Sarah (on the left) stands with the women at the Tripoli prison
We came to Lebanon towards the end of 1998, Dan as a Professor and I as a Librarian. The fifteen year civil war not only destroyed the country of Lebanon, but practically decimated the Library and disrupted the ministry of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary. I began my ministry with the unenviable task of cataloging and classifying 8,000 volumes, and gradually re-building the acquisitions. It was an overwhelming and challenging task, but with the grace of God and the help of volunteers, I must say I do have a sense of accomplishment. I loved my job as a Librarian and felt that it was the Mission that God had entrusted to me in Lebanon. I felt I was playing a vital role as the seminary is preparing men and women from nine counties across Middle East and North Africa to be pastors, teachers, and church planters.
However, my current passion and ministry in Lebanon is something that I stumbled upon quite accidentally. A few years back while I was still a librarian, I received a call from a friend asking whether I could go to a court to interpret for a young Indian woman who did not know Arabic or English. That single innocuous incident was the beginning of my journey, walking along side and ministering among the thousands of maids toiling in Lebanon.
Many young women from impoverished Asian and African countries, lured by the false promises made by the recruiters, come to Lebanon to work as maids. In a small country with a population of 3 million people, Lebanon has over 200,000 women working as maids. While they are promised a great deal, most of them work for a salary of approximately $ 150 a month, though a few earn more. Their employers have to pay the government 800 dollars a year to renew their work visas. Many employers in an attempt to save money renege on this responsibility. This makes the maids illegal residents through no fault of their own. The police routinely pick up these hapless maids and lock them up in jails. Sometimes the women run away due to ill treatment, but according to the French laws of Lebanon, running away from home is also a crime. And the maids are locked up in prison for months, sometimes longer, but eventually deported to their home countries.
Initially I was reluctant to get involved in this ministry. I did not want to leave my comfortable place in the library and enter a ministry which involved dealing with heartache, pain, and injustice. Moreover, I also felt inadequate for this ministry. Apparently, God has already been preparing me for this ministry as I can speak five languages including Arabic. As I became more aware of the plight of thousands of the unfortunate women, I felt the powerful hand of God directing me to become more involved ministering among these women, assisting and advocating on their behalf. When God calls us for a ministry, He is not looking to see how talented, educated, or capable, but how willing we are to obey the call.
As we walk through our own communities and look around, there may be any number of things that confront your eyes as being unfair, or needed to be addressed. We may feel overwhelmed, numbed, so close our eyes and walk away. But I would say, just stop and say to yourself, “what would Jesus have done?” Malcolm Muggeridge, the biographer of Mother Theresa, once asked her what drew her to do the kind of ministry that she was involved in. Her answer was, “because I see in them the face of Jesus Christ”. And Jesus himself challenges us in 1 John 4:20 “…. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen”.