Mission worker: Nuhad Tomeh, regional liaison for Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Kuwait and the Gulf
Crisis in Syria
Get the latest updates on the ongoing crisis in Syria here.
Presbyterians have been involved in Syria from the early 1800s, when early American Presbyterian missionaries came to the Near East. American Presbyterians took the lead in Syria, as they had in Lebanon, in education, health care and church development. However, most mission work has been united in Syria (and Lebanon) under one mission society, which included Presbyterians from Scotland and Ireland and Lutherans from Denmark. In 1956 the Mission Society of Syria and Lebanon encouraged and helped develop national leadership in the two countries, and the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon was established. The National Synod now is responsible for all churches, schools and hospitals that were under the mission. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) continues its involvement through mission personnel working with the National Evangelical Synod, although there are none currently assigned.
The church and the Arab SPRING
Although the current wave of protests in the Middle East is not an entirely new phenomenon, the beginning of the Arab Spring is said to be December 17, 2010, when a young, unemployed Tunisian man by the name Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself after officials had blocked his attempts to make a living selling vegetables without a permit.
By the grace of God and through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a rich and remarkable history in Syria and Lebanon. Not only has God used Presbyterian Christians to impact thousands of lives in Syria and Lebanon themselves, God has used these Christians to impact countless lives throughout the entire Middle East and far beyond.
Begun in 1823, the NESSL is one of the earliest active and continuing overseas mission outreaches for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).Through this mission Presbyterian churches throughout Syria and Lebanon were planted.The entire Bible was translated into Arabic and printed in that language for the first time.World-class educational institutions were established; for example, the American University at Beirut, Beirut College for Women [now a full university known as Lebanese American University] and some 20 elementary and secondary schools). Health institutions (e.g., Hamlin Hospital) and other ministries were started and have continued to flourish. The church is challenged with rebuilding its membership after a 17-year civil war in Lebanon and devastating conditions resulting from recurring Middle East conflicts.
The NESSL owns and operates an excellent conference center known as Dhour El Choueir Conference Center. Located in a gorgeous area of the mountains east of Beirut, this is the original camp and conference site of the Presbyterian Mission in Syria and Lebanon. The center is now fully renovated after near total destruction during the civil war (when it had been occupied by warring factions). Today the center is throbbing with activities for children, youth, women and families. It is also a popular location for conferences and retreats. The Synod considers Dhour El Choueir Conference Center to be a major locus for continuing education of clergy and laity. (Note: If you would like more information on Dhour El Choueir Conference Center — availability, rates, etc. — please contact Najla Kassab or visit the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon website.
The NESSL also owns and operates Hamlin Hospital, an institution of distinction in the area of health care. Hamlin Hospital was originally an emphysema clinic located in the cool, fresh air of the mountains just east of Beirut. Later Hamlin also developed into a mother and child hospital. During the civil war it served Lebanon as a general emergency hospital. Hamlin Hospital is now reconstituting itself as a specialty hospital for geriatric, nursing and other services in accordance with the emerging needs of its mountainous location.
Near East School of Theology
The Near East School of Theology (NEST) is a high-level theological seminary located in Beirut. With roots tracing all the way back to 1835, NEST was actually founded in 1932 with the merger of two theological schools: one from Turkey and one from Lebanon. From the beginning NEST has always been multi-national, multi-confessional and, multi-cultural,” (George F. Sabra, Truth and Service: A History of the Near East School of Theology, Librarie Antoine: 2009, p. 125) serving Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Lutherans and Episcopalians from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine/Israel, Turkey, Iran and several African nations. NEST is committed to providing top-quality education and training to Arab, Armenian, other Middle Eastern, African and European church leaders. NEST prepares individuals for pastoral, academic and other church leadership positions throughout the region.
The Syria-Lebanon Mission Network is still in its formative stages. This network is one among more than 40 networks that connect Presbyterians who share a common mission interest. Most participants are involved in mission partnerships through congregations, presbyteries or synods. Network members come together to coordinate efforts, share best practices, and develop strategies.
For information, contact Nuhad Tomeh.
See the 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, pp. 307, 309