“God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. He has an inexhaustible enthusiasm for the supremacy of His name among the nations. Therefore, let us bring our affections into line with His, and, for the sake of His name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join His global purpose” (John Piper).
As I write, Susie and I have just (late last night!) again returned from Lebanon. We were joined (for the second ministry trip this year, the earlier one to Ukraine) by Drs. Nicolas and Vanessa Ellen of Houston who served as team-teachers for our Marriage and Family Counseling course.
The introductory paragraphs of this blog are the same as those of an earlier posting. They’re intended to give context to the reflections that follow them.
“God has given OIC the privilege of training biblical counseling trainers around the world. Our strategic objective—assisting in the initial creation and continuing development of national biblical counseling training and certifying organizations—is being realized in the Philippines, Australia, the CIS, Russia, various European nations, and in the Middle East. Both of our delivery systems, Leadership Training (Modular Programs) and Academic Training (Degree Programs) eventuate toward this same goal.
Because we’ve just returned from extended ministry with our Arab brothers and sisters, that part of the world is, today, especially on our hearts. In partnership with a well-respected, regionally-accredited, Christian academic institution (the largest in the Middle East), OIC currently directs graduate degree programs (Master of Biblical Counseling) in both Egypt and Lebanon. A similar program is scheduled to begin in Jordan in Fall, 2014.”
What’s Really Happening in the Middle East?
I don’t really know—and I don’t think very many Americans actually understand the complexity of the regional conflicts and political tensions in that area of the world. What little we do know is this: Evil men are killing other evil men (and innocent civilians) to accomplish an evil agenda. This is human depravity on display for all the world to see!
We also know that the students in our MBC program in Lebanon, faithful Christian men and women from Lebanon, Syria, and Morocco, are under constant pressure because of the changing demographics of that area. Lebanon alone, which as of this writing has no sitting government, has received about 750,000 refugees from Syria in the last two years, the sheer quantity of which has overwhelmed the educational and social services capacity of the government and driven out-of-balance the fragile power-sharing agreement that has allowed there to be both peace and stability in that “Europe of the Middle East” nation for years.
Among those refugees are some of our students. Four of them were able to cross the border. Thirteen others could not. One student, a woman from Syria, lived with her children in the bathtub in their flat in Aleppo for several months because of the constant bombing. She and her family are now safe in Egypt. Another student, a pharmacist, who had earlier sent his wife and a daughter on ahead to Germany, was traveling with his two teens to the Damascus airport recently. The minivan just ahead of them was bombed and all 11 occupants were killed. Their taxi was fired upon from three directions, but our Lord spared their lives and brought them safely to Lebanon.
And we know that, ignored by the media, Christian leaders—including our graduates and current students—are meeting these real human needs by starting Christian schools and providing care for thousands of Syrians families. One church alone is ministering to more than 1000 refugee families a week and leading hundreds of them to faith in Christ.
How is Biblical Counseling Training Received and Implemented?
On the one hand, it seems nonsensical for us to be administering a graduate degree program concerning a ministry skill in the middle of a war zone. One the other hand, since biblical counseling is soul care and individualized redemptive discipleship, there is perhaps no more needed ministry skill than this one!
One of our Syrian students, an orthopedic surgeon, lost his home in Aleppo. Having moved to Homs, his home was again bombed into rubble. He and his wife now live in a church in Damascus that is pastored by his brother. He provides medical care for those suffering war-related injuries. And he shares the gospel.
This surgeon has asked me to assist in helping him establish biblical counseling training in his church. The influential pastor of a significant church in Lebanon whose large Christian school is 75% Muslim children, is asking for the same kind of help.
What Does the Future Hold?
If this question concerns the political and economic future of the Middle East, the answer is the same as before: no one knows.
But if this question concerns the spiritual future of the region, the future is bright—there will be peace in the Middle East. Jesus will return!
While we wait for that glorious day, we are more excited than ever to serve our Arab brothers and sisters by providing training in biblical sufficiency-based personal ministry and a growing library of biblical counseling-related books.
Join the Conversation
How are you or your church praying for and/or assisting Arab believers?