Usually when I blog about my travels, they're directly related to my writing ~ inspiration for my small town romance series or a location for a new novel.
While at this time, I have no plans to write a romance set in Lebanon, I wanted to share my initial impression with you and how it spoke to me as a writer. And who knows? Maybe some day a story will emerge from my adventures.
When my husband and I boarded a plane for Lebanon on April 10th, 2019, I wasn't expecting to discover such remarkable beauty.
And when I speak of beauty, I'm not only referring to the turquoise coastline, striking mountainside, or extraordinary ruins. Lebanon's beauty can also be seen in the resilient walls studded with bullet holes and the tenacious cedar saplings burgeoning through the snow. It's a special kind of beauty ~ one that leaves an impression on your soul long after the photograph you've taken has faded.
Perhaps the most striking example of this resilience was displayed during our visit to a Christian camp. As we toured the cabins ~ some new and pristine, others old and barely standing ~ we heard heart-breaking stories of the turmoil the camp endured during an occupation by Syrian soldiers. We saw glimpses of the destruction left behind when the soldiers vacated, leaving the property in shambles. Faced with that level of devastation, many would never return, burying the painful memories in the wreckage.
But the staff members, along with children who attended the camp, did return. And they rebuilt. And while there is still more restoration to be done, the camp is fully operational, and in some ways, stronger and better than before.
Gazing at the sturdy new cross on the hill, a sense of hope stirred in my heart. Hope in God's strength to sustain us through the unspeakable. Hope in His power to overcome the impossible. And hope in His ability to create new life and beauty from the ashes in our lives.
While visiting a war-torn country like Lebanon, it can be easy to focus on the brokenness. And I confess, when first faced with crushing poverty and signs of continual conflict, my heart ached. I wanted to look away from the suffering, especially the tent communities of Syrian refugees stretched across acres of land. But if I shielded my eyes, I'd miss the vibrant picture of hope and resilience painted on that wrinkled canvas. And I didn't want to miss it.
During our trip to Lebanon, we also visited a Youth for Christ campus in Beirut run by a family friend. Here, in one of the most impoverished areas of the city, children (Muslim and Christian, Syrian and Lebanese) sit around the same table. They study English. They play indoor soccer. They make crafts. They laugh. And sometimes squabble. And they learn to forgive. They break down the same walls built by their parents. And their parent's parents before them.
And while they're learning to tear down walls, they're also learning to rebuild. It's this concept of transformation that speaks to me as a writer.
Without conflict, there is no story.
Lebanon is a beautiful country in its own right.
But what makes its beauty even more striking is knowing what the country has been through. What it's still going through.
And like connecting with a character in a novel, you can't visit Lebanon without feeling invested in its struggle.
It leaves a lasting impression.
One you may have to write about some day...
Have you been to Lebanon? What did you think of your visit? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ADDED BONUS: Red poppies everywhere!