On the other side of the sea, clasped tight between ancient mountains and a battered blue coast, perches a small country with a brilliant and blemished past and, with a little help and a little hope, a great future.

For many over the age of 30, Lebanon summons grainy televised imagery of car bombs and the ruins of Beirut. The country’s civil war (1975-1990) was as calamitous as it was brutal, especially when one considers that, when it broke out, Lebanon, and especially Beirut, was a highly-developed, eminently intellectual, objectively beautiful place. War turned a bright haven of a country into a dark, broken place, as they do.

But Lebanon is not a nation in civil war anymore, and hasn’t been for a quarter century.

It is, I understand, slowly wading back to the old shore of metropolitan glory, the Paris of the Middle East.

Apart from brief conflict with Israel in 2006, I have never known Lebanon to be a violent country. For me, it has always carried the lovely, minareted, Arab enchantment. Other Arabs I’ve met speak with a certain grandeur and dignity about Beirut. I’ve heard the people are beautiful, physically and in terms of their hospitality. I’ve heard the Lebanese are kind and open. I’ve heard they are intellectuals, connoisseurs, translators between worlds. Never have I looked at a map of the world, ran my eyes over Lebanon and thought, That is a place I cannot go. 

And though I have had almost all pleasant feelings toward Lebanon since I’d learned about it in fourth-grade geography or some such place, it was not a sliver of the world I suspected I’d call home.

Until now.

Because this country, which is at the crossroads of the world and of history, which is a prismatic portrait of cultures from Europe and the Middle East, which is the melting pot of the region, is also a country in need.

Today, there are about six million people living in the country smaller than Connecticut. Half a million are Palestinian refugees, and well over another million are refugees from Syria, fleeing a civil war that is burning into its fifth year.

This means a quarter of the population of Lebanon is refugees. How could even the mightiest country be expected to support such an influx of castaway, war-flung people?

The Syrian Civil War is only getting worse to the north and east, and the U.N. and aid groups report large declines in support from the international community. To put it plainly, Lebanon cannot handle the burden cast upon its shoulders, and the rest of the world would rather not deal with it.

I am going to Lebanon to work as an emergency response assistant with a humanitarian aid organization. I leave in August for training in Pennsylvania, then in Egypt, and will end up in Beirut working with Lebanese-Syrian peacebuilding and humanitarian aid teams. My primary responsibilities will be:

1. Preparing reports and assisting in the development of emergency response plans.
2. Evaluation and monitoring of humanitarian aid programs.
3. Writing stories related to the organization’s emergency response.
4. Assisting directly in emergency response efforts.

In all the world, there is no country with as high a percentage of its population composed of asylum-seekers as Lebanon. There is no country in the Middle East with as spiritually diverse a population. There is no country in the region that has historically been more a refuge — for Muslims, for Christians, and for Druze.

And so it is again.



A refuge.

Posted by Griffin Paul Jackson


  1. Jackie timmer July 20, 2015 at 8:51 am

    A beautiful piece of writing! We will be praying for you


    1. Griffin Paul Jackson July 21, 2015 at 11:17 am

      Thank you very much! Prayers will be a grace to me.


  2. Susan Klein Torp July 20, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    You will love Lebanon! I treasure the experiences of my youth in the Middle East. You will find the people kind and loving. Prayers for your heart to be open and willing to do God’s work.


    1. Griffin Paul Jackson July 21, 2015 at 11:18 am

      Where were you in the Middle East and what sort of experiences did you have? I hope (and think) I’ll treasure my own the same way! Thank you for your prayers.


      1. Susan Klein Torp July 21, 2015 at 12:04 pm

        I spent 2 field seasons as an archaeologist on the Jordanian Syrian border.

  3. Yes, please keep the blog presses hot, you Cedar of Lebanon. Can’t wait to hear about all your adventures. Post lots of pictures, too, when you can. I don’t know much what Lebanon looks like! God knows his plans for you–and it is clearly evident that you trust that plan. You will be missed a lot, but I will be praying for you. William


    1. Griffin Paul Jackson July 21, 2015 at 11:21 am

      Between Houndstooth and Cedar of Lebanon, I get to rock some of the best nicknames out there! I’ll try to be better about posting photos than I usually am. Something I need to work on. And thanks for your prayers, William.


  4. What a blessed opportunity, to go to Lebanon! Nick spent a week there with a friend from Taylor who lives there, on his way home from Prague last month. Looking forward to reading your blog entries on Lebanon!


    1. Griffin Paul Jackson July 21, 2015 at 11:22 am

      Cool; I’d love to hear about his experience. In the end, it really is such a small world! Thanks for your consistent readership!


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