COVID-19 / ABTS Updates and Related Information

May 26, 2020

How do we reconcile in the church? Are our practices biblical? Are they sensitive to Middle-Eastern culture? One of the Institute of Middle East Studies’ peacebuilding initiatives explores such questions with Protestant pastors in Lebanon. Between the 13th and 15th of May, 14 participants gathered for the second time through Zoom. Bringing healing to our world begins with healing of relationships in the church. That’s how we can challenge the status quo and bring glory to God.

To know more about this Peacebuilding initiative, click here.
May 21, 2020

This week's IMES blog post by Robert Hamd - Our Gods Are Burning

All of us are affected. From the beginning of the popular protest, to the current collapse of the Lira, all of us are affected. What sets this time apart from the bloody era of the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1991) is that now we can’t stand behind our respective religious or political alliances and wait for them to come to our rescue and save us from doom. No amount of wasta (powerful leverage) can get us out. It seems our gods of sectarianism, militarism, and elitism are burning up on the floor of the Central Bank. Since late April, dozens of branches of the bank have been torched and burned by protesters.

All of us are affected. No one in our tiny country has the “get out of jail free” card; we are all imprisoned in this economic crisis.

Continue reading the blog post here.
gods are burning
May 20, 2020

We are happy to launch Khebz W Meleh Online! Due to the current COVID-19 situation, the Khebz W Meleh team are holding the peacebuilding sessions over zoom.

To know more about this Peacebuilding initiative, click here.
May 15, 2020

Our May Newsletter is out!

“We have learned the hard way that when a crisis hits, we either cling to the mission that God has given us, be prepared to make some difficult decisions, innovate, or we die.”

In this month’s newsletter, ABTS President Elie Haddad describes the journey on which God is currently taking ABTS. Our graduate Elias Abi Rashed also tells us about his ministry in unreached areas of Lebanon. God is still working. We invite you to read about some of the things He is doing in Lebanon and the region.

Read our Newsletter here.
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May 14, 2020

This week's IMES blog post: Announcing Middle East Conversation 2020

"Middle East Conversation 2020 is an innovative initiative for ABTS that will facilitate monthly online webinars aiming to lend MENA voices to global discourses on urgent matters of faith and witness. Little about 2020 is “business as usual,” but there is much to gain by scrutinizing long-held conventions and asking difficult questions in the genuine desire to discover how God is inspiring kingdom ministry during increasingly disorienting times."

Read the full post here.
May 12, 2020

We congratulate Dr. Abed on this academic feat and look forward to his achievements in the future. We pray that the Lord guides him in ministry and uses him and his advanced skillset effectively for the growth of the Church in the Arab world.

Read the full story here.
May 8, 2020

"Awad would communicate with us whenever he could, but because neither he nor his family have an internet connection, he would often go a full week without checking in. Still, when we transitioned to Online teaching on April 8, through the Lord’s providence, Awad found a way to connect with us, receive his learning material, join in forums, and upload his homework. Before the pandemic caused the closure of public areas in South Sudan, Awad would travel 1 hour from his home to a cybercafe where he could work on his online material before taking a further hour’s ride back home."

Read the full story here.
Awad s story
May 7, 2020

This week's IMES blog post by Brent Hamoud - Homebound Hope: Reflections on Four Levels of Home in the Shadows of Pandemic

Humanity is spending a lot of time at home these days. Stay-at-home orders have largely limited us to private confines resulting in some staggering consequences: half the world’s population was under lockdown at one point, 9 out of 10 students have been left out of school and airline traffic is a fraction of what it was. Images of emptied spaces are both fascinating and eerie snapshots of this historical moment. Whether refreshed by an unexpected season of simplicity or maddened by a prolonged disruption (or continuously bouncing between the two), all of us are facing something unprecedented and profound. This global season of sheltering in place indeed mitigates the COVID-19 crisis, but it also grants insights into a human crisis running much deeper than any pandemic: a crisis of home.

