ELIE HADDAD left his home country of Lebanon near the end of a brutal 15-year civil war. So, too, did Mireille. They met in Canada, married and started a new life together. “We had many bad memories from the war. We felt that we had wasted our prime years hiding from shells and bombs. We never wished to return,” remembers Elie.
Over the years, they became strong believers, active in ministry. “We loved our church family. We loved our life here. This was home,” he says.
Sensing a call from God to something else, Elie enrolled in seminary while continuing to work as a senior IT consultant. After completing his studies, an email arrived asking the Haddads to consider going to Lebanon to work at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS). “If it’s from God, we can’t say no,” says Elie.
Elie left his well-paying job. They sold their house and bought plane tickets. “We were going to Beirut not knowing how God was going to do it.” Conversations with CBM led to their appointment as Field Staff. “It was a tough time disengaging from Canada,” says Elie. “Usually when missionaries go to a new place, they are afraid of what they don’t know. For us, we were afraid of what we knew, what we had run away from.”
Twelve years later, they continue to serve in Lebanon. As President of ABTS, Elie oversees a strategic seminary in the heart of the Arab world, training leaders for the growing church in North Africa and throughout the Middle East. Mireille has her own meaningful ministry, serving among the large number of refugees who have fled conflict in Syria, Iraq and other places in turmoil.
“We’re very blessed. It’s exciting to be part of ministry here,” says Elie. “People think that this is the time to run away from the Middle East. This is the time to be here. This is the time to make a difference; the time when the Church can have an impact.”
MURIEL BENT grew up in a large family in the Maritimes. “I was 13 out of 15 children,” says Muriel. “Those were the days without electricity and indoor plumbing. We worked hard, but we learned ethics and good values.”
She ended up working in several countries around the world, faithfully serving as a CBM missionary for almost 40 years. Her calling came early. “I was only nine or ten at the time when I told my parents that I wanted to be a nurse and go to India as a missionary,” says Muriel. “At the end of nurse’s training I had to decide whether this really was a call from God or a childhood fantasy. I prayed about it and knew this was where God wanted me.”
Muriel served as a missionary health worker in India for 20 years, helping some of the poorest people to access medicine, care and treatment. Then her life was re-directed. “I couldn’t get my visa to return to India,” she remembers. “CBM offered me a position as a community health consultant for projects in Asia, Africa and Latin America.”
One of the hardest parts of overseas ministry for Muriel was missing significant family occasions. “My mother died when I was overseas. This is one of the things that you regret, but it is just part of the journey,” she says.
Today, Muriel’s passion for helping the poor continues in a wonderful way: knitting mittens to raise funds for microfinance in India. “I have seen firsthand what it does to families. It gets them out of poverty and gives them a start on some family income, so they can send their children to school,” she says.
Muriel is a contributor of CBM’s new 323 Collective, an online store that features global craft makers and entrepreneurs willing to contribute their handiwork in service of those who need a hand-up. Visit 323Collective.org to learn more.
PATTY NACHO grew up in Bolivia, in a Christian family, and remembers going to church all her life. But it wasn’t until she was 15 years old that she made this faith her own. “I went to youth camp and had a personal encounter with God,” she says.
Over the years, Patty became a passionate follower of Jesus with a deep and growing love for the Church. She invested her life in local ministry, as a leader in the Baptist Bolivian Youth and also as a deacon in her church. She volunteered for many years, helping Canadians coming to Bolivia on CBM short-term mission trips. “It really impacted me how people from so far could come and serve the local church,” she says. “I wanted to be part of CBM, but it was not in God’s time.”
Patty faced some hard trials in ministry, but is thankful that they moved her closer to the heart of God. “I cried many, many tears, but was able to understand that God is my heavenly Father who comes to my defence, fights the battle for me; the one who I can run to and hide in his arms and cry for hours and receive comfort and guidance.”
She was delighted when God opened the door to serve with CBM in 2015. As Global Discipleship Coordinator for Bolivia, Patty loves to engage volunteers from Canada and help them to understand Bolivian culture and meaningfully serve alongside local believers in ministry. “It is wonderful to see the Global Church, to see us working together. We can be a blessing, and be blessed when we give our hearts to our heavenly Father.”
PASTOR IBRAHIM MAKUNYI’S faith and perseverance are an inspiration for many, as he has endured religious persecution, hardship and attacks on both his church and his own life.
He began his ministry in North Eastern province in 1976, and went on to start the East African Pentecostal Church of Garissa in 1981, making him the longest standing Christian minister to have served in the county. In recent years, it has also been a region in turmoil.
A grenade attack by extremists in November 2011 killed two of his church members and seriously injured four others. In July 2012, another series of attacks in Garissa killed 18 Christians and seriously injured 60 others. In response, CBM provided a training conference to help pastors and leaders better respond to post-traumatic stress and fear arising from the increased persecution and attacks.
One day in February 2013, two pastors were shot. One of them, Pastor Ibrahim, survived. The other, a spiritual son he had brought to the Christian faith and mentored, died. Although his recovery took much time, Pastor Ibrahim praises God for healing.
In 2014, CBM offered a new program, Certificate of Integral Mission in a Majority Islamic Context, called BRIDGE, to strengthen Christian leaders and local churches in building transformative relationships with their neighbours and the broader community. Participants have been encouraged to seek peace building and live out the love of Christ toward their Muslim neighbours. Their churches have established literacy classes, community gardens, feeding programs for vulnerable children and ministries for people with disabilities.
On November 11, 2016, 31 students graduated, including Pastor Ibrahim.
“We must not be led by fear!” Pastor Ibrahim encouraged his fellow graduates at the ceremony. “We are already dead and made alive in Christ. No one can take our true lives away.”