By Jean Clark
Bruce Schoup has followed in the footsteps of both parents, the Reverends Ann and Hal Schoup of Pleasant Hill. The senior Schoups served in the Middle East from 1957 through August 1973 in Iraq, Syria and Turkey as administrators, teachers and mission pastors. They retired to Pleasant Hill in 1999 after continuing their careers in the United States.
Their son, Schoup, is a United Church of Christ minister who has served different congregations in the Northeast. When he decided to do intentional interim ministries in several churches, he joined the Pleasant Hill Community Church, United Church of Christ to have a permanent church home. In September the Community Church blessed his ministry as a chaplain in Haigazian University in Beirut, Lebannon. Following are excerpts from letters he has written to Pastor Tom Warren about his experiences thus far:
Oct. 4: "I have been in Lebanon now for almost a month. Classes officially started two weeks ago. I am on a steep learning curve as I adjust to life here, which is somehow the same and yet different. Part of myself is starting to feel grounded, while at the same time I continue to be confused about so many other things. I have been greeted with warmth and lots of smiles. The faculty and students here at Haigazian clearly think well of the campus minister. I have been treated respectfully in the neighborhood where the Haigazian arranged an apartment.
"When I greet people, they will often respond with 'Up until now, it has been good.' I laughed about that greeting at first because it comes across as if meeting me has just brought a good day to an end, when I know that is the furthest thing from their minds. The first few times I heard it, I thought of it as an example of English being spoken as a second language. Now as I continue to hear it, I hear it as a Lebanese response.
This is a part of the world where things can be going well, and then suddenly catastrophe happens. The future is unpredictable, but... if the day has been good, it is claimed. ‘Until now, I know it has been good.’
"I see the truth of this statement in Beirut. For much of the 20th century, Beirut was thought of as the Paris of the Middle East. The civil war of the '70s changed this image. During the war, lives were lost, property destroyed, a dramatic increase in segregated communities and people became less comfortable with one another. The city rebuilt after peace was achieved.
"In the mid 2000s, the inner city was again destroyed, this time by the Israelis. Haigazian University is in the heart of that section. Once again, it is being rebuilt. Everywhere I go in Lebanon, I hear the sound of construction taking place as building and rebuilding continues. Often in a chaotic manner, yet it is happening on a grand scale.
"The church I attended last Sunday (the Evangelical Congregational Church) was completely destroyed by Israeli bombs. It is now rebuilt. Given the opportunity, Lebanese move forward. It would be easy to halt construction because of the bad economy or because of turmoil in Syria, some of which has spilled into Lebanon. One statistic I heard for unemployment was 30 percent. It would be easy for a defeatist attitude to enter into things. That is not the atmosphere. There is pride in being Lebanese and a desire to move forward. Today has been good, we don't know about tomorrow. And so the statement, ‘Until now...it has been good.’"
November: "Haigazian shuts down Friday afternoon/evening for the weekend, but somehow there are always details to address. Some fun, some more duty. On the duty side, grading papers and struggling to learn Arabic words. On the fun side, I will be joining the Near East School of Theology on an outing to monasteries in the north of the country. This outing is being led by the president of the Near East School and should be both fun and enlightening. Incidentally, the United Church of Christ is one of the sponsors of the Near East School of Theology.
"On Sunday, the Beirut Marathon takes place. This year, Haigazian University is a sponsoring organization. Lots of students are participating in volunteer work and a handful are walking/running a portion or the whole. I foolishly signed up for the ten kilometer run. We will see how much I actually succeed in running and how much is done walking.
"Since the last time I wrote, there have been ups and downs in the Lebanese environment. I saw things move from very peaceful to extremely tense as individuals feared that an assassination would escalate into civil war. Subsequently, the nation has moved back to a much more stable atmosphere. I still see some obvious signs that officials continue to be concerned. The most obvious being that the most direct way to walk back to my apartment from Haigazian University is right by the Grand Serail (Governmental Palace). I have to reroute because the roads immediately around it are closed to both cars and pedestrians who do not have a direct business reason to enter. Still, all in all, Beirut is pretty much back to normal. The marathon is a good example. It is expected that there will be 30,000 runners. The money raised goes to charity. Blessings on all at Pleasant Hill. "
The Pleasant Hill Elementary School faculty, staff and students invite the general public to attend the opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new 2012 school addition Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 5 p.m.