We are creatures undoubtedly made for home, and there are few things more desirable than a secure place to find meaning, set roots and fully be ourselves. Home is a concept and experience at the very genesis of history; scripture begins with a narrative of God crafting a creation where all is at home. Sin changed everything...

Read the full blog post here.
May 6, 2020

"Rami had been listening and asking penetrating questions all throughout the Bible study. This was the first home group we had started in the North, and this was his first time visiting. After the session, he approached me and said, 'I have been waiting for fifty years to hear these words.' Rami had not heard of Christ before, so when he finally did, he could no longer let go of Him. In fact, he began to share the gospel with the leaders of his people since he, too, was a leader there."

Learn more about our graduate Elias's ministry and our Lord's marvelous work in people's lives in our upcoming May Newsletter! Stay tuned!

Sign up to our monthly newsletter here.
May 4, 2020

"One day in 2010, while the preacher made an altar call at a church celebration, there was a struggle within me. I had failed to surrender my life to Him. Two years later, I saw a vision in my sleep of a man threatening to kill me. The next morning, I got into a deadly accident, but the Lord intervened and saved my life. At another church celebration, God spoke to my heart in a still, small voice asking me to come to Him. This time, I took the Lord Jesus as a personal Lord and Savior.

“Later on, a person at church saw a vision in which I was handcuffed and arrested. When I returned to work in Port Sudan, I was in truth taken to prison based on false charges. A year and a half later, they released me, and I never knew why. While I was yet in prison, I began to hear God’s call for me to study theology. I had preached the gospel to many, and three prisoners came to Christ. Later, Daoud, who is my brother-in-law and a 2018 ABTS graduate, began to tell me about ABTS and how it had changed him. This entrenched my desire to study theology, and I heeded God’s call."

In reference to James 1:2-4, we know why suffering should be counted as joy, because it will change us for the better. The days we live in are difficult, but may the testing of our faith refine us and prepare us for what is to come.
May 2, 2020

While the clouds of the economic crisis continue to loom over Lebanon, let us remember today that Christ blessed the widow's two coins and fed more than 5000 with one boy's lunch.

Yesterday, a local church whose members are among the least privileged in the country, pleasantly surprised us by providing meals to the 25 nurses and doctors currently staying at our guesthouse as a gesture of their love and support.

Many stories are being written that all speak about God's goodness during this crisis.
April 30, 2020

This week's IMES blog post by Martin Accad - Interfaith Solidarity this Ramadan

My two young children (10 and 8) gathered around us a few days ago. My wife and I were going to have a heart-to-heart with them. Though we had so far decided to spare them the feelings of financial insecurity, we felt it was time to have a conversation that would sensitize them to the current economic situation of Lebanon. No, we hadn’t decided to turn them into economists, nor did we plan to make them feel victims of the circumstances. What we wanted was to cultivate in them a greater sense of empathy for the plight of their compatriots.

Empathy is the ability to recognize emotions in others around us, to rejoice with them when they are happy, to weep with them when they are sad, to feel revolted when they are angry for suffering injustice, and to hold our breath with them when they are scared. The experience of those shared feelings is what then makes some of us spring to action in solidarity with others. Empathy is what makes us more human, better neighbors, more pleasant friends, and responsible citizens.

Read the full blog post here
April 24, 2020

We have resumed the meetings for the Forum for Current Affairs. The first zoom meeting was held on Wednesday, 22nd April, 2020 with pastors from various Evangelical denominations in Lebanon. It focused on “bringing effective change to the conflict resolution strategies used by church leaders in the Lebanese evangelical community through the implementation of a reconstructed contextual biblical approach in peacemaking”.

The meeting renewed the enthusiasm towards thinking biblically about reconciliation and discovering new ways to implement it. Second Corinthians 5:17-20 reminded the participants of the importance and centrality of reconciliation between God and His creation. They shared their passion to see reconciliation thrive not just within the Evangelical Church but in the broader frame of God’s creation.

