A number of years ago, we began to sense a prompting from the Lord to pray for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Our desire was to discern how and where God was calling us to engage in this region’s complicated political, social and spiritual environment.
Our first task was to figure out what God was already doing in MENA. Through interactions with existing partners, online research and country visits, we began to appreciate the richness and diversity of God’s active presence. Despite all the brokenness, complexities and hostilities, God has been raising up leaders and bringing people into relationship with him in increasing numbers.
Although life and ministry in MENA is more complicated than we first understood (and we actually thought it was very complicated), we also saw more of God’s light than we first imagined. There are many quality organizations doing much-needed work for those caught in the refugee crisis. The devastation of armed conflict, massive displacement and ongoing persecution has left millions struggling with access to clean water, sanitation, food, shelter, employment and education. There are dozens of Christian organizations working to meet these pressing needs. These NGOs are using every resource they can—from the local church to governments and the UN. They are working tirelessly to provide protection against the cold winter, essential medicines for the sick and food for the hungry. And in many different ways, they tell others about Jesus.
While we believe strongly in meeting the immediate concerns of those in need, our research, visits and prayerful discernment is leading us to invest in organizations that seem to be well positioned for long-lasting impact in the entire region – the kind of impact that will change the hearts and minds of those who are rich and powerful and those who have no power and no hope. We believe this kind of change can only occur as new generations of local faith-filled men and women are equipped and trained to take on leadership in the church, in the market place and in the government.
That inclination led us to the Lebanese Society for Education and Social Development (LSESD). LSESD exists to enable the church to remain relevant and maintain a vibrant witness in MENA. They seek to address the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of the community through holistic development programs.
They have a focus on education which the UN has declared is the universal ‘passport to human development’. They provide education for young children as well as emerging leaders in ministry. One of their core initiatives is the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) which trains men and women from across MENA to be Kingdom leaders in their nation of birth. They come from countries where Christian education and training is forbidden.
ABTS is home to the Institute of Middle East Studies, which seeks to transform the ways Christians and Muslims relate to one another. The Institute’s Master of Religion in MENA Studies, Middle East Consultation conference and peacebuilding initiatives all seek to equip Jesus-followers to show the love of God to Muslims in a gracious, truthful and culturally-relevant way.
LSESD focuses on a number of programs that address the high-level leadership needs in MENA, but they also do emergency relief. They use relief and development programs as training grounds for local leaders while helping displaced people and other vulnerable populations. Their development arm, MERATH (Middle East Revive and Thrive) partners with local churches and organizations in MENA to provide food assistance, health services, non-formal education, psychosocial support and more.
We know that we are in the early stages of understanding MENA and that LSESD is one piece of a large and rich Christian community serving here. But we’ve begun our engagement and for that we are grateful.
If you have questions about LSESD or any of the organizations we’ve researched in MENA, we would be happy to share. Please connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.