Our Mission committee recently received this update from Sherri Ellington. She and her husband Dustin serve as our Mission Partners in Lebanon, where Dustin trains pastors in his role as a Professor of New Testament at Arab Baptist Theological Seminary. May this update be encouraging and inspirational to you!
Greetings from Lebanon! Dustin and I arrived here a month ago, and it has been a whirlwind, first of back-to-back active ministry, then of trying to pull together some more practical aspects of making life work. But we are very happy to have landed in this place, and with these people.
Here are a few highlights of our first weeks in Lebanon:
The day after our arrival in Lebanon, Dustin left for three days, joining the rest of his ABTS colleagues for a faculty retreat less than an hour away in one of Lebanon’s beautiful mountain areas. It was a touching experience for him as, in addition to academic planning, faculty members took turns to share how God has been at work shaping their personal stories. Dustin deeply appreciated the mutual vulnerability in this heart-to-heart connecting, as well as times getting to know each other over meals and meetings in a beautiful setting. It helped reconfirm that this is a Christ-centered institution and these are good people to be serving with and joining our lives with for years to come.
Meanwhile, down closer to sea level – yet on what feels to her like a steep urban mountain, different from what she expected – Sherri enjoyed getting to know some of the other faculty spouses who stayed behind, visited a local church’s medical outreach, and made a couple of (successful!) trips back to the airport to locate our missing luggage as it trickled in on flights from Qatar.
The day after landing in Lebanon Dustin was whisked away to the ABTS Faculty Retreat in one of Lebanon’s beautiful mountainous areas close to Beirut.
Dustin enjoying colleague (and academic dean) Walid during a break at the Faculty Retreat
Dustin returned on a Friday from the retreat; Saturday was ABTS graduation! Despite our just having arrived, Dustin knew a number of the graduates, having taught them during his various intensive teaching trips to Lebanon beginning in 2015.
A really special aspect of graduation for us was that the main speaker was our friend Hani Hanna, accompanied from Egypt by his wife, Lucy! Hani and Lucy were our colleagues and friends when we served in Cairo, and Hani is the current president of the seminary there (ETSC), which has a very close relationship with ABTS. Getting to spend time with Hani and Lucy so soon after our return to the Middle East felt like a gift and added to a sense of this move to Lebanon being a part of God adding continuity to our lives. It was also helpful, particularly for me (Sherri), to have an old friend to talk with, as speaking Egyptian dialect with Lucy over the weekend helped revive my Arabic after 13 years away from the Middle East, thus helping loosen my tongue a bit toward speaking with Lebanese people as well.
We were delighted to have Hani and Lucy (friends from our Cairo years) visiting ABTS a few days after we arrived! Hani, who is currently president of ETSC in Egypt (which has a close relationship with ABTS) was the main graduation speaker here in Lebanon.
Then Sunday, the day after graduation, new students arrived on campus for a 10-day intensive module! (As you can see, very little time was wasted between activities during our first weeks at ABTS!)
The new students are a diverse group of delightful believers from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities including Syria, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, Libya, and Bahrain. As new arrivals ourselves, Dustin and I didn’t have many formal responsibilities but joined them daily for chapel and most meals, as well as some outings. This time together stretched and encouraged our Arabic. Because of their mix of nationalities, the dialects varied, but their general familiarity with Egyptian Arabic helped us get a foothold. Dustin preached to them in chapel (in Arabic) despite a strange energy-depleting illness that had come upon him the night before. As he was preparing he contemplated just doing it in English with a translator, because he feared making a lot of mistakes. But his colleague Walid, the academic dean, gave a good word: “Make mistakes! Make mistakes!” This felt liberating and is absolutely the attitude we need when trying to minister and do life in a foreign language.
New students and ABTS staff leading worship together at one of our daily chapel services
Once the students left and our whirlwind of the first 2+ weeks had subsided a bit, we set about in earnest finding an apartment and a car. These two tasks have involved more time and false starts than we expected, but we are finally getting very close to securing both! We appreciate prayer for things like payments to indeed work out smoothly, as the banking system in Lebanon is broken. Also, things like registering a car and getting the residence visa necessary to do so can take an extra long time since apparently some government offices are open just one day per week because employees are being paid only a fraction of what they’re accustomed to.
We recently discovered this tiny restaurant where the owner eagerly recommends delicious traditional Lebanese dishes for us to try. And… it’s located on the way home from the seminary to what will soon be our new apartment!
We also appreciate prayers…
*That we will be abiding in God and sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and that our work will flow from what God is already doing.
*For our Arabic language, that we would both grow in ability to communicate clearly and would learn to understand the Lebanese dialect better.
*Of thanksgiving to God that we get to serve alongside these committed and inspiring believers who seem to care about us.
*We are also thankful for God’s touch on our young adult sons in the U.S. and appreciate prayers for God to grow, guide, and establish them in Him more and more.
Finally, though we had enough financial support to make the move to Lebanon, we are still in need of one-time gifts and regular giving to raise our annual budget. Please consider a one-time gift as the year begins to draw toward a close, or a monthly or other regular gift through The Antioch Partners, our new sending organization. Click here to view our bio or to donate: https://www.theantiochpartners.org/partner-directory/dustin-sherri-ellington.
We are so thankful for all of you who pray for us and join with us in ministry in all the ways you do.
Sherri and Dustin Ellington