A Foundation of Faith and Service 

Rooted in Community: Alice Azar’s Journey at BBS  

As Alice Azar, the Principal, enters the school doors, a warmth fills her. It is another ordinary day at Beirut Baptist School, a ministry of Thimar-LSESD, located in Msaytbeh, Beirut. This isn’t any workplace for her; it’s more of a home.  

Alice was born and raised in this very neighborhood, and received her education at BBS, and even her church, Beirut Baptist Church, sits right on the school campus. Her passion for serving this community stems from a lifetime of belonging.  

BBS is where she built memories and witnessed the city’s resilience during the brutal civil war of 1975. When clashes erupted between different religious groups, many Christians fled, and the latter dramatically changed the demographics of  Msaytbeh. On the contrary, Alice and her grandfather were among the few who continued attending church despite the war, as their home was located in the same neighborhood . Moreover, her devotion to spreading the message of Jesus and preserving the Gospel’s presence in this city outweighed any fear of the surrounding dangers. 

Here she is today, at her office, handling a familiar problem at school: during a field trip, a student arrived at school breaking the policy of not wearing the school uniform and running late to catch the school bus. Alice made a firm decision, clearly not allowing the student to join the group, teaching consequences to a high schooler. After making her point clear to the mother, she extended grace and permitted the student to go. “To be a school principal, I believe you need to embrace the fact that it’s not just about the job description you have,” Alice tells us as she walks towards the Chapel to join the high school students. “We have to parent, teach, and sometimes even exceed our roles.” 

In a context where leadership has been associated with masculine figures over time, women have gradually aimed to shatter this stereotype, proving their capabilities and aptitudes for leadership. 

The Importance of Prayer in Leadership 

The Power of Prayer: Sustaining BBS Through Challenges 

BBS faced financial challenges, prompting the start of a small prayer group meeting, in 2019, just as the economy of Lebanon left its dire impact on almost every sector. Despite initial feelings of helplessness and emptiness, as Alice described, these meetings continued. Even when tempted to stop, Alice realized the importance of unity in prayer. 

Every Monday at 10:15, a group of BBS teachers gather to intercede for the school and its families. These gatherings play a vital role in sustaining BBS’s mission. Alice’s faith has taught her that successful leadership depends on prayer and support from the community. “Despite all the wisdom we have and the strategies we build as a school, I cannot make it without prayer,” she continues, sharing in a meeting with one of Thimar’s team members. 

Alice Azar BBS

“I cannot do it alone. It’s like when the people in the Old Testament were in battle, and Moses had to pray throughout the night. Yet when he grew weary, he had people who supported him by holding up his arms to continue praying. I have people in my community—my husband, who provides significant support, and friends with whom I share my burdens.” 

Answering the Call 

Answering God’s Call: Alice Azar’s Journey to Leadership 

Alice mentions how her role as a Principal leading BBS during these difficult times is a calling from God. “I believe that having faith means understanding that God wants me here at this time.” However, as she also shares, the way how leading through the biggest crisis that Lebanon ever witnessed was not her original plan. On the same topic, it is also key to have in mind how on the exact same day as the Beirut explosion in 2020, August 4th, Alice was assigned to have full leadership of BBS. “It was God’s timing to select me for the time of crisis, and when I questioned why, I rested assured that He sees me as the woman for the job.” In a male dominated society and in a country in crisis, Alice had to rise to the many challenges facing her as a leader.  

“I’m not saying that this challenge is easy, especially considering that sometimes, being addressed by a woman can be difficult for some men. However, I train myself not to be driven by fear.” “First and foremost, as a woman leader, I believe in myself and will lead regardless of my gender. I believed in the cause and pursued it to the end.” 

Such beliefs might not change how others view us, but they should change how we view ourselves. We need to keep reminding ourselves of our positions as children of God and valuable people. We need to act and earn respect, regardless of our gender. 

By the same notion, reflecting on the civil war that took place on 1975, she also confronted the fear of war, which instilled in her resilience, as if God were preparing her for times like today. So many times, we find ourselves going through fire and we wonder how this shapes us; little do we know that God has been there, shaping and training us for way more than we could imagine. Believing and obeying His calling is what makes this principal’s leadership successful, not her strength but God’s leadership alongside her, as she shares.  

Believing in her calling, Alice finds reassurance in God guiding her steps, entrusting Him with all her decisions and plans. Her life in this city has helped her understand the people’s mentalities and diversities. 

Another key aspect of successful leadership is being decisive when dealing with others. Alice not only studies her decisions very well with her team but also prays and asks for God’s guidance. This confidence earns people’s respect and trust, making transparency another key in communication with parents, teachers, and students. “We ensure that everything is communicated clearly, and we apply policies with justice and equity, avoiding favoritism. I firmly stand by decisions we make. Once a decision is made, it’s not broken unless it’s proven to be wrong or not well-studied.” This consistency has been well-received by the community, leading to a good relationship with the school. 

At the same time, when it comes to community, BBS fosters respect among diverse religious and social backgrounds. “When you love the kids and treat them fairly, even when they make mistakes, they still feel loved.” 

For Alice, maintaining close contact with the children is crucial. “At BBS, I developed an open-door policy. Students can come into the principal’s office anytime. I don’t like being isolated in an office.” The relationship between Alice and the students is truly unique. You can tell the motherly love she shares for them through her advice, communication, and shared experiences from her personal life, all aimed at helping them overcome their challenges. 

Transparency and Shared Experiences 

Nurturing Tomorrow’s Leaders: Alice Azar’s Approach to Student Care 

Overall, we must also keep in hindsight how she encounters her students’ problems that she once faced at their age, which helps build trust and mentorship between both sides. “During my meetings with my students, I tell them about challenges I faced, even if the context was different. I show them that leaders make mistakes, and this encourages them to become better,” Alice shares. 

Whether you are a leader in your church or at your workplace, being down-to-earth builds trust and respect. 

In the chapel earlier this day, Alice was telling her students that they still have a chance to improve their grades and behaviour through what she calls “The Grace Period.”

Alice Azar BBS

Alice believes that BBS’s mission is to spread the Gospel through education. The period of grace is a reflection of the Gospel and how God works with us too, by giving us a new chance when we think we don’t deserve it anymore. Even in decision-making, Alice believes that it’s okay to involve the other party in decisions, but we must make the