Biblical Counseling Training in the Near East * An Encouraging Update on a Burgeoning Movement: Part 2

May 26, 2017

Wayne Vanderwier

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Wayne Vanderwier

In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of His people from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. Isaiah 11:11

Yesterday, we discussed the Lord’s recent work in the area of biblical counseling in Egypt. Today, we will look at the countries of Lebanon and Jordan.

Satisfying the Gatekeepers in Lebanon

The situation in Lebanon was totally different. The theological school with which we had partnered in Egypt had a desire to begin a program in biblical studies in Lebanon. But when the influential leaders of the church there (the “gatekeepers”) heard what was happening in Egypt, they demanded that the school offer the same degree as was being offered in Egypt. They said, in essence, “Give us the MBC (Master of Biblical Counseling) or don’t come.” The graduate program that began in 2011 at Dhour Choueir had 30 students, 16 from the host nation of Lebanon and 14 from next-door neighbor, Syria. That same year the civil war broke out in Syria. Nevertheless, 5 years later, in 2016, 10 of the original cohort, including 3 from Syria, marched across a platform to receive their diploma. The war in Syria not only decimated the ranks of our MBC cohort, but it changed the character of the nation of Lebanon. A country of 4 million was required to absorb 2 million refugees in just over three years. But our students – and the evangelical pastors in Lebanon – saw an opportunity. Now, away from the cultural and familial pressures that denied these refugees even an opportunity to hear the gospel, and having been turned away by the leaders of their own religion because of cultural prejudice, these people were given, and were receptive to, the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. Many thousands of them have come to faith in Christ. And the need for well-equipped, culturally-aware, and culturally-sensitive biblical counselors has risen exponentially. More work must yet be done in training Lebanese pastors in biblical counseling. They are ready. But our missionaries are busy in other nations around the world. Who will go?

Lighting the Candle in Jordan

The security and economic conditions in Jordan are better than the other nations in which we serve in the Near East, but the landscape of the evangelical church is just as difficult to navigate. In March of 2012, I taught the same Introduction to Biblical Counseling course for the same school as I had done in Egypt in 2007. It was well-received. One of our Egypt program graduates, a pastor’s wife in Amman, urged us to begin our Church Leadership Training program through their church. That process has begun. And I’ll return to Jordan in September to teach another graduate class in another program. The biblical counseling movement in Jordan is still in its earliest days.

A Future as Bright as the Promises of God

Our strategic objective has been and remains, “assisting in the initial creation and/or continuing development of national, culture-specific biblical counseling certifying organizations.” The Near East is hard soil in realizing this goal. But by God’s grace and through the dedicated efforts of choice servants of our Lord in this region, incremental progress is being made. In a place where the teachings of another book are followed by the majority, God’s Word is penetrating hearts and changing churches. Having a front row seat to watch this unfold is a “marvelous grace of our loving Lord.” Questions for Reflection What has been your experience in working in the Near East? How can we more effectively serve our brothers and sisters in these lands? Do you have a heart to do biblical counseling training in this region? * I’m using the term “Near East” in a technical sense to differentiate this region from the Middle East (primarily the Arabian Peninsula) and the Far East (Asia).