What a year to be living in Lebanon! It began with the October 2019 Revolution, the collapse of the economy, the instability of the political situation, Covid-19 breakout, and finally the massive explosion of Beirut. It is overwhelming!
As you have heard in the news, the explosion was tragic: over 5000 people are injured, close to 200 people are dead, some are still missing, thousands of cars and homes are destroyed, major hospitals are completely damaged and out of service…etc. The whole country is mourning; people feel disoriented, hopeless, and very angry at authorities because of their carelessness and corruption. Just yesterday, the government stepped down, and it will take sometime until the country is able to form a new government due to its sectarian system.
For us as a family, we strongly felt the explosion, though it is about 30 minutes away from where we live. We are safe, but we are mourning like everyone else in the country. Indeed, it is devastating emotionally and mentally. Our kids are observing what is happening, and of course nothing is making sense to them as well. They have lots of questions, and we are trying our best to respond.
It was very helpful to take the boys to give a hand to one of the destroyed hospitals for two days. They were able to see the damage done to many places in downtown and also help during this time of disaster.
It is our prayer that God will build the ruined cities, comfort all who mourn, give a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
Completion of PhD Studies
Though it has not been any easy year, we have been able by God’s grace to press on. The good news is that Emad used the time of the quarantine to focus more on finishing the long marathon of his PhD. He successfully defended his dissertation at the end of April with minor changes, which he completed by the end of June. We praise God for this milestone in our life as a family. We celebrate and witness to God’s goodness in the middle of all what is happening.
Arab Baptist Theological Seminary and CBM Response to the Lebanese Crisis
The Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) has opened its doors to welcome people who have lost their homes and is helping with clean-up and food distribution for workers who are deployed to the explosion site. Local churches will also be needing support as they serve affected congregation members.
A New Ministry Season for ABTS
With the breakout of Covid-19, the Seminary made the decision to send all students home for various reasons. However, this in itself was not an easy process, because we had about 26 students on campus who could not travel due to travel restrictions. We praise God that they were able to make it back home safely about two weeks ago.
With this sudden disruption from the pandemic, we had extensive conversations, discussions, and times of reflection and discernment to discover how God wants us to serve his church in the region in light of this new reality. Here are the words of our President and CBM Global Field Staff in Lebanon, Elie Haddad, describing the future of ABTS:
“It has become obvious that we cannot maintain this full-time residential program in which we invested so much and that has worked well for our students and the churches that they serve. We cannot maintain this program because of new realities. There is no doubt that distancing and travel restrictions will prevent us from bringing students to Lebanon for at least the next academic year. In addition, a new funding reality is presenting itself. No one knows what that will look like post pandemic, but we do know that we need to become a lot leaner and more cost-effective in order to survive.
The first reaction is lament and disorientation. We did that. Actually, we are not yet over the lament of what cannot continue. The second reaction, however, is moving forward with a new strategy, a renewed vision, and a creative solution that takes theological education and leadership formation in the region well into the 21st century. Our new strategy for our core ministry is to transform our full-time residential program into what we are currently calling a modified residential program. The shape of this new program is becoming clearer. Our academic team and faculty are in the process of completing the details of the design. The new program will consist mainly of distance components with short annual residencies on campus. The reason that we still have the word residential in the name of the program is to stress the fact that we are maintaining the same curricular shape of our old program. This will not be an online program. We have that. This will be a blended program that preserves all the key features of what was successful in our residential program. We are still committed to the high-quality training that our constituency is used to. We are preserving the holistic, contextual, and integrated dimensions of the curriculum, also in a modular format. We also remain committed to the same quality research component that marked our residential program. Basically, we will be offering our same distinctive curriculum but with a new delivery method.”
- As a family, we need your prayers for comfort, strength, peace in mind and heart during this time.
- Pray that the Holy Spirit comforts those who are injured, lost their loved ones, and their homes.
- Pray for the local churches as many have been damaged but also are reaching out and responding to needs.
- As demonstrations continue in the next few weeks and the hope of forming of a new government, pray for the future of the country of Lebanon.
- Pray for our students as they are settling back home. They need to re-adjust to new realities in their countries at various levels: economy and politics, job and ministry opportunities, and dealing with Covid-19 regulations.
- Pray for the Leadership Team of our Seminary as they lead during this difficult time. Pray for wisdom, discernment, and strength. Pray also for the ABTS community as they continue faithfully serving God in the middle of this challenging time.