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Goodbye Lebanon, hello Albania

2013 has been a year of transition for Mat and Suzanne Gregory. They have let go of the past and are now preparing for the future.

The past: Lebanon

In July, Mat and Suzanne left Lebanon with their young children, Seth and Esther, after 11 years of service there with BMS, working with disadvantaged children.

Mat and Suzanne oversaw a residential boys’ home and school in Beirut for children with very challenging backgrounds – like brothers, Ali*, Hussein* and Rabih*.

“It’s a family where abuse of all different kinds has gone on,” explains Mat.  “Ali, Hussein and Rabih have seen and heard things that little boys should never ever have experienced. They came into our home six years ago as challenging little boys who didn’t understand what it meant to be in a loving environment. Over these six years we have seen huge changes. They are capable of living in community now, of taking a role within the community. I’ve seen a very broken set of boys gradually moving towards a level of stability. For us as a family, that has been exciting to see.”

Just before Mat and Suzanne left Lebanon, 17 year old Ahmad*, who had been at the home from an early age, got baptised.

“One of the aims of the ministry is to see our young men mature. To see our eldest boy baptised, knowing the situation he has come from, was amazing,” says Mat.

“The past ten years have been a rollercoaster of emotion. We’ve gone through difficult times with the boys as we have heard their stories, as we have dealt with the baggage they carry, but it’s been a real privilege to be journeying with them and to see how God has been working in their lives, how he is continuing to work and how that affects others too.”

As well as the school and home in Beirut, Mat was involved in an educational programme in the south of Lebanon. They were working with the children of Syrian refugees and the Roma community who couldn’t attend a government school because they didn’t have any official papers. They found that again, giving time and love to the children brought results.

“The girls and boys in that community need to survive in a challenging environment,” says Mat. “When we first encountered them one girl stood out who was spitting, kicking and fighting with everybody. This little girl’s name in English meant ‘to smile’ and she didn’t really smile when we first met her. Three years on she is a very confident young lady who is smiling and engaging with people. She still has those aggressive elements to her personality but for the vast majority of the time she is a blessing to have in the literacy programme.”

It became apparent to Mat and Suzanne that for the work to continue and flourish, they needed to hand it over to someone else. So with heavy hearts they decided it was time to go and in June 2013 passed on the work of the school and boys’ home to a Lebanese staff member.

The future: Albania

While still in Lebanon, Mat and Suzanne started to explore options with BMS of where they could serve next. Looking at the list of vacancies nothing appeared to stand out for them, so they were asked to go away and pray. The answer they felt came back from God was across the Mediterranean from Lebanon: Albania.

“Both of us really felt that Albania was what God was putting on our hearts,” says Suzanne. So in April the family went to the Albanian capital, Tirana, to explore the possibility of working with disadvantaged children there. Since then Mat and Suzanne feel God has confirmed their calling to serve in Albania.

“Friends in Lebanon have connected us to friends and colleagues in Albania,” says Suzanne. “We’ve received a lot of encouragement from our BMS colleagues who are they are really excited to be developing something new in Albania. We have a real sense of peace that this is where we should be going.”

The Gregorys are now at the BMS training centre, IMC, preparing to go out to Albania in January. So how can we pray for them as they take this step into a new chapter of serving God in mission?

“Pray for logistics, for everything that needs to come together in terms of accommodation and finding facilities for Seth and Esther so we can do language study. Pray for the kids that they cope with moving again and all that it entails. Pray for making new friends, for them and for us. Pray that God will give us wisdom to seek his will, to find out what he wants us to do and how he wants us to be in that place.”

*Names have been changed

This article first appeared on the website of BMS World Mission and is used with permission

Chris Hall, 15/11/2013
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