Lucy Dergarabedian

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Long-term Volunteer in Lebanon
Ecumenical Partner:  Near East School of Theology (NEST)

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About Lucy Dergarabedian’s ministry

Lucy serves as a long-term volunteer at the Near East School of Theology (NEST) in Beirut, Lebanon, an interdenominational Protestant seminary committed  to providing top-quality education  and training to Arab, Armenian and other Middle Eastern, African, European and American church leaders. In her role as chaplain, she provides counseling and spiritual mentoring to students, and she plans and leads chapel services. Lucy also teaches courses in Christian education and practical theology.

A graduate of and former teacher at NEST, Lucy is honored to be able to give back to the institution that has meant so much in her Christian formation and to serve as a role model for girls and young women in the Middle East who are contemplating ministry.

Country context

Lebanon, a country three-quarters the size of Connecticut, is home to around 5 million Lebanese citizens and another nearly 500,000 long-term Palestinian refugees, upwards of 2 million Syrian refugees and around 50,000 Iraqi refugees. Over the centuries, the area now known as Lebanon-especially the mountains of Lebanon-has been a place of refuge for Muslims, Christians and others seeking to escape persecution over the centuries.

Lebanon has ancient roots, with significant archeological ruins going back at least  to the Phoenician/Canaanite Semitic Empire of 3000 BCE, and signs of the Roman Empire’s presence remain abundant. Lebanon  is mentioned at least 71 times in the Old Testament, was visited both by Jesus (and his followers) and Paul, and has been home to Christians since the 1st century CE. Lebanon  continues  to be an incredibly diverse society, with 18 officially recognized religious identities-12 of them Christian, four Muslim, one Druze,  and one Judaic-and people from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. At least three languages are spoken in the country (Arabic, English and French), and many people are fluent in more than three languages.

Lebanon is also very cosmopolitan. Its citizens work around the globe in business, medical, engineering and technical fields. Home to some of the highest ranked universities and private primary and secondary schools in the region, Lebanon receives students from around the Middle East, Europe and the United States.

In the midst of this cultural wealth, Lebanon faces some significant economic challenges that impact health care and educational access for many Lebanese families, let alone those seeking refuge here. These economic challenges result from both internal challenges and the wars and tensions in the wider region. Economic realities are fueling a widening gap   between the wealthiest in Lebanon and the most economically vulnerable, and the middle class is shrinking. The economic pressures also increase the tensions between the many people groups in Lebanon, making even more needed the type of leadership that is being cultivated by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s many partners in Lebanon, leadership that is able to facilitate understanding and reconciliation between people groups and to forge creative partnerships. Partners in the region include the Near East School of Theology; the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon; the Lebanese American University and its Arab Institute for Women; the Middle East Council of Churches; the Fellowship  of Middle East Evangelical Churches; the Jinishian Memorial Program, which works with the Armenian community in Lebanon; the Joint Christian Committee, which seeks to address the concerns of the Palestinian community in Lebanon; the Blessed School, a school for students with a wide range of learning differences; and the Forum for Development, Culture, and Dialogue. Since the early 1800s, Presbyterian mission in the region has played a critical role in the development of many of these institutions, and the PC(USA) continues to collaborate with these partners as they engage the current challenges facing Lebanon,  the wider region and the diverse people who call these lands home.

About Lucy Dergarabedian

Having spent the first 30 years of her life in Lebanon, the Rev. Dr. Lucy Dergarabedian views returning to her home country as coming full circle.

In 1984, Lucy graduated with a masters in Christian education from the Near Eastern School of Theology (NEST), which even then was at the vanguard of educating future women leaders of the Middle Eastern church. During her time there, she was blessed with female mentors who served as models of female leadership. After graduating, she was honored to be able to teach at the NEST alongside these mentors. Lucy left Lebanon in 1989 to pursue further theological education in the U.S. She was ordained as a minister of Word and Sacrament in 1993.

From 1996 to 2016, Lucy worked as a chaplain with the U.S. Army. In addition to serving at a number  of bases throughout the U.S., she had a tour of service in South Korea; was deployed to Iraq; and worked  in the Wounded  Warrior  Unit  at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.  Her call  to chaplaincy was rooted  in  her desire  to emulate Christ. “Christ reached out  to the marginalized  and gave them hope,” Lucy says. “That’s what I tried to do as well, in whatever form it came.” Soldiers returned from active duty with physical and emotional wounds. Some suffered from post-traumatic stress and substance-abuse disorders, and many struggled as they attempted to reintegrate into civilian  life. In  ministering to soldiers and their families, Lucy explains, her goal was to “help them see that Jesus Christ is able to intervene, heal and transform.”

In 2017, Lucy was invited by the NEST to lead one of their Christmas services in Beirut. On this trip, she met with NEST President Dr. George Sabra and learned of the institution’s need for a Christian education teacher. As she visited Syrian Christian refugee elementary schools in Lebanon with Rev. Suhail Saoud, the educational coordinator of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, she saw firsthand the fruits of PC(USA) mission partnership. In witnessing the needs of schools, churches, orphanages and retirement homes, Lucy sensed a strong call to return to her home country to serve as a PC(USA) long-term volunteer.

Lucy earned master’s degrees from the NEST in Beirut; the Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, Virginia; and Union Seminary, also in Richmond. In 2016, she received her Doctorate of Ministry in Christian education from Erskine Theological Seminary in South Carolina. At present, she is a student in American Sign Language (ASL).

Lucy’s mother, Berlant, will be accompanying Lucy to Beirut, where she has a large extended family.