To know more about this initiative, click here.
April 23, 2020

This week's IMES blog post by Nabil Habiby - Covid-19 and Biblical Impurity: Go Forth and Infect the Nations

One of the more challenging aspects of the biblical world is the focus of the ancients on purity laws. Many ancient Jewish groups and even common people were constantly aware of their ritual purity, especially concerning eating or praying in everyday life. They lived in fear of an invisible threat: impurity. The food they ate, the people they mingled with, the places they entered, and the things they touched all had dire consequences. As Covid-19 invades our world, we find ourselves living in a similar fear of an invisible enemy. Can biblical concepts of impurity help us in the current pandemic?

In biblical times, if your house became impure it could have to be destroyed (Leviticus 14: 33-56). If you touched a corpse, or even stood inside a room with one, then you were made impure and became a source of impurity to those who touched you (Numbers 19: 11-22). Impurity was not only transmitted via touch but had an airborne power. There was a social and religious responsibility to stay pure. Your impurity endangered yourself, your family and the entire community. For some Jewish sects, such as the Qumran, you could be banned from the community meal for over a year if you were impure...

Continue reading the blog post here
April 22, 2020

Our graduate, Nihad Hasan, who pastors and serves among Kurdish Syrians in Lebanon, along with his ministry team were just about to launch services at their new venue when the pandemic started. Undeterred, they moved their services online and have taken up relief efforts for those affected by the outbreak.

Join us in prayer for our students and graduates as they faithfully heed God’s calling during this crisis, responding to arising challenges and exploiting every opportunity for ministry.
April 21, 2020

As with each Tuesday, the ABTS family gathered today over Zoom to worship the Lord. Our Dean of Students, Bassem Melki, reminded us that discipleship is a lifelong process. He said, “Believing in Jesus isn’t all there is to our journey with Him. The Lord calls us to step out of the shallow end and become true disciples. True discipleship entails undergoing spiritual formation and allowing the Spirit to make us more like Jesus.”

May we all continue on this discipleship journey in all circumstances.
April 18, 2020

A conversation about innovation in a time of crisis: watch this conversation with Elie Haddad hosted by the International Council for Evangelical Theological Education - ICETE.
April 16, 2020

This week's IMES blog post by Rabih Hasbany - A Familial Resurrection Holiday Despite Coronavirus

...On this Resurrection Holiday, the family altar was restored! This year we did not go to church for a special celebration but instead gathered on Sunday as a family. We listened to the hymns of resurrection and to a sermon streamed online, and we prayed together reflecting on the implications that the resurrection of Christ has had on us. It never occurred to me that I might have the opportunity to hold a worship meeting at home, but coronavirus has given me this opportunity. This year, I did not minister to the members of my church or to the people in my community, but to my household, to my family. We are often busy planning services through which we reach our communities and share the Gospel of Christ with them, especially on holidays. We hold special events in our churches to reach out to our communities, but we easily forget that our families need this service as well. We often move to Judea and Samaria, and perhaps to the end of the world, but forget a small house in Jerusalem, that is our house, and the people in it who need to hear the message of salvation. Coronavirus has canceled all celebrations, masses, and meetings, and it has kept us in quarantine and socially distanced from one another; however, it has also brought us closer to our loved ones. The redemptive power of God has opened the door for us to better minister to our households during the lockdown.

Read the full blog post here
April 15, 2020

Our April Newsletter is out!

What can stop the Mighty Hand of God? Yes, this year has been a minefield, and ministry has never been more globally affected. Still, God is working powerfully, and when we phase out of this pandemic, the role of our churches, and consequently the leaders we are training, will be even more crucial. We knew, when God called us, that we want to be faithful till the end – even when we don’t understand. So as you read this month's newsletter, join us in prayer as God teaches us to serve the Arab Church in creative ways.

