Lebanon/Syria #3: Mission and Seminary Intersections
by Carlos Emilio Ham
The Lord has blessed me, providing the opportunity to visit various countries, many times. I have been to Lebanon and Syria before when I was serving at the World Council of Churches, and I have met over the years numerous groups from the United States of America, but this occasion of visiting these countries with a delegation of The Outreach Foundation is indeed a unique one. I am very positively impressed on how this Foundation takes so seriously its outreach mission of sharing the good news of the gospel of God’s kingdom with the people, particularly in a desperate situation, in these lands.
I appreciate the fact that Outreach plays a pontifical role to build bridges between people of various nations, i.e., that as a Cuban I can take part in this delegation. Furthermore, as the President of the Matanzas Evangelical Seminary of Theology (SET), I value the fact that my very first experience of the program was to visit the Near East School of Theology (NEST), in Beirut, with my dear friend Dr. Rob Weingartner, Outreach Executive Director. At the NEST we were graciously received and hosted by Dr. George Sabra, President and Professor of Systematic Theology.
NEST was founded in 1869 by American missionaries and is currently run by four church constituencies in the Middle East, namely the Arab Speaking Presbyterians, the Armenian Union, the Anglican Church and the Lutheran Church. It has around forty students and six full time professors who teach in English.
I was fascinated by all the things we have in common between NEST and SET. We are both ecumenical schools, run by different denominations, as we serve Christian denominations (which in both cases witness as minority churches) by training their pastors and leaders to carry out God’s mission. We take very seriously the social-political-economic-religious context where we are teaching theology. Due to our local constraints we are supported by sister organizations abroad. Development of spiritual life as part of the overall theological training is central. And we are both affected by the challenge of emigration in general and the “brain-drain” in particular, among other characteristics.
This was indeed a great beginning and I am very much looking forward to continuing learning from and being inspired by our dear brothers and sisters in this part of the world!
Rev. Carlos Emilio Ham, Matanzas Evangelical Seminary of Theology, Cuba