Equipping Arab servant leaders for the Arab world

Curate’s Letter - March 2003

Frederick serves St Peter’s Church as Curate. He is also the Executive Director of OC Team, a charity which facilitates the training of Christian Leaders in the developing nations, that they may be equipped to be effective pastors, teachers, evangelists, missionaries and lay readers in their own culture, context and language.

Sitting on the bank of the River Jordan at the point where Jesus was baptised, our small group read the passage from Mark’s Gospel:

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mk 1:9-11)

We prayed, conscious that we were journeying together, ‘walking in the footsteps of our Saviour Jesus Christ’. As the sun settled on the West Bank, we looked across the river to Israel where in the distance the evening lights of Jerusalem were beginning to shine. We reflected on the beauty of the countryside and the contrast with the conflicts of human kind, the military rule, the curfews and the disruption to ‘normal’ life that those in Israel (and elsewhere) suffer now as they did two thousand years ago when Christ Jesus was baptised here! We had hoped to travel to Bethlehem and Nazareth but could not due to the military restrictions. We saw military personnel and vehicles on alert, the constant reminders of the prospect of war with neighbouring Iraq, which will impact the world. If ever we needed reminding why Jesus Christ came into the world this was it. He is the ‘Hope for the World’ - for he came in “Grace and Truth”!

Our small group of three had travelled in December to Jordan in response to an invitation of Dr Imad Shahadeh, to stay on campus with the Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary (JETS). We went with the expressed purpose of:

  • being with them, sharing the joys and concerns with staff and students
  • praying together, learning together, hearing and loving them
  • reviewing the management, faculty, library, academic facilities,
  • accounting and administration
  • reviewing the new campus development proposals
  • building relationships for the future
  • hearing from the College how we can be most effective partners with them for the Gospel of Jesus Christ

We were so impressed by the quality of people we met, whether staff or student, with their integrity, holiness, intellect, humility, vision and at the same time aspiring to excellence in all things for the Kingdom of God.

Taking time to meet students each morning and afternoon was more encouraging than words can express! We met in pairs and spent two hours together each day. Each student gave a clear statement of God’s call on their lives, how God is working through them at JETS and what ministry they are called to for the Kingdom of God. These men and women are having an impact upon the Arab nations which will affect how peoples live and the direction the Middle East nations will take in the future. When we concluded each session together we asked how we may pray for them. I have been challenged, as I believe that we must all be challenged by these students. How great is our expectation of God? Just what is the ‘Will of God’ over Iraq? Is war part of God’s plan? Or might we seek God’s mercy and guidance for a transformation of the Iraqi leadership and the peoples of the Middle East, to know the love of Jesus Christ, the Peace and Justice of government that reflects Kingdom Principles! How might God respond to the millions of Christians in the West, coming together in prayer, to intercede for Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Jordan and all the Arab world? I believe that our view of the Might and Sovereign Nature of God is probably diminished by the ‘reasonableness and rational’ of our own world view. I am very challenged by students at JETS who have the strongest desire to serve and follow Jesus Christ, however different from the world view, and to go where God has sent them, even Baghdad to plant a church! As one student said to me, “the safest place in the world is ‘in the Will of God’!”

God’s call on JETS is clear to me. One of their students who exemplifies the character and qualities of a leader called by God, who is now being trained at JETS, is Imad. He comes from Egypt, twenty eight years old, served in the Egyptian army, which is where God called him! He has been involved in planting churches in Egypt and encouraging young people to know how to be an effective follower of Jesus Christ. JETS is equipping him to be effective, accountable and mature in his faith and his ministry. He understands the importance of context, culture and language and the needs of the Egyptian people as he comes from that country. OC Team prayer and donor partners are enabling Imad to fulfil his calling by supporting him through the scholarship programme we are administering. Please be encouraged to support others at JETS.

I had the joy and privilege of preaching at an Iraqi Church, which has experienced numerical and spiritual growth on a scale which defies our own experience and reason! The leadership are called to disciple the Iraqi peoples and to enlarge the church. They are called by God to open new churches north of Bagdad! More leaders have to be equipped immediately and that brings me back to JETS. The College has nearly one hundred students and the demand for more places is immense. JETS has purchased a site for the new campus. The drawings for the new academic blocks, chapel, library, administration, conference hall and residences have been prepared after much consideration and study, specifications and cost estimates prepared, together with development programmes and the work can now begin! The ground breaking ceremony is planned for the summer of this year. Please let us prayerfully join them in fulfilling the vision for a College worthy of training Arab servant leaders for the Arab people.

I am encouraged, as I trust you are, by those Church leaders who have Vision for God’s Work amongst the peoples of the Middle East. What might God’s Vision be for the people of Nottingham and this nation? May we join together to seek God’s Will and Purpose for our lives and the lives of all peoples in this nation and the nations of the world.

Frederick Connell


© St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 9th February 2003