Victoria and Vaughan, Lebanon 2017
Victoria and Vaughan chose the Ultra Walk in the Lebanon Muskathlon in 2017. Here is their story.
What prompted you to take part in the Muskathlon?
The Middle East is a region that is always shrouded by uncertainty. We follow the stories about what different organisations are doing there but it's still hard to understand wha's really going on. It's only really by visiting and seeing first hand that you get a feel for what's happening on the ground.
What were the highlights of the trip?
There were three main highlights! First, it was wonderfully encouraging to hear how the community had grown from a small group of people with a heart for Syrian refugees, into a remarkable church with a school for 200 refugee children as well as a clinic providing medical and dental care. Second was being welcomed into the homes of refugees and hearing the stories first hand. Third was meeting the Syrian pastors. They described such difficult challenges they had faced and yet they were full of joy. There was no sense of hopelessness - they were remarkable men of faith and obedience.
What were the biggest challenges of the trip?
15 hours on the road was definitely more tiring than we had expected. When we were struggling it was helpful to think about the families we had met during the week and remember that entire families have walked similar distances to flee war and bombings. We were doing this as an event but many people are undergoing similar exertion out of necessity.
How did you find the fundraising?
Raising the money felt more challenging than we thought but then at other times we were wonderfully encouraged by the generosity. Coming from a wealthy city you think asking for donations is straightforward but that's not always the case. Sometimes it's those who have a little who give a lot. Don't be put off by the fundraising challenge. That's one of the steps of faith. We're called to look after the widows and orphans and this trip is doing exactly that. Christ isn't a sermon - he's action on the ground.
What were your impressions after meeting the persecuted church?
What was remarkable in everyone we met was that despite persecution, their faith seemed to be stronger. They put their lives at risk and gave of their time and resources in such a self-sacrificial way. Then the challenge we were faced with was how do we support the local churches financially as they strive to meet the demands? They are carrying such a burden on their shoulders and I wondered what part we could play.
People are always asking what they can do to help. The number one request we had from people there was prayer, and that's where it all starts. On a personal level we want to continue to play our part, stay informed, sign up for the Standing Strong event and follow the stories. We may even take part in another Muskathlon. On a wider level the priority for the church is to provide education. Syrian refugees are not eligible for school in Lebanon and you have a much better chance of rebuilding a country when the children are educated - the church needs to facilitate an entire generation of children who need schooling.
What would you say to people who are thinking of doing a Muskathlon?
Do the rocking chair test! When you are in your 70s or 80s and sitting in a rocking chair are you going to regret that you missed your chance to take part in the trip? When you participate in an event such as this, you get far more out than you can ever put in.
Click here to read more about Victoria and Vaughan's trip and to access the article they had published in the Henley Standard.