Read our Newsletter here.
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April 14, 2020

This week, the Master of Religion (MRel) students began the Cultural Analysis in the Context of Middle East and North Africa module, and it is shaping to be a rather historic course. Two-week residencies in Lebanon are a hallmark of every MRel course, but the coronavirus pandemic means a residency will not be possible this time. Though plans may have changed, the Cultures module will go on! The teaching faculty have worked hard to adapt the course to current realities and will conduct a “virtual residency.” This new approach promises to still deliver the profound learning experience our students have come to expect from the MRel. We trust that God will direct us to how we can continue to serve Him in meaningful ways.
April 9, 2020

This week's IMES blog post by Mike Kuhn - Coronavirus: Finding Mercy in a Tyrant’s Reign

I confess. I thought pandemics were medieval.

Sure I remember SARS and Ebola. But those didn’t get close. They affected others. I caught H1N1 (Swine Flu) but I recovered eventually and life went on. This one seems different…global and insidious. It hides and then pounces on its prey. It decimates the older folks among us…and I’m almost one of those…but the impact on the young can be equally devastating. Medical personnel are in the line of fire. First responders are falling to the virus. Its deadly impact is felt by all.

Corona has pulled the rug out from under me…knocked my legs out from under me.

I’m concerned that a friend or family member will soon be fighting Corona. It’s getting closer.

And you?

Click here to continue reading.
April 8, 2020

Our residential students’ academic year officially resumed online today! Students will take two courses equivalent to 6 credits over a period of 12 weeks. At the same time, prior to the start of every week, each faculty member will review the online course he/she is teaching. This will be part of a review plan for the online program. This is an extremely important experience, as we are planning to launch the whole Bachelor of Theology program online in 2021.

Read more about this transition in our April newsletter! Stay tuned!
April 7, 2020

Eight nurses and doctors are currently staying at our guesthouse, isolating themselves from their loved ones in times of COVID-19. More are coming every day. Our housekeeping staff are making sure everything is clean and sanitized for our valuable guests. Krysten Mansour, guesthouse receptionist, shares:

“The doctors and nurses here really appreciate this initiative, and they are very thankful for this place. They are asking about ABTS and want to learn more about what we do!”

We pray that God will use our guesthouse to provide a safe place for those workers so they may rest well before returning to their battlefields!
April 6, 2020

This year’s Palm Sunday was not the same without friends, family and church gatherings. Be that as it may, Easter celebrations will be much more meaningful this year with the Passion week heralding the promise of resurrection – that out of death springs life. That is why we have much hope. Even amid difficulties and challenges, we are experiencing elements of the resurrected life. We see it in the hard work and innovation of the various ABTS teams.

For instance, the genuine dedication of our Academic team, Online team and faculty has led to the continuation of our residential students’ academic year online starting from today.

A new ABTS Online term starts this week.

A new MRel module starts this week, as well, while finding creative alternatives for the residency.

MEC is being re-conceptualized. We are witnessing the re-birth of MEC in a new format.

The guesthouse is closed for business, open for ministry.

“I am the resurrection and the life […] Do you believe this?” We find our Lord asking us the same question today.
If our answer is “yes”, will we go out in faith?
April 3, 2020

Our residential students made use of a sunny morning to work the green space near the parking lot on campus. While they are usually busy during the academic year, social distancing made it possible to do such work. As we admire their initiative and servant heart, we pray for them as they resume their courses next week. Hard work is coming!
April 2, 2020

Today's IMES Blog post by Caleb Hutcherson: COVID-19: Sovereignty without resurrection is just opium

A mu’azzin calls people to pray at home, rather than coming together to pray. A church cancels its Sunday services, moving to online broadcasts. A seminary pivots to online instruction, temporarily closing in-person classes. In ordinary times, any of these local changes would barely make the news. But these are not ordinary times. The entire world, it seems, is experiencing this coronavirus pandemic together. And we all are struggling to make sense of it.

