FORNEY, Texas (BP)–Ron Byrd is going to meet his wife. It has been nine hard days, a rollercoaster ride of emotion. The love of his life, Amy, is a week overdue, one among many Americans caught in the conflict that exploded in Lebanon, stranded when war began.
“I’ve had some very high moments, some very low moments,” Ron says. “I didn’t sleep very much. I spent a lot of time praying and looking at the media, communicating with the other families. But you know, the Lord was really good.”
Today, Amy arrives home.
She is part of a team from their church — First Baptist in Forney, Texas –- who went to Beirut to work with Lebanese Baptists, helping them distribute New Testaments in predominately Muslim neighborhoods. But the war interrupted their efforts. Before they could leave, the airport was bombed. They moved into the mountains above the city, then evacuated by boat to Cyprus. Now, after an overnight stay in Philadelphia, they are on their way home.
Hidden within that simple description of the previous nine days are hours of uncertainty, moments of terror, fear, frustration and doubt, followed by certainties, and finally the peace of God.
“I know one prayer meeting we had,” Ron continues. “[God] just laid on my heart that everything was going to be OK…. I felt in my heart that He said, ‘Amy is painting a tapestry of her life and her painting is not finished.’”
The bus carrying families of the 10 team members winds its way from Forney, a small farming community edging into suburbia, through the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to the international airport.
“I don’t know what I’m going to say to her,” Ron says. “I’ll probably just hold her.”
It won’t be long before he finds out. The bus parks outside the arrival gate. The team bursts from the gate into the arms of their loved ones. Cries. Whoops. Hugs. Celebrations. Everyone talking at once. Then quickly, they are on the bus and making their way home.
Bit by bit, pieces of their story come out. Someone tells about the worship service in Beirut where Jimmy Pritchard, their pastor, spoke. Just as he was introduced, an explosion shook the building, rattling the pews. When he rose to speak, he said, “We are in the palm of [God’s] hand … and the safest place to be in the world is the center of God’s will.”
Amy Byrd sits with one arm around Ron’s neck. “I went to Beirut [because] I was compelled,” she said. “When Brother Jimmy stood up in the pulpit one Sunday morning and invited the congregation to participate in this trip, I turned to my husband and said, ‘Ron, I’m going to go on that,’ and he said OK.
“From that point on, I was single-minded and excited. Even if I had known there was danger and war … I don’t know that I had another choice. There was such a deep peace about participating in this particular trip.”
She recounts the hospitality she encountered in Muslim homes and the kindness of Lebanese Baptists, carrying [the team] to safety, sheltering and feeding them. She talks about standing shoulder to shoulder with them while chaos engulfed their city and how they began ministering in the name of Jesus to Muslim families displaced by the hostilities.
She remembers leaving everything behind but one bag, the kindness of American servicemen helping women burdened with children and baggage, struggling ankle-deep across a sandy beach onto the landing craft that would ferry them to the ship that would carry them to Cyprus. She talks of warships, submarines, fighter aircraft, helicopters, rubber boats with Navy Seals zipping along beside them, escorting them across the Mediterranean Sea — all beneath a vault of brilliant stars.
Amy set up a cot on the fantail of the ship and watched Beirut recede into the distance. “We had a beautiful view,” she says. The city was covered in smoke. A Lebanese woman sat in front of her and took pictures.
“She put her camera down … and put her head in her hands and just began to weep,” Amy recounts. “I thought, What must be going through her mind? ‘Will I ever see Beirut again? Will I ever see my family or friends again? What will be left?’
“It was a pivotal moment for me. I’m almost a 50-year-old woman, and it has been the greatest adventure of my life to get to participate in this ministry trip.”
She recalls 2 Corinthians 2:14.
“It says I’m privileged to be held a captive of God’s grace and am marching in a triumphal procession, spreading the aroma of Christ. And when I’m a captive by choice,” Amy continues, “then I’m going to listen to what my Commander says to do.
“If it is to Beirut, Lebanon, or if it is to Forney, Texas, to spread the aroma of His greatness, I’m going to do it.”
Ron shifts in his seat.
“I can see people who aren’t Christians not understanding,” he says. “[But] we’re filled with the Holy Spirit, and that spirit compels us to tell the story of Jesus. That’s what we do. That’s what this team was doing. If we don’t go, who will?
“I have a feeling Amy will be going back to Beirut. And when she does, I’ll be with her.”
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