From Friedensau to Beirut

17. Mar. 2023 / Learning & Studying

When Shawn (26) and I, Eléana (24), graduated with a Master's degree in theology in autumn 2022, it was clear to us that we wanted to go out into the big wide world for a year before starting to work as pastors in the Middle Rhine Association of SDA from autumn 2023. So five months ago, through the "Weltwärts" programme and ADRA Germany, we started working in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, as volunteers in the ADRA Lebanon office.

We came from the idyllic countryside to the big city
If you have lived in Friedensau for a few years, in its idyllic location, and suddenly have to live in a chaotic big city, you can imagine how challenging many of the little things of everyday life are: noisy city, chaotic traffic, frequent, persistent honking, lack of pavements, different currency, etc. It took some time, but in the meantime we can say: we have arrived, settled in and found a piece of home.

Directly supporting people in need
As we had hoped, we were already able to get involved in many ways with ADRA: in French lessons in an ADRA tutoring project, in meetings with other NGOs, in a distribution campaign of a food security project – in which people in need received a credit card for a certain supermarket chain in order to be able to shop with it.

Meeting with families who live in tented houses
We have also been able to visit some of ADRA's projects outside Beirut. We were impressed to sit on mats on the floor with a Syrian family – who have been living in informal settlements ("tent houses") for almost 10 years – drink coffee with them and talk. As ordinary for them as it is surreal for us!

We take an honest look behind the scenes
But our day-to-day work happens mainly in the office. We learn more and more about the background work of an NGO and are allowed to take an honest look behind the scenes: how bureaucratic many things are and have to be so that in the end the aid really arrives where it is needed, how tedious some processes are and how important the "dry" bureaucratic work is. There are many up and down moments, but we are deeply grateful to be here despite, but perhaps also because of, the challenges.

At home anywhere in the world through the community
What makes our life here the most beautiful is, of course, the people. We live a ten-minute walk from Middle East University (the Friedensau of the Middle East), where we enjoy meeting students, going to worship or just enjoying the beautiful view over the city and the sea. In Beirut and at the Adventist University, people from many nations study and live together, so we have made friends from all over the world with whom we play games, have movie nights, cook together or go out into town. It's nice that through the community we always have a piece of "home-to-go" wherever we are in the world.

Challenges teach us the most valuable lessons
There is a lot more to say, but in conclusion we want to share one simple insight from these first months here: You will learn the most through challenges. If you accept them, if you engage with them, you will see in retrospect how you have grown during your difficult times. This was true for our studies in Friedensau, especially for our year abroad and maybe even more so for life.

Pray for Lebanon
Pray gladly for Lebanon. It is a country in deep crisis, but where young people in particular need a renewed hope.

Follow us on Instagram
If you want to write to us or learn more about our daily life, feel free to follow us on Instagram (@lifeofeleana @shawn_the_volunteer).

Von Friedensau nach Beirut | Theologische Hochschule Friedensau