Q: What were the objectives of the trip? What places did you visit?
A: This trip was part of an exciting project ABTS is undertaking to assess the impact it’s making in the lives of graduates, their churches, and the communities in which they’re ministering. After finishing interviews and focus groups with graduates in Lebanon, we packed our bags and traveled to the capitals of both Egypt and South Sudan to interview our alumni there. We had three main objectives:
- Assess the impact of ABTS with questions like: “How well did ABTS prepare the graduates for ministry? How are they impacting the ministries where they serve? How are these ministries impacting the wider community?”
- Understand differences in cultural context, and get feedback to improve the curriculum: “What are the issues the churches and communities are facing? What is required of an effective Christian leader in this context?”
- Reconnect with graduates and be mutually encouraged.
This last point wasn’t an objective we had to work towards, but rather something that happened organically. One of the most encouraging moments was at a dinner in South Sudan which gathered together all the ABTS graduates in Juba. Each graduate spoke with so much gratitude and love for the people (fellow students, teachers, staff) at ABTS who touched their lives. In the same way, this fellowship touched our lives; and we consider ourselves blessed to be connected with so many amazing Christian leaders all over the Arab world.
Q: Can you develop a brief description of the communities you have visited?
A: The communities we visited varied quite a bit in their needs and challenges. Some ABTS alumni are ministering in areas that are quite poor. One graduate is pastoring a church in an area of Cairo sometimes called ‘Garbage City,’ where many residents make their income sorting garbage. Despite the struggles (including health hazards) being faced, these church members meet every day of the week to pray and sing praises to God. Throughout our interviews in Egypt, the major challenges centered around ministry to non-Christians, and the need for new leaders to be trained in this area. The major themes in South Sudan had more to do with the complex social situation of a new nation, with citizens returning from all over the world. There is openness to the gospel, and many churches are growing rapidly; and so graduates emphasized the great need for more leaders with solid theological training.
Q: How is ministry done amid all the political, social and economic challenges and changes?
A: Indeed these are very dynamic times in our region and in each country where ABTS graduates are serving. We were in Egypt during the protests leading up to the recent referendum, and it was clear many church communities were feeling the tension of social unrest. But despite the uncertainty that ABTS graduates are feeling, many of their ministries are thriving; spurred on by a sense of urgency and a desire to see God’s peace lived-out in their communities.
Q: What are the ministries that our alumni are involved in?
A: Many ABTS graduates are pastors of churches, from large congregations to small home-church ministries. But more and more, graduates are choosing less traditional Christian ministry roles. Some graduates have been called to plant churches, like one Egyptian couple who are now serving in Tunisia. Others are involved in meeting practical needs, such as counselling or mobile-clinic ministry. And still many others are using the training received at ABTS to train and equip other leaders for effective ministry.
Q: What are the prayer requests of our alumni?
A: There are many challenges for Christian leaders in the Arab world, not least of all in countries with rising fundamentalism. But there are also an abundance of opportunities. Please pray for the safety of ABTS alumni in these countries; their churches, communities, and organizations. But also pray for the boldness of believers, for doors to be opened for ministry and service, and for hearts to be open to God’s great love.
Also pray for additional funding opportunities; that ABTS could continue to support alumni with new, contextually relevant training.
And finally, please pray for God to raise up new leaders within churches; with a passion for service and new, creative ways to reach out to their communities.