The recent unrest in Lebanon rerouted Navigator Bob (name withheld for security) and his team of seven graduate students who were visiting the country. The group arrived in Beirut on July 11 to check out a master’s program at the American University. Two days later, however, their visit took an unexpected turn when Israel launched its first attacks on the Beirut airport.
“I had a feeling of déjà vu,” Bob said in a recent interview. Bob and his wife, Marilyn, had lived in Lebanon for several years and experienced civil strife and other Mid-East tensions.
The team had planned to visit southern Lebanon, but received word that it wasn’t safe to travel there. “We quickly got the team together and spent the morning praying,” Bob said.
It soon became evident that they needed to leave Lebanon rather than further jeopardize the safety of the students. “We felt we needed to get them out,” Bob said. “Lebanon was being cut off by air and by sea, and we didn’t think we could go by land, either. We were going to wait for a U.S.-led evacuation. But then a friend from a conference center in the mountains north of Beirut offered us a place to stay. That would be a safer place for us to wait until we knew what the next step would be.
“We had heard that Syria was being very helpful to both American and British nationals to help them leave the country. Therefore, instead of waiting to be evacuated, the Lord directed me to take the team out through Syria to Amman, Jordan. The next morning two taxis arrived to take us through the mountainous back roads to the Lebanese border.
“The drivers had to turn around once as the road ahead of us had been bombed. After we crossed into Syria, news came that the borders had been bombed and were now closed. Even though things were tense, we experienced the truth of the Scriptures that say, ‘The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but . . . present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:5-7).”
The team arrived safely in Jordan later that day. Bob was impressed with the students’ response to the bombings and their sudden departure from Lebanon. “Everyone experiences anxiety, but the students showed tremendous spiritual maturity, “ he said. “They cared for one another, and were very loving toward everyone around. Two of the guys never got their suitcases and they went the whole time on what they could borrow.”
Bob and the team have now returned to the States. While it was distressing to see the country in unrest, Bob could also see the good things God was able to accomplish. “Suffering brings maturity,” he said. “Plus, the Muslims in southern Lebanon were fleeing to the north and experiencing the kindness of Christians. So this has been a very unifying factor in the whole Lebanese scene.”