I come across women everyday who are strong and brave and their stories inspire me. A few weeks ago, our whole family was able to sit down to talk with Kim and Dave Morter over Texas BBQ and ice cream. Maybe not a big deal, but when you give up your life of comfort in America to move to Lebanon, BBQ and ice cream is a big deal when you come back to the States for your furlough. We listened to them talk about living 28 miles from where bombs are being dropped on Damascus and how the Syrians are being driven from their homes, and the absolute turmoil of that country. I can turn on the TV and see on the news the places that they talked about and were they work and I think “Yeah, I don’t know if I could be that strong.” It was an honor and privilege to sit down with Kim Morter, to hear her story about what God is doing in the refugee camps and through their ministry Global Hope Strategies. I know it seems like a long read, but I couldn’t bring myself to cut anything out of the interview it’s an amazing story.
Gena: Why Lebanon? Out of all the places in the whole world that you could have chosen to do missions, you chose Lebanon?
Kim: You know what? We didn’t pick Lebanon. It picked us. If it had been up to me, I wouldn’t have picked it. But, in 2014 we went on a short-term missions trip with a small team, to do an English camp for the refugees. While we were there, we heard very clearly, the Holy Spirit invite us into what he was already doing in that region. And that is how Lebanon chose us. We moved there in July 2015. Our Visas say “Holy Worker” so it is our JOB to share the Gospel.
Gena: I can’t even wrap my heard around moving from the United States to another country. How did you even land with your feet on the ground once you got over there?
Kim: You don’t. You kind of do a free fall for a little bit. Just trying to find the grocery store is a huge feat. I am very task oriented and here in the States, I could get 20 things done in a day. I just have my list and check things off and it’s easy; Dave is like that too. Over there, we just came to a screeching halt. We were like “OH. MY. GOSH. We are not accomplishing the amount of things we are used to accomplishing.”
Gena: How have you managed that?
Kim: It really showed us both how much we relied on what we were doing as part of our self identity. And it really did wake us up to this whole thought of “Whoa. Is that what we do in America?” We didn’t realize that we were dependent on getting things done to show our self worth. We had to empty our minds completely of the Western culture and learn to just BE.
Gena: Explain to us what is happening with the Syrian refugees and Lebanon?
Kim: Syria has been in a civil war for seven years and unfortunately when there is war, there are others who jump in and do proxy wars and try to take over territories. This means that you end up with a lot of different players. First, it was Syria’s leader turning on his own people. Then, other countries began to try to take over Syria. That’s war. It’s like what the enemy does to us. As soon as he finds a weak spot, he starts hitting that area over and over again. And that’s what happens when a country is war-torn. Syria is weak and it just keeps getting pounded over and over again. It’s like “Hunting season is open!” and here they all come.
Gena: What does that look like for the Syrian people?
Kim: They are the ones who suffer, it’s the precious people and their children that catch the brunt of it and have to flee their country. All they want is to live and make a living and be at peace. But they can’t stay. They have been driven from their homes and out of Syria.
Gena: They are fleeing Syria and heading into the neighboring countries like Lebanon and the Kingdom of Jordan for refuge?
Kim: Right, but the Kingdom of Jordan has a very small amount of refugees because they have formal United Nations camps so the refugee population is small. Lebanon will not allow the UN to come in and do formal camps.
Gena: Why don’t they want the UN to help them?
Kim: When formal UN camps are done, most of the time, the people will not leave because they are getting assistance. They have a nice dwelling place whether it’s some kind of tent or portable building, security, food, clothing and most of them have better living conditions at the UN camps than what they had before they were driven from their country.
Gena: So Lebanon said no to the UN camps because when the war is over they want to send them back as soon as possible?
Kim: Yes, and because the UN has had to limit the amount of refugees they can accept at their formal camps, Lebanon is one of the few countries that will allow the Syrian refugees to cross the border.
Gena: Turkey borders Syria, why are the refugees not crossing into Turkey?
Kim: The Turkish border is a mess. Turkey is trying to take over a part of Syria that juts into the Turkish country and currently there are U.S. and British fighters along with some Peshmerga fighters trying to keep Turks from taking over that section of Syria.
Gena: Did you and Dave go to Lebanon with the intent of working with the refugees?
Kim: Our heart was to purposefully reach the Muslims, and it just so happens that the Syrian refugees are Muslim.
Gena: Can you give me an approximate number of refugees that are currently in Lebanon?
Kim: Right now, Lebanon has just over TWO MILLION refugees.
Gena: And how big is Lebanon?
Kim: I’ll put it this way; you could put SIXTY-SEVEN Lebanon’s just in the state of Texas. It’s very small.
