In the middle of all that is happening in Lebanon, we thank God for the opportunity that he, and you, our friends, gave us to live in this country for more than 5 years now. Though it has been challenging at times, we still experience God’s presence and goodness, and most importantly, we feel that we are growing as a family at every level. So we praise God and thank you for your continuous prayers and support.
Timothy and Nathaniel ended the school year well. Of course, it was a big relief to them, and to us! We cannot believe how fast the years are passing by. We have already started the conversation with Tim about his plans for university in two years’ time. Some of you have known Timothy since he was 4 months old, while others celebrated with us the birth of our second boy, Nathaniel. Lebanon has been good to both of them. This summer, they are busy with friends, at WFC camps, volunteering at the church for summer Bible school, and attending church summer camp. In about two weeks, we will be traveling to Egypt to spend some time with the family there. The kids have not seen their grandparents for more than two years now. So, we are all looking forward to the visit.
Indeed, Almess and I are also looking forward to a time of rest and reunion with our family in Egypt. The last few months have not been easy as the situation in Lebanon is escalating. The Prime Minister stepped down after 9 months of trying to form a government, the Lebanese currency lost more than 80% of its value, there are shortages of medication, fuel, electricity, etc. You can imagine how stressful the situation is, not just for us but for everyone in Lebanon.
In terms of COVID-19, Almess and I are fully vaccinated now. Life has been back to “normal”. However, the number of cases started to go up again in the last couple of weeks. This is because a good number of Lebanese expats came to support and spent the summer with their families. Also, a good number of neighbouring countries considered Lebanon as their summer holiday destination, as the prices were down due to the economic crisis that hit Lebanon. A good number of Lebanese, who used to travel abroad for their summer holiday in the past, are now turning to local tourism. Though this has been a bit of a relief to the economy, it has its downside in terms of the increase of Coronavirus cases.
National Mourning Day – August 4th
August 4th has been declared as National Mourning Day in Lebanon to remember the deadly blast that devastated Beirut a year ago. As the people remember this painful disaster, sadness and sorrow overwhelm their hearts. People are also angry because there has been little, if any, progress in the investigation. Indeed, there is no peace when justice is absent.
Pray for the people of Lebanon in this critical time, asking our Lord to comfort the whole country, particularly those who lost their loved ones. May this Mourning Day lead people to remember God as their Refuge. May the Resurrected Christ grant the younger generation hope while they are experiencing disappointment, frustration and disillusion.
Teaching Jonah in a Middle Eastern Context
As I teach in the Seminary, one of our goals is to help students to build bridges and relationships with other traditions, religions, and with their neighbours in the MENA region. Indeed, there is some resistance on the students’ side to take such a step. This is not only because of the long history of conflict between Muslims and Christians, but also due to the lack of understanding of the other. I just finished teaching a course on Jonah. During the course, I tried to encourage students to build bridges with their neighbours and other key leaders in their communities, and to listen to their thoughts on the story of Jonah. In order to achieve this task, students were asked to read the book of Jonah with a Muslim friend, as Jonah appears in the Qur’an under the Arabic name Yūnus. At first, students were worried about how their Muslim friends will react to such a request. Students, however, were surprised by the respectful and welcoming attitude expressed by their Muslim friends and how they were very appreciative of such an opportunity. As students accomplished this task, they reported that “We are now planning to dedicate more time to reading the Bible with our Muslim friends, and carefully listen to their questions.”
As we studied the book of Jonah together, the second goal that I had in mind was to help students to respond to the injustice practiced towards them with the compassion and the love of Christ, rather than with anger as Jonah did. The majority of students expressed how they personally experienced injustice. The Sudanese students expressed how the civil war resulted in the killing of many Christians and the inhabitation of the churches’ properties. The Lebanese students expressed how they experienced injustice practiced by the Syrian regime when they occupied Lebanon for many years and the non-Christian background students expressed how they experienced injustice when they were persecuted by their families and communities because of their faith. The story of Jonah challenged those students to replace their angry attitude with the compassion and the love of God towards those who practiced injustice. Students were encouraged to take on two different approaches: First is to look at those who hurt them as human beings created in the image of God regardless of their religious and ethnic affiliations, and second is to see the injustice practiced towards them as the result of the ignorance of God’s word, rather than about people’s religious or ethnic backgrounds.
As we prepare and equip leaders for the church in the Middle East, we encourage them, through the work of the Holy Spirit, to have a Christ-like attitude towards others: an attitude of love, respect, and honesty. By doing so, we work towards PEACE, that is the well-being of our societies, building healthy relationships where we can share the love of God through word and deed, helping others to understand the word of God, as well as trying to have a better understanding of the other.
I would like to invite you to pray with us for peace in the region. Pray for healthy relationships between Muslims and Christians. Pray for the Word of God to be understood and accepted by others. May his LIGHT shine in our hearts and minds and guide our path as we follow him.
Graduation Ceremony 2021
Well, our virtual graduation ceremony was a bit strange this year! This was the first time to celebrate our students from a distance. However, we had the privilege of worshiping God and celebrating the harvest of our graduates. The faculty gathered on campus while our graduates joined us virtually from each of their respective countries, along with friends who joined the live stream.
Middle East Consultation 2021
We would like to invite you to attend our virtual Middle East Consultation (MEC) for this year, where we will be facilitating fresh discussion on ecclesiology as Lebanese churches seek to expand outreach and deepen gospel impact while responding to mounting challenges. By exploring questions about the Church’s call to make disciples, develop leaders, and engage society, Lebanon presents a compelling ecclesiological case study for a MEC 2021 discussion. This 3-day online event featuring presentations by local, regional, and global practitioners and scholars will stir discourse about the Church in the Arab world and serve as a resource for Christians engaging in faithful witness of Christ in their own contexts. For more info and to register please check https://abtslebanon.org/mec-2021/.
Please pray for constructive conversations at MEC, where the Holy Spirit speaks through the various voices that we have and stirs up the Church in the Middle East to be a faithful witness in its local context.
In the next few months, Emad will be involved in various writing projects and seminars. Emad is currently working on his commentary on Jonah in a Middle Eastern-Islamic context. During his trip to Egypt, a small consultation regarding this project will take place, where people from various religious background groups will get together to discuss the book of Jonah.
Emad will be presenting a paper at the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) in November in Dallas. The title is The Reception History of the Golden Calf Narrative: A Biblical Theology in a Middle Eastern- Islamic Context.
- We praise God for Marselya, Almess’ niece, who got accepted to travel to Canada. She is waiting for the visa in the next few weeks. Please continue your prayers for Marselya as she will move to a new chapter in her life.
- As a family, we need your prayers for rest, strength and peace of mind and heart during this time.
- Pray for the country of Lebanon as the people remember their loved ones during this week.
- Pray for our students to continue growing in their understanding of God and his mission in their lives, the church, and the world.