Through the Vital SustainAbility Initiative, ScholarLeaders works with leading theological schools to clarify each school’s mission and develop long-range, holistic plans to sustain that particular calling. These schools form leaders for Christian service and develop theological reflections that bring Biblical truth to bear on some of the most pressing needs faced by the Church in their contexts. Over the next four weeks, we will share video highlights from four leaders who each serve as President of a theological school. They help to advance the Kingdom in their unique contexts.
This week, please join us in prayer for Dr. Elie Haddad, President of Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) in Lebanon. We congratulate Elie on successfully defending his dissertation last week and earning his PhD in Missional Ecclesiology from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
The Republic of Lebanon is bordered by Syria to the north and the east, Israel to the south, and the Mediterranean Sea to the west. Once settled by the Ancient Canaanites and Phoenicians, the region later flourished as a Christian center. Today, Lebanon is home to nearly 7 million people, of whom 58% follow Islam, 36% Christianity, and 5% Druze, an esoteric religion that arose in the twelfth century during the Arab Muslim Conquests. In recent years, thousands of Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon. Currently, the country is facing a dire economic crisis, evident in its 40% decline in GDP since 2018. Over 40% of Lebanese households are struggling obtain food and basic necessities.
Elie has led ABTS since 2008. ABTS trains leaders across the Arabic-speaking world. Located in Beirut, the school has felt the effects of Lebanon’s many crises over the last few years, including the Syrian refugee crisis, last year’s Port of Beirut explosions, economic collapse, and COVID. Amid these challenges, ABTS has continually found new ways to prepare leaders, meet the community’s immediate needs, and preach the hope that only comes through the Gospel. In response to student needs, Elie is currently leading ABTS’s transition from residential to hybrid learning.
In the video below, Elie reflects on how crisis pushes faith into action:
Elie shares the following prayer requests:
1) Pray for ABTS’s students. We have the fun part, which is working with them. We love what we do. They, however, often have to face consequences for their faith and ministry in their home countries.
2) Pray for us as we navigate the transition from offering residential programs to running online programs. This transition has already increased our capacity to train more leaders. Our residential program’s capacity was 40 students; now, with this new hybrid model, we can train up to 120 students. That’s incredible, but it’s also put a lot of pressure on us.
3) Developing critical thinkers is very important to us, but most of our students have no library access, as most of our studies are online. So now, we have to work on an Arabic digital library.
4) We’re also trying to explore how best to form students holistically when we’re not living in the same community. Instead of having one community at ABTS, as in the past, we’re trying to have our faculty work with each student’s community, wherever they are, so that the community can also grow as the student is growing.
5) With our faculty working mostly online, it has become difficult to define boundaries between work and not-work. Everyone is overstretched. We see too many exciting opportunities and have too few staff, which creates a lot of pressure.
6) Pray for churches in Lebanon as they continue to be faithful to what God is calling them to do in this time of economic and political upheaval.