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December 2023 Newsletter: Ministry Amid Instability
December 15, 2023

Equipping the Church in its Context

Our Peacemaking and Non-formal Theological Training Workshops Branch Out

The Arab Church has lived through a lot of turbulent circumstances in recent years. Despite this, it continues sharing the hope of Christ with hopeless communities while also facing difficulties of its own. Our Peacemaking and Non-formal Theological Training workshops, which emerged out of conversations on how we could better serve the Church, seek to meet the needs of the Arab Church in a holistic and adaptable manner.

This year, as the workshops grew, and as travel returned to normal, we were able to begin taking our workshops to the regional Church. “As we meet these churches in their own contexts,” shared Director of Peacemaking and Non-formal Training Bassem Melki, “we can understand their hurts, sympathize with and encourage them, and come alongside them as much as we can through our training workshops.” This is an important part of our ministry as we seek to equip faithful women and men for effective ministry through the Arab Church.

Ambassadors of Peace in Egypt

The Ambassadors of Peace program aims to equip Church youth and youth ministry workers with dialogue and peacemaking skills so they can serve as peacemakers in their churches and communities. During the first week of September 2023, Reem El Khoury, our Peacemaking Field Coordinator held a 4-day training conference for the Presbyterian Evangelical Church in Luxor where she trained 20 of the church’s youth ministry members and leaders through the Ambassadors of Peace curriculum. “There was a lot of healing for the youth who attended the conference” shared Reem. “They were able to build bonds of friendship and communicate their needs and thoughts confidently, knowing that they were doing so in a safe environment.”

One of the youths who attended the training shared:
I felt that I was heard and deeply encouraged during this training. I was able to voice out the challenges and difficulties I face at my university because I belong to a minority group. I was also able to recognize and come up with ideas to face bullying in a manner that helped me be a peacemaker!

Peacemaking and Non-formal Theological Training for Churches in North Africa

The church in one of the countries in North Africa faces a lot of persecution. Believers are not allowed to meet in large groups, so they form many small groups made up of 5 people or less and meet up in each other’s homes. They are disconnected from each other, so they often cannot recognize each other in their society. The church members are also mostly cut off from other churches in the world. Because of this, and because they do not have any churches where they can meet, this North African Church often lacks a sense of community. Furthermore, because they are restricted in practicing their faith and are unable to easily access the Bible, there are many church traditions and practices that they are not familiar with.

This past November, our team was able to support Church leaders from this country through a week of workshops. The training workshops were organized by the Nazarene Church in a neighboring country where it is easier for them to gather. During the morning sessions of the workshops, Abdel Kareem Zien El Dien, a member of our faculty, helped the leaders work through the theme of holiness in the Bible. Talking about the workshops, Abed Shared:
We were able to train 10 men and 3 women who are leaders of home groups in their country. These people have a great hunger for God, so it was a blessing for us to come alongside them in their journey. During my sessions, I helped the group work through the theme of holiness in the gospel. We talked about the metanarrative of holiness and traced it all the way from Genesis to Revelation. We talked about the relationship between holiness and land. We also talked about what it means to be a holy nation devoted to a holy God and how we can live out this holiness with each other. Because the group comes from an oral tradition, I adapted the content to suit their context and asked them to use the material to train others and report back to us when we come back. This way, we can help them sustain the knowledge they are gaining by propagating it in their home groups.

As the days went on, we could see a strong sense of community emerge among the group. This was especially apparent when we took time to pray and reflect on the word together. Often, if one of them prayed, then they would all be encouraged to pray. At the end of the week, one of the leaders shared that the sense of community that emerged among them was just as enriching and empowering as the trainings they had undergone. His words were very encouraging for us.
In the afternoons, Bassem held sessions for the leaders on inner peace. Bassem shared:
These leaders come from a context where they are always guarded and where they cannot show their emotions, so there is a lot that they wanted to say but could not. So, confession was an important topic for them. We talked about how we need to confess our feelings and sins to God so that we may receive healing. We also talked about how confessing to those we hurt can help us begin to restore broken relationships. At one point, one of the men started praying and confessing his sins, and it moved all of us. At the end, we talked a lot about how we can sanctify our emotions, thoughts, and motives, and we ended the workshops with a foot-washing service that really brought out what we had talked about and the sense of community that had developed among the leaders.
The Sunday after the workshops were done, the team held sessions for the Nazarene Church on conflict resolution, confession, reconciliation, and the role of the church as a peacemaker in its community.

A Peacemaking Church in Egypt

In December, the team went again to Egypt, but this time to train and equip the leaders and ministry team members of the Ezbat El Nakhel Baptist Church, a church that is pastored by our graduate Ashraf. “Our focus was on the role of the church as a peacemaker”, shared Bassem.
We often think that the body of Christ needs to look outwards, but it is also important for us to look inwards. During the workshop, we focused on how we as believers have a responsibility to respond to the Spirit in how it is calling us to be formed and act towards ourselves before we can serve our families and churches. I have a responsibility to discover what my talent is and how I can use it to serve the body of Christ and the community.

With how difficult the situation is for them, the church members are tired, so we talked a lot about broken heartedness, about how we are called to be sympathetic and supportive of other people. The Lord healed a lot of hearts that day. It was a blessing.
This is an important period in the life of the Church. As the region continues to face wars, violence, oppression, and crises, there arises an opportunity for us to be His salt and light in the region. “Unresolved conflict is our biggest enemy,” shared Bassem. “Our unity now is our credibility. This is why it is important for us to come alongside the Church and help equip it so that it can reach out with the gospel while also looking in with the love of Christ.”