• October 15, 2016
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    The story of the new leader of Jordanian Baptists - By Daoud Kuttab
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The story of the new leader of Jordanian Baptists - By Daoud Kuttab

In the summer of 2007 the family of engineer Suheil Madanat was surprised by an unprecedented decision.

 
The engineer, working for one of the top companies in the world Dar al Handash, had decided to quit his senior management job and join a seminary in the United States at his own expense. Suheil’s spiritual passion was not new. He has written tens of hymns and published books about the lives of Christian servants in Jordan.
 
His relatives and friends couldn’t understand his decision. Why would someone give up a great job in return for an MA in apologetics and theology, they wondered. After all Suheil had already received an MA in engineering project management from the UK. He has been so successful that he could have become a partner in the prestigious Dar al Handasah engineering firm.
 
What made people even more amazed was the fact that Suheil refused to apply for any scholarship. He said that he didn’t want to be beholden to anyone. He had decided to pay for his higher education from his own pocket even though he needed to help pay for the schooling of his two boys Layth and Loyai.
 
Three years later, Suheil returned to Amman after received two masters degrees from Bayola University in California. He was surprised to be asked by the pastor of the Amman Baptist Church Fawaz Omeish to help in serving the congregation based on a unanimous decision by the Church committee. Suheil was ordained a Baptist pastor and was appointed as pastor of the Amman Baptist Church.
 
Suheil agreed to serve as pastor but refused to be paid for it, a decision which surprised many because the Amman church finances are strong and the church supports pastors and missionaries in Jordan and outside the country.
 
Still family and friends wanted to know how Suheil was going to cover his family needs especially since he had decided to apply for a PhD online that requires a number of trips to the US every year on his own expense.
 
But God works in mysterious ways.
 
The engineering company he was working with offered him a consultancy job with a much higher pay than he used to make and with less hours. He agreed on condition that he is allowed to off on Sundays (a working day in the Middle East) and the fact that he needs to travel a number of times every year for his follow up education.
 
His church responsibilities were not easy as he faced a church with internal conflicts and partisanship. Reverend Suheil began to work quietly to deal with these problems and to bring back a sense of unity and cooperation. His efforts also extended to the larger Baptist denomination in Jordan.
 
Baptists run a number of schools and conference centers in Jordan. Around ten Baptist Churches are spread throughout Jordan providing a place of worship to a few thousand worshipers. Christians in Jordan number around 250,000 with the largest numbers belonging to the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Five evangelical churches including the Baptists are said to be less than 10,000 members. While all Christians including Evangelicals are allowed to worship but despite that they are not yet recognized by the government as an official church which prevents its members from any role in personal status including weddings, divorce, custody and inheritance issues thus forcing its members to obtain the needed personal issues through one of the other recognized denominations.
 
The general assembly of Jordan’s Baptists met on Friday 14th of October and it brought another surprise.
Rev. Suheil had decided to participate in the elections of a new church council in order to try and push some of his ideas to reform the church by amending its constitution and by laws. Suheil was worried about the direction that the Church was going and felt he needed to be part of this change. He didn’t lobby anyone nor ask any member to vote or him. It didn’t take long before it became clear that there would be no elections. Three of the ten candidates withdrew leaving the seven mandated members of the council to win by acclamation. The office of the president of the Baptist Denomination in Jordan is supposed to be elected by the general assembly. Four leaders including Suheil, had nominated themselves for that position but again there was no vote taking. Three of his potential competitors withdrew leaving Reverend Suheil Madanat with the mandate to lead the Church for the next three years.
 
Nine years ago the engineer Suheil Madanat left his professional life to join a seminary in a clear response to a divine calling. Today after he has won the presidency of the Baptist Church in Jordan many are pointing to the words of Jesus in Mathew 23: 11& 12
 
“The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
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