In my historical theology classes at ABTS, much of what students and I do together involves examining theological impulses we assume are “biblical.” Dusting off ancient beliefs and practices sheds critical light on our inherited assumptions. But in the midst of crises like the one we are all walking through together now, these assumptions are often...

Click here to continue reading.
April 1, 2020

On Monday, April 6, our residential students will resume their studies in an online format starting with an induction session. Then on Wednesday, April 8, our first-year students will start taking the Biblical and Historical Theology module courses, and our second and third year students will take the Leadership module courses. Our faculty members have been working hard and will be finalizing all the material this week. Then, four of them will be teaching the coming module courses. We pray that both, our students and our faculty members, will cope well with this migration! We praise God as He walks before us so that we continue to train these key leaders in such times.
March 31, 2020

This morning, in preparation for accommodating healthcare workers, all our guestrooms were professionally sanitized. A medical doctor from Hotel Dieu Hospital also came for a check up and a short training session for our Moore Conference Center team. The session was on how to dress when entering a room and how to keep the rooms clean and in check. This afternoon, we welcomed the first doctor, so we are excited for this new adventure! Pray with us for our guesthouse and facilities team as they take on new responsibilities.
March 31, 2020

Chapel is an integral part of our community. Though we are physically apart, students, staff and faculty gathered virtually over Zoom today to worship God, listen to His Word and pray. It was a blessed time for all of us to be together once again!
March 30, 2020

We have been exploring ways to serve the community through our guesthouse amid this pandemic. We found a relatively safe way to meet a growing need. Through the volunteer group Baytna Baytak, we will be offering free accommodation to healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, red cross and emergency service teams, …) who are at the frontline of this coronavirus battle and who do not want to go back to their homes because they live with vulnerable family members.

This will be our way of supporting these heroes as they care for patients daily. Let us also support them through prayer!
March 26, 2020

The Lebanese government announced today the prolongation of the country’s public health emergency state until April 12. Following the announcement, our offices will remain closed until further notice. Nonetheless, we will be working online from our homes, and our students will go on with their theological studies online as planned. We cannot predict how long this will stay, but we know that we are to be faithful to His calling at all times.
March 26, 2020

Today's IMES Blog post by Wissam Nasrallah is about the current crisis.

One thing spreading faster than the coronavirus is fear: the fear of the unknown, fear of not being in control, fear of losing our livelihoods, and fear of becoming a social pariah for contracting the virus or simply sneezing. But most of all, we fear death.

Fear in specific circumstances can be a positive thing and keep us away from harm. It triggers a high-arousal physical state that enables us to have a “fight or flight” response in the face of a perceived threat or danger. In the case of the coronavirus, it should in principle compel us to stay at home and take necessary social and hygienic precautions because the threat is real, progressing and life-threatening.

However, fear can also have negative effects. It can keep us from doing what we want to do or even what we need to do.

Click here to continue reading.
March 25, 2020

All our meetings are continuing as usual, thanks to online communication! The Leadership Team meeting today was mainly to discuss the current updates.

Pray with us for wisdom as tough decisions come along in these uncertain times. We believe that God is at work, and He is inviting us to join Him!
March 23, 2020

All of our Egyptian residential students made it back home. They are now settling well in their country, confined to their homes until the virus threat dissipates. Meanwhile, they are enjoying their time with their families until they resume their studies online in April. Some are also raising awareness about the seriousness of the pandemic so that their neighbors take the necessary precautions. We are thankful for the opportunity our students have to serve their communities in these difficult times.
March 20, 2020

Update on the Academy of Languages and Practical Skills (ALPS):

Both our offices in Hamra and in Mansourieh cannot receive Arabic learners due to the current health emergency. In spite of this, from their homes, our tutors continue to offer the usual Skype sessions and have shifted the in-class sessions to Skype format as well. So as you ward off the virus and stay home, make use of your time and take up Arabic lessons!