Gena: Lebanon has taken in an additional two million people. How many people where already living there?
Kim: Approximately four million. Which means Lebanon has about SIX MILLION people living with in its borders. They are strapped! The infrastructure is really struggling from the power grids, to water distribution and trash collection. The government should be using money to help remedy some of the issues, but they are pocketing the cash.
Gena: How are the Lebanese people handling the influx of refugees and the infrastructure issues?
Kim: The Lebanese are such good people. What a lot of people don’t realize is that Syria came in and occupied Lebanon. The Syrians destroyed a lot of Lebanon and killed a lot of the Lebanese people. The generation that remembers that, the one above us, they are still hurting and bitter and yet they have allowed the Syrians to find refuge in their country. Of course there are extremes when it comes to this issue, some have said “We understand, we can empathize” and others have said “They’re reaping what they sowed.’ And yet, they continue to take them in.
Gena: How big is each camp? Because when I think of refugee camps I think of hundreds of thousands of tents and people all crammed into a very small space. So what does it REALLY look like?
Kim: It’s like an amoeba. There’s no form or structure. They just add on tents to the different communities. Think about it like this: If we were displaced, and we had to go to another country to live FIRST, we would look for people who spoke our language. After we found our “tribe” we would begin to break it down even more: “Where are the people who are Christians? Are there people who are from Texas? Are there people from Fort Worth? Are any of those people parents with children?” You would find a community that fits you. And that’s how they do it; they find their communities and build from there.
Gena: It’s amazing how even in trauma our innate desire is to be with those who are like- minded. It’s human nature to be with community.
Kim:Especially in trauma. We’ve done a lot of trauma training with ministries in Lebanon on what PTSD looks like and how to deal with it because they just don’t see the value in trauma care. In May I’ll be going to Cairo to do trauma care training that is more in layman’s terms. This training is going to be more for lay leadership and easier to implement. So I’ll be able to come back and train other schools on trauma and PTSD practices.
Gena: Tell us about Global Hope Strategies and what you guys are doing in the community.
Kim: Global Hope Strategies was started from the ground up. We had a few Lebanese friends that we had met previously who were in Lebanon. But our purpose and our hearts were to get over there and to connect with any ministries that we could find. We wanted to figure out what they were doing, and how we could help them. We wanted them to know that we were there to work together to help advance God’s kingdom. We didn’t go in with the idea of being a “lone wolf ministry.” You don’t accomplish very much if that’s your mentality. And now we have wonderful partners that we work with and we help each other out.
Gena: Let’s talk a little a bit about what you do to help the other churches. In America Dave worked with very large ministries in the Technical Arts field, audio, video, lightening. He is an incredibly talented engineer. Is “Live Church Production” even a thing over there? Is there any westernization when it comes to how church is done?
Kim: They do church totally different. It’s like we have stepped back thirty years. For instance, something as simple as audio, is a concept that they don’t even think about. Everything is made out of concrete and marble, so imagine sitting in a church service where EVERYTHING echoes. It’s hard to understand, it’s tiring on the ears and mind, which causes your attention span to be shorter. But, they do not understand the science of that. Dave actually goes in and does a lot of consulting about soundproofing the church buildings so that the people can actually hear and understand what is being said. They just don’t know because they’re new at this and they’ve never been taught. We’re able to teach them lighting and stage presence and church practices and things that are just practical that will help them.
Gena: What have you seen in that area in regards to Global Hope Strategies and your efforts to work with other churches and entities?
Kim: Global Hope Strategies is really growing, and our number one strategy is relationship. That is the crux of what we do and so key when you are reaching out to the Muslims, and the Arab world in general. They are all about relationships; you have to invest in them. You can’t just put up a big huge tent and invite thousands of people and share the Gospel message and then they get saved. It just doesn’t work that way. It’s very slow and tedious and you don’t get big numbers. But you get that one. And that one. And that one. We’ve expanded to doing relational outreach. We are doing mentorship, and we are mentoring younger missionaries that want to go to the mission field and we are still doing team-hosting, church training and equipping.
Gena: There’s another part of your ministry that you have that works with the refugee children, how did that come about?
Kim: Well, House of Love was a surprise. We knew we would be working with refugees in some way and we ended up meeting a Korean couple that spoke fluent Arabic, and had lived in Egypt for 12 years before they moved to Lebanon. We just fell in love with them. They know the culture, they love Jesus, they’re preaching the Gospel, and they aren’t just doing distribution or just education. House of Love is a CHRISTIAN organization. And the people know this about us.
