photo copyright 2015 Marianna Bartholomew. All rights reserved.
This article is featured as a Missionary Moment on the Catholic Vitamins podcast with Deacon Tom and Dee Fox. Learn more at CatholicVitamins.com.