The crew of music enthusiasts ambles onstage, picks up instruments and microphones, and begins a sort of Adventist karaoke session. It’s Friday evening after vespers, and I’m listening from the back of the auditorium at Middle East University, where I serve as a missionary volunteer.
There’s a man from Russia on the piano with his Latvian wife next to him holding a microphone, a Hungarian woman playing the cello, an Armenian teenager playing the guitar, a Turkish man sharing a microphone with the new couple from Argentina, and a Lebanese man tapping softly on the drums while an American picks up the bass to join in.
They play and sing “I Can Only Imagine,” and as the music begins to echo through the auditorium, I realize that I’ve started whispering the words along with them.
All around me I feel this wave of vibrant beauty at the incredible diversity playing out before me. Yes, the words of the song say, “I can only imagine . . .” but in a sense, I feel that I’ve already begun to see. For here on this campus, we aren’t merely representatives of our various home nations. We’re one people, one body: coworkers, students, and friends. I can’t help thinking that maybe this is what heaven will be like.
I tried to come to Lebanon with an open mind and not limit my experience with preconceived expectations. But I definitely didn’t expect to find the diverse community that I’ve become part of. It’s amazing and it feels like home. It has become home.
Born in Berrien Springs, Michigan, I was immersed in a unique Adventist culture in which my regular associates represented countries from all over the world. Living in this environment facilitated travel opportunities that would have otherwise been difficult to find, such as studying on three continents and serving in Lebanon.
The rich diversity and unity of Adventism is, to me, one of the greatest achievements of our denomination, and I am fortunate to exist within this vibrancy.
Our early leaders understood the Great Commission early on, taking the gospel throughout the globe in just a few generations. Our church has established a presence in the world in an unprecedented way for such a young denomination. This factor, accompanied by the mission mentality of our faith, fosters global communities in every location where Adventists congregate.
Lebanon is no exception, and it’s beautiful to be caught up in the great global web that connects all of us across oceans and continents. Often, when I sit in the auditorium after vespers, closing my eyes and listening to the music spiral outward and upward, I think how incredible it is to live in this place with these people, to have this experience while I’m still young.
And while I whisper the words to the songs, I also whisper a prayer of thanks for the amazing privilege of being a Seventh-day Adventist.
From the United States, Jason Lemon served in Lebanon as a journalist for the Office of Communication at Middle East University.
If you’re interested in being a volunteer, please visit www.AdventistVolunteers.org.
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