Near East School of Theology - Update

Beirut, Lebanon

From the President to the Graduates
(excerpt from Near East School of Theology (NEST) President Dr. George Sabra’s commencement speech)

A report conducted and published annually by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania ranks countries as part of an analysis project called the “Best Countries Report.” Thousands of people from over 80 countries responded to questions on the basis of 65 country attributes, e.g. economic influence and quality of life, to determine each country’s success as a modern nation. In 2018, for the second year in a row, Switzerland ranked as the world’s best country. Nowhere on the list can any country from the Middle East be found. There is also a section on the best country to raise children – Denmark ranks first. Again, no Middle Eastern country on the list. If you check the report about the safest countries in the world, Iceland ranks first but no Middle Eastern country is anywhere on the list.

Dear graduates, you all come from the Middle East, not only from Syria, where you were born and raised but also from Lebanon, where you have lived and studied. Neither Syria nor Lebanon figure anywhere among the best countries of the world, nor among the best to raise your children in, nor among the safest countries to live in. It is very likely that they rank somewhere at the very end of such listings. Yet, it is in these countries, at the very end of every list, that you live, have studied theology, and where you will continue to live and work.

A different type of report, the Holy Scriptures, tells us that it is precisely in this region of the world that God chose to reveal himself; it is in this region of the world that God formed a people and chose to accompany them; it is this region of the world that God chose for his son to be born and to be raised in order to fulfill God’s mission to the whole world. You have been trained in what is not one of the best countries in the world; you have been spiritually formed and theologically shaped in what is not one of the best countries to be raised in; you will be serving in very unsafe countries but your theological training and spiritual formation are excellent, not because of the grades you earned or the seminary that you studied in or the degrees you acquired, but because you will serve and dedicate your lives to the countries that are not the best in the world.

For our part, as a theological seminary, we measure our success not simply by our qualified teaching staff, or the number of volumes we have in our library, or the use of technology in learning, but by whether those who study here remain to serve and persevere in what are not the best places to be, and identify with, support, console, encourage, lead and minister to their brothers and sisters in those places which the world scorns and ranks last, but which figured first on God’s list. So, congratulations, dear graduates, not just because you received your degrees and finished your studies successfully, but because you will also put your education to use, and you will minister and serve where it is most needed in this world-forsaken, but not God-forsaken, region.

NEST President Dr. George Sabra
87th Commencement

The commencement keynote speaker was the Rev. Dr. Nadim Nassar (B.Th. ‘88), Director of the Awareness Foundation in the United Kingdom – a Christian foundation whose mission is to empower people of faith to embrace diversity and build peaceful and harmonious communities. His address was entitled: “The Christians of the Middle East – God’s Healing Hands.” Commencement was attended by the President of the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community of Syria and Lebanon, Rev. Joseph Kassab, as well as the Honorary President of the Council, Rev. Dr. Salim Sahiouny, President of Haigazian University, Dr. Paul Haidostian, board members as well as students, family and relatives of the graduates, and friends of NEST.

In other news, Outreach Executive Director Rob Weingartner and our partner Dr. Carlos Emilio Ham, President of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Matanzas, Cuba visited NEST on March 6. It was the first visit of the Cuban seminary to NEST. Dr. Ham discussed with Dr. Sabra the possibility of an exchange of students and professors.

As always, we are so grateful for your generosity allowing Outreach to come alongside the church in the Middle East in training church leaders. Their charge and their cause are ours as well. On their behalf, we say “Thank you.”

The Outreach Foundation

Read more about the Near East School of Theology HERE.

The Outreach Foundation is seeking $20,000 for scholarships and general operations at NEST. Make a gift HERE or by mailing a check to our office.