Three Days in Beirut

A couple years ago, my dad sent me a website that showed a picture slideshow of Lebanon, revealing some of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen in my life. I had grown up and lived in Lebanon for 10 years and had not seen any of these sights in person. So I replied to his email, “Why did you never take us to these places?” To which he responded, “Don’t you remember we lived during a time of war?”

War had severely limited how we spent our time, who and where we visited, and how we made decisions in general. In the last two days, we had seen more of Lebanon than I had ever seen as a child.

The country is rich in its history and beautiful. I started my morning eating breakfast facing the Mediterranean Sea, and by mid-morning, we were driving through picturesque snow covered hills. From the ancient Roman ruins we visited to the old villages we drove through, this is a country that had lost much of its reputation because of war and politics.

War and politics continue to dominate the psyche of people. It’s a complicated mess of a country and trying to get the political landscape straight is not an easy task. Yet apart from politics, the people are incredible hosts who value hospitality more than anything else.

In about half a day, I visited all the major landmarks from my childhood–where I lived, where I went to school, where my father worked, and where we socialized. I felt nostalgia at each of those locations and felt at home in each of those contexts. My major takeaway, though, is how small everything looks. Yet those were my world. And in this trip, my world didn’t just feel small, but it also got expanded, by touring villages and sights that are beautiful.

The other takeaway is the power of hospitality. I have a high value for hospitality. I think it’s one of those non-negotiable Biblical values. So I teach and model hospitality in my ministry. But no matter how much of it I model and live out, it pales in comparison to the hospitality that is embedded in the culture here. To be blunt and potentially offend my American friends, the hospitality here is like Level 301. It’s just natural and not intentional for people to extend hospitality. (I recently defined hospitality as serving and prioritizing others. I like that definition)

In my ministry, I aim for something like hospitality 201–trying to model the Biblical call of welcoming people into my life. And part of the 201 stuff is trying to inspire people who come from no value for hospitality, and having them not just do the 101 stuff (i.e. learning to be kind), but to do the 201 stuff of being radical.

What we see here is 301–it puts the radical hospitality to shame. And now I have that much of a stronger picture of the kind of hospitality Jesus challenged in his ministry (i.e. in his parable and teachings in Luke 14).

People who are not necessarily committed followers of Jesus have expressed the Kingdom in ways they don’t even know! They have served and prioritized well.

Eddy Ekmekji,
Campus Minister,
California, USA