Gena: Does being a Christian entity cause problems with the Muslims?
Kim: Not at all. We don’t force them to come to our school. We go into the camps and tell them up front, “We are a Christian school. Would you like your kids to get free education?” They never turn it down.
Gena: How does that work? The four of you go into the camps and talk to the parents? Is it the same in America as a “door to door” ministry? You knock on the “tents” and then start a conversation?
Kim: Well, you have to be very strategic. Remember these people are suffering from PTSD. They’re traumatized. They are protective of themselves and their community. So if they see Americans roll up, they’re very suspicious. The way to do it is to meet the leader of each camp, which is the Shawish (pronounced Sha-weesh) and to talk to him. We let him know why we are there, and then he will point us in the direction we need to go. It shows respect for their culture when we do that; it opens more doors for us to be able to do home visits with families.
Kim: The parents that we are directed to will invite us into their tents and make us tea. We sit on the floor and drink tea that’s like syrup, Syrian tea is really sweet and very hot and we visit with them. The shortest home visit we have ever done was two hours. I mean these refugees have nothing really, but they will serve you the last of their tea if that’s all they have. That’s their culture they spend time with us, they tell us their stories, and how they lived in Syria. And always, always we end up getting to pray with them.
Gena: With that many refugees how do you keep the school at a manageable number of children?
Kim: Right now we are busting at the seams with 85-90 children. And there’s thousands and thousands and thousands of refugee children. They line up to get into House of Love. We don’t advertise, we discreetly go into the communities and talk to the Shawish but word travels fast. In order to keep it manageable, we just have to say no.
Gena: What are the rules, guidelines and structure that you have in place at House of Love?
Kim: We are very structured with our day-to-day activities. We’ve hosted teams that have helped at other schools and they are always so floored by the fact that our kids are so well behaved and have structure. But that’s because of consistency. We brought our Western and Koran cultures to these kids. We disciplined our kids in the West; the Korean culture is incredibly disciplined, so these kids have received that from the beginning. We didn’t even give it a second thought as far as implementing boundaries. In this culture there are really no boundaries for the children. When we first opened it was chaos! Kids were fighting and pinching and biting, not listening. Again, this trauma and we knew that, but we still had to implement boundaries.
Gena: How long did it take for those rules to sink in?
Kim: The first three weeks we did nothing but go over the rules. Every. Single. Day. All. Day. Long.
We keep our hands to ourselves.
We don’t talk when the teacher is talking.
We line up when the bell rings.
And that’s all we did. And now, House of Love is a place of peace. The boundaries, the structure, brought a sense of security to these kids lives and they are so calm and at peace when they are with us. You can see it on their faces when they walk in, it’s like a weight just lifts off them and they know what to do and what is expected of them. All the stress, all the fighting and some abuse even, just seems to lift off them.
Gena: Earlier, you mentioned distribution what is that?
Kim: There are a lot of ministries that do community distribution. They’ll announce a time and day and people will show up and get whatever is being given away. But we decided from the beginning that we weren’t going to do that. What we do is we get to know the families of our students and we find out what they need then we help in a way that is specific to the families needs.
Gena: I know, it’s probably hard to narrow down, but what are some of the moments that have made a lasting impact on your life?
Kim: One of my favorite stories happened in 2016. We were able to lead a Muslim young man to the Lord and we have become like his second parents. It’s been great because we have been able to help instill vision and hope into him. Really, that’s what a lot of these people are lacking. They don’t have hope. They don’t have vision, and if we can help give that to them, then we are accomplishing what we have set out to do. So we asked him, “What is your hope? What is your desire? What is your dream?” and he told us his dream and his hope was to visit America. And I just thought “Oh that’s nice” because really? It is almost impossible for a Lebanese citizen to get a Visa for the United States. But we started praying with him that he would get to experience his hope and dream. One day we got a call from him and he said “Guess what?? I’m going to America, and not only that, but I was invited by your government to be a part of a program!” His application was ONE in a MILLION and his was chosen. Boy, God really taught us a lesson in how He operates in the impossible.
Gena: I have to ask you; after he visited America, and then came back to Lebanon did he question what you guys were doing? Why you gave up the things that you did to move to his country?
Kim: He did. It took him about a month to re-adjust to being back in Lebanon because he got a taste of the Western culture, but he really understood at that point why we were in Lebanon doing what we were doing.
Kim: Another amazing God ordained moment, was when our “adopted” son told us that he met a lady at the U.S. Embassy, and shared with her what we were doing with Global Hope Strategies and House of Love. She asked to meet us. We got an invitation to the US Embassy and we were able to sit in her office and share what was happening in the Bekka Valley.