For more information, click here.
March 19, 2020

Today's IMES Blog post by Martin Accad is about the current crisis.

Lebanon this academic year (2019-2020) has so far reaped three “pandemics:” the collapse of our political system, the collapse of our economy, and the collapse of our public health. Who could have predicted that we would use these words in a single sentence? As someone who grew up through the Lebanese Civil War from the mid-1970s; one who witnessed the first great collapse of our currency in the 1980s, when our Lebanese pound devaluated from 3.5 pounds to the US dollar to 1500 pounds over a few months; I never thought I would live to see the near-collapse of political, economic, and health sectors in a single year. Covid-19, aka coronavirus, which is bringing our world to its knees, is a metaphor for all that is wrong with us today. But could it also be a metaphor for what can be right?

Click here to continue reading.
March 18, 2020

Important Announcement Concerning Middle East Consultation 2020:

In response to the unprecedented situation brought on by the coronavirus crisis the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary has decided to enact major changes concerning plans for MEC. Like much of the world, Lebanon is taking swift and drastic action to mitigate deteriorating public health conditions brought on by the virus and it is no longer deemed viable to organize a global gathering at the seminary. We are aware of the gravity of the situation and committed to taking responsible measures to protect individuals and communities in Lebanon and around the world.

Work is currently underway to reconceptualize MEC 2020 in light of recent events. ABTS intends to facilitate an urgent discussion on The Gospel in Public Life and the team is investigating ways to craft MEC in a way that will allow for remote participation. Details of development will be communicated in the weeks ahead as modified plans come together.

Stay tuned!
March 17, 2020

The Khartoum airport abruptly shut down yesterday evening. Flights heading to Khartoum had to go back. Our Sudanese students were scheduled to fly home last night, but they didn’t make it. This means they are still here on campus, and a total of 26 students cannot leave Lebanon due to the pandemic’s travel restrictions. We are taking all precautionary measures necessary to keep our on-campus students as safe as possible until other travel arrangements can be made.

Meanwhile, our faculty met online today and continued working on our transition from in-class to online teaching. Pray for our students, faculty, and staff, that they be ready to serve others during this difficult time.
March 16, 2020

The Academic team held an urgent meeting last Friday to discuss how residential students are to migrate to online learning under the supervision of faculty members. The team already has the online material and courses needed for the fulfilment of our residential students’ academic requirements because we have been working on a full theology distance-learning program. This shift to the online platform will hasten the launch of the distance-learning program as faculty put it into action with the residential students.

We know God has already been preparing us for today, and He will certainly teach us to do things differently as we continue to partake in His mission. The work is plentiful in the region, so we continue to train leaders for the Arab Church trusting in God’s sovereignty and leadership.
March 13, 2020

This week we had to make the decision of sending our residential students back home and continuing the academic year online. This was not an easy decision to make, as we did not want to be reactive out of unfounded fear. However, we came to the conclusion that this is the responsible thing to do. Our students live in close proximity in our dorm building, and the healthcare system in Lebanon is under-prepared and over-stretched. In addition, with the quickly increasing travel restrictions, this decision could not be delayed. Obviously, this decision was as difficult for our students as it was for us.

On the positive side, we are thankful that we had been developing our online platform. We now have the ability to switch from in-class to online instruction with reasonable effort and without compromising quality. This will also help accelerate our efforts in developing a complete theological degree online.

We continue to trust God as we strive to be faithful to His calling, and we are grateful for the way He has been preparing us for a time like this. We continue to be committed to the formation of our students, leaders in the Arab church, and we will continue to support their living expenses at home as we had done during their time here so that they can focus on their education and training under very challenging circumstances.

COVID-19 is a pandemic affecting communities globally. We pray for you and for all our friends and partners as you face difficult decisions in your own ministries and communities. We cherish your prayers for our community.
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