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October 15, 2021
September 2021 Newsletter: A Compassionate Heart for the People
September 21, 2021

A Time of Fellowship in the Lebanese Mountains

“On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida.” (Luke 9:10 ESV)

Right before that, Jesus had sent the twelve disciples, and they had gone through the villages preaching and healing everywhere and, right after their retreat, they would be feeding more than 5,000 people. Sometimes, in our service to God, it is good to unplug and refocus our attention on Him. Detached from our usual distractions, we can hear the still, small voice of God.

Late September, our faculty gathered for a retreat in the Lebanese mountains (not too far from Bethsaida). They were able to remove themselves briefly from their usual routine to bask in God’s creation and take some time for extended worship, to reflect on the mounting challenges, to assess the recent program modifications, to make headway in the development of new programs, and to plan for the new academic year. It was a time well spent in an atmosphere of growth, laughter, and vulnerability, creating memories that will go beyond the retreat.

What were the impressions from some of our faculty members?

Elie Haddad | President

The retreat allowed us to spend time in fellowship after two years of lockdown. It was strategic, especially now that we have moved into a different learning format. It was an opportunity to assess our programs and think of how we can publish our academic work, but it was also a long-awaited time of community building.

Bassem Melki | Dean of Faculty

It was a great experience. There was bonding and openness, and the spirit of the retreat was very positive. We were able to plan for the next academic year, discuss areas for growth and look for creative ways to engage students in all our academic programs, especially in a distance-learning context. We had a relaxing yet very productive time. At the same time, we had lots of fun together, which helped us get to know each other more.

Grace Al-Zoughbi Arteen | Lecturer in Theological Education

Surrounded by stunning and picturesque views of Mount Lebanon, I was blessed to take part in the ABTS faculty retreat. During the meetings that took place across a couple of days, the faculty reflected on the past, evaluated the present and planned for the future. I was encouraged by the expertise of a dedicated team as we engaged in transparently and critically evaluating ways in which the multiplicity of backgrounds in the student body could better engage in theological education for the service of their communities and churches.

Kees van der Knijff | Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology

For me, it was one of the first times where I was able to spend more time with the faculty. Some of them I met for the first time, so it was good just to be with them and get to know them. We also discussed all kinds of education ABTS is offering today. It was very helpful just to know where we stand, where we come from and what we are doing now.

Caleb Hutcherson | Lecturer in Historical Theology

The retreat was a good opportunity to spend some extended, focused time together discussing the various programs in which faculty are or will be involved. With all the busyness of preparing and delivering online courses these days, taking the time to get away together allowed us to focus on reviewing those programs and plans.

Nabil Habiby | Lecturer in New Testament Studies

The faculty retreat was just the right blend of work and rest, all in a loving community of thinkers. The conversations around good food, during the sessions and during the breaks, were stimulating. I personally enjoyed staying up late to play board and card games with my colleagues. It was a needed breather after a tough year.

Wes Watkins | Assistant Professor of Missiology

Like all seminaries around the world, faculty retreats are a necessary time for planning and evaluation. At ABTS, it is no different, except maybe that we also have a lot of fun! With all the fun, we were able to challenge and sharpen each other in a community of trust as we strived to put student-centered learning for the service of the Kingdom at the forefront of our mission.

Walid Zailaa | Academic Dean, Assistant Professor of Old Testament, Head Librarian

The faculty retreat was a defining moment in our journey of seeking God’s wisdom and strength in the midst of all the crises in Lebanon. It was a great opportunity for ABTS faculty to look backward at our programs and initiatives, praising the Lord for His felt presence and looking forward to the future as we constantly strive to grow and adapt. On top of this, it was a wonderful time of worship as one body committed to serving the Lord in this part of the world.