Gena: What did you share with her?
Kim: We told her about a baby girl named Nawal who was 18months old when she was burned in an accidental fire that broke out in her refugee camp. Her brother who was two and a half died in the fire and she experienced burns from head to toe.
Dave and I heard about the fire and we knew that the “first responders” like Red Cross and Save the Children would be there immediately to help take care of the most pressing needs, like mattresses, clothing, shelters, etc. But, we waited, because we knew that once those needs where met, there would be other needs that went deeper than just things being replaced. We went to visit the camp a few weeks later and immediately we were led to one tent were we met Nawal’s family. They told us that their son died and their daughter had been severely burned. She had been in the hospital, but she had been discharged because the money the UN gave them to pay for the medical care had run out. So, she was discharged in the middle of the summer where the tents reach over 100 degrees, with blisters that were infected and oozing and second and third degree burns still on her body. A lady that had an air conditioner at her apartment told the family that Nawal could stay there so she could at least be in a cool room. But she had no pain medication, no ointment. Dave and I went to see her and God told us that He would make sure she was taken care of. We raised the funds for her medical care and made sure she got her wound dressings changed twice a day to prevent infection. We just poured our hearts into making sure this little girl was cared for medically the way she needed.
Gena: How is she today?
Kim: She has healed, and because of our love and care for her, we can walk into that camp anytime and we are immediately greeted with love and respect. We have been able to share the gospel there, because we built relationships and helped with a need that no one really knew about.
Gena: How is the camp? Has it been rebuilt?
Kim: It has been rebuilt. I went to visit the camp one day and I saw that an organization had come in and attached fire extinguishers to the poles of the tents. I commented on it to Nawal’s uncle and he just shrugged his shoulders. I asked him if he knew what they were and how to use them. He said the people put them up but never showed them what to do or how to operate them.
Gena: So the need was taken care, but instruction was never given?
Kim: That’s right. Now we are on the hunt for some first responders who would be willing to pay their way to Lebanon and host fire safety courses for the refugee camps. All they have to do is get there. We’ll house them, feed them, and provide an interpreter. It’s a basic need that has to be filled.
Gena: You told me about various needs like that. I know there’s a widow that you have been buying oil for out of your own money and so many other stories like that. If there’s a first responder reading this that thinks to themselves “I would love to share my knowledge with these refugees” or people who say “I can afford to give $20 to help purchase oil for the widow” or even a group that says “we want to come over and help out for a week or two” How do they contact you?
Kim: the best way is to email us directly at :
OR you can call our international number that is FREE just remember we’re about 8 hours ahead of you guys. And if anyone wants to give towards the ministry here’s the link and the church information:
Please know that we get every single penny that is sent to The Lord’s Table Church. They don’t keep any of it. They take care of our finances and book keeping for free which is a HUGE blessing,
Gena: The journey, the answered prayers, the favor and relationships that you have experienced over the past two years is amazing and I know the story will continue to evolve and change, and we’ll contact you again for more stories, but at this moment, what sums up YOUR stunningly strong story?
Kim: I just recently became an ordained pastor on our last trip to the States. I don’t fully know why God asked me to do that, but I did it out of obedience. When we got back to Lebanon I realized it doesn’t hold weight or meaning there. All the pastors and priests are men. There is ONE Lebanese woman pastor in Lebanon and she is the ONLY female ordained pastor in the Middle East. That spoke to me. I knew then that was why I was to be ordained. It opened my eyes to how the Lord was beginning to move. Women are rising to their place in the Kingdom and in the secular world as well.
We are seeing women rise to their places in leadership and they are being valued. And we are seeing men respond in a way that is unprecedented. I believe God is brining men to a place of confidence in themselves where they can look at women as equals and it doesn’t faze them. The men are empowering women to rise up to their places and that is unheard of in the days we live in, especially in the Middle East.
What we have seen, is as things happen here in the West it comes in waves to the rest of the world, and that is what we are experiencing. The door is being cracked open there, and the women there are beginning to get this whiff, an aroma of possibility. When I tell them, I’m an ordained Pastor; you see the light in their faces, a flicker of hope that says, “Can I really be that valuable?” “Is it possible for me to be in a place like that?” and it is so amazing for me to be able to be a part of that in this season that we are experiencing right now. I’m so grateful to be there during this time in history.
Gena’s PS: If you want to keep up with Kim and Dave on social media check out their Facebook Page Global Hope Strategies. You can see even more pictures and get updates on everything that they are doing in Lebanon. And again, if you want to help them by giving or even doing a missions trip, make sure you reach out to them on links that are in the story.