Program Details

MEI History

The Middle East Immersion program (formerly the Lebanon Practicum) initially launched in 2007 as a partnership between the Institute of Middle East Studies and Fuller Theological Seminary’s School of Intercultural Studies.

The Lebanon Practicum was designed to allow seminary or intercultural studies students the opportunity to earn academic credit in fulfillment of intercultural practicum requirements while simultaneously exposing them to the culture and heritage of the Middle East, in line with IMES’s institutional mandate to bring about positive transformation in the thinking and practice between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East and beyond.

Since 2007 students from Fuller Theological Seminary, Truett Seminary, Biola University, and Bethel Seminary, among others, have spent their summer quarters in Lebanon studying under the guidance of IMES Director Martin Accad, Professor of Islamic Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary, California and Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, Lebanon. Students have come from a variety personal and professional backgrounds and degree programs.

Now in its 9th year, the primary operations of the newly renamed Middle East Immersion program have been assumed by a significantly expanded Institute of Middle East Studies, and we are partnering with a variety of graduate theological and intercultural studies programs.

MEI Academics

Middle East Immersion students have the opportunity to earn academic credit in fulfillment of intercultural practicum or practical ministry requirements. Please find a description of our MEI Lebanon courses below:

Middle East Consultation Course

Hosted annually by IMES, the purpose of the Middle East Consultation (MEC) is “to equip participants to respond in prophetic and Christ-like ways to the many challenges facing Christians and Muslims in and beyond the Middle East.” Now in it’s 11th year, the consultation draws Muslim and Christian clerics, students, and scholars who gather for the purpose of learning, discussion, and dialogue. All MEI students are required to participate in this consultation which counts as 4 academic credits. For additional information about IMES’s Middle East Consultation, please click here.

Upon completion of the Middle East Consultation, the remainder of time in Lebanon is split between Arabic classes and an intercultural immersion experience.

Levantine Arabic

This course consists of 45 hours of in-class Arabic language learning through the Academy of Languages and Practical Skills (ALPS) located in Beirut’s vibrant Hamra district. Course levels are available from beginner through advanced, and the school specializes in the Levantine dialect of Arabic. The vision of ALPS is to “use learning of Arabic as a means to bridge the linguistic and cultural divide between people, increasing understanding and cooperation between individuals and institutions in the Middle East and in the World.”

Cross-Cultural Work in Context

For this course, participants are placed in an immersion experience that pertains to their specific vocational interests. With an array of non-profit organizations and ministries to choose from, this placement may focus on refugee populations, children at risk, community development, migration, women’s issues, or other similar opportunities. For more information about the various organizations with which we partner, please click here.

MENA Studies 501

MENA Studies 501 is an intensive master’s level course focusing on topics related to Middle Eastern and North African religion/s, including the multifaceted dimensions of both MENA Islam and Christianity, as well as culture, history, politics and economics, current trends, and intercultural and interfaith interactions. This course serves as an essential primer for those interested in immersing themselves or engaging in intercultural work in the MENA context. MENA Studies 501 was developed as an alternative to the MEC course for those students not participating in the summer months.

MEI Faculty and Staff

Martin Accad Lead Faculty / Director of IMES

Martin Accad has been serving as director of the Institute of Middle East Studies at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary since 2003, having served as well as Academic Dean of ABTS for 5 years between 2004 and 2008. He joined ABTS in 2001 after receiving his DPhil (PhD) from the University of Oxford for a dissertation on the interpretation of the Gospels by Muslims of the 8th to the 14th centuries. Before that, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Theology from the Near East School of Theology in Beirut, Lebanon, and an MPhil in Eastern Christian Studies from the University of Oxford.

Accad’s academic career has been influenced from the beginning by current affairs. He defended his doctoral dissertation on September 11, 2001 and found himself immediately thrust into the teaching of Islam for the sake of better Christian-Muslim understanding. In 2006, he was invited by Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena (CA) to take up the faculty position of Islamic Studies.

Accad has published numerous articles and book chapters in the fields of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations, including: “Christian Attitudes toward Islam and Muslims: A Kerygmatic Approach“; “Mission at the Intersection of Religion and Empire”; “Loving Neighbor in Word and Deed: What Jesus Meant”; and “Trinity” in the IVP Dictionary of Mission Theology.

With a rich multicultural background in his own family, a Lebanese father and Swiss mother, Accad views himself as a bridge between cultures: an interpreter of Arab-Middle-Eastern complexities to a western audience, and of western complexities to an Arab audience. He also grew up through the Lebanese Civil War from 1975-1990 and understands the lethal potential of religions on human relationships. But conversely as well, he has experienced and witnessed the redemptive and transformational power of the teaching and model of Jesus of Nazareth both for individuals and communities.

Martin is married to Nadia, an active advocate for the poor and most marginalized by the mainstream in Lebanese society, and they have two amazing children, Mia and Alexandre, who have more cultural mix in their background than their own parents can keep count of.

Jesse Wheeler Director of MEI / IMES Projects Manager

Jesse Wheeler is Projects Manager for the Institute of Middle East Studies (IMES). In addition to providing critical administrative support for IMES, Jesse directs the Middle East Immersion (MEI Lebanon) summer internship program and serves as managing editor for the IMES blog. In addition to serving as Support Faculty for the MENA History, Politics and Economics module, Jesse currently leads the Induction and Research Methods modules, as well as the Middle East Consultation course for the MRel in MENA Studies program. Jesse holds a Master of Divinity with special emphasis in Islamic Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary and a Bachelor of Arts in History specializing in international and Middle Eastern history with a minor in Political Economics from the University of California, Berkeley.

Jesse, his wife Heidi, and their adorable son Nimer recently moved to Lebanon and see it as their personal (as well as institutional) mandate to help bring about positive transformation in the thinking and practice between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East and beyond. 

In a prior life, or so it seems, Jesse has ministered to children and youth in both Nazarene and Korean Presbyterian churches, worked as Teaching and Research Assistant for Martin Accad and J. Dudley Woodberry, and served as the Islamic Studies Administrative Coordinator for Fuller Theological Seminary. He currently attends and periodically preaches at Sin El-Fil Nazarene church in Beirut, Lebanon. Jesse has also spent a good deal of time teaching English as a Second Language (currently Introduction to Theological English for ABTS), playing guitar, and watching far more ‘sci-fi’ than is appropriate for a grown adult male.

MEI Partner Organizations

The following are some of the partner organizations with whom IMES/ABTS has a long standing relationship:

Heart for Lebanon

Heart for Lebanon is an NGO in Lebanon started in response to the aftermath of the July 2006 war. It launched a series of relief activities in the North, South, Bekaa Valley, and suburbs of Beirut to reach the neediest of the needy but soon turned its focus to different community development projects, with a particular concern for children. Heart for Lebanon is dedicated to providing humanitarian aid, facilitating proper education, strengthening community development and promoting leadership empowerment. Its mission is to see lives changed and communities transformed.


Tahaddi (“challenge” in Arabic) is a non-profit organization aimed at facing the challenge of poverty by serving marginalized communities in Beirut, Lebanon, with two medical clinics, an education center and prison work with migrant women.

Beit el-Hanane

The mission of Beit el-Hanane (“Home of Tenderness” in Arabic) is to:

  1. Help women emotionally, psychologically, and physically;
  2. Help physically and mentally abused women regardless of one’s religion, sect, age, nationality, etc.;
  3. Find safe and secure places for the women after leaving Beit El-Hanane;
  4. Help women to be rehabilitated in order to become fully integrated in society;
  5. Help women improve their education through providing technical skills and training;
  6. Help women find fulfilling employment which will best utilize their talents and skills so that they may become self-supporting.
Howard Karagheusian Foundation

The Howard Karagheusian Commemorative Corporation (HKCC) is a non-governmental organization established in 1921 in New York by Mr. & Mrs. Mihran and Zabel Karagheusian for the memory of their son, Howard who has passed away in his childhood. Through this foundation Mr. & Mrs. Karagheusian wanted to create a child care center and dispensary services for the prevention of child death and diseases. In 1943 The Karagheusian Foundation started to serve in Lebanon as a Primary Health Care Center, yet includes educational and social development programs to care for the ‘whole child’.

LSESD Relief & Development

The Relief and Development Program at the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD) was born out of emergency relief that LSESD provided to internally displaced persons (IDPs) during the 2006 War. That experience highlighted the opportunity to engage in development projects in the country, as was requested by former IDPs after they returned to their communities. The program was created and has since undergone rapid expansion back into the relief realm, responding to Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Syria. This has become an impacting ministry, as churches have been the primary partners distributing relief supplies and conducting activities, resulting in unexpected fellowship between refugees and church members. This serves to not only meet the physical and social needs of the refugees, but has broadened the spiritual vision of Lebanese Christians involved in the response, enhancing the role of the Church in Lebanon.

Safe Haven Home for Girls

Safe Haven Home for Girls is a home for abused and disadvantaged girls from all over Lebanon that seeks to provide the girls with the food, clothing, shelter, medical care and education that they previously had no access to; to teach them Biblical values and principles that will shape their character and guide them for the future; and to be a blessing to their immediate families – most of whom are from non-Christian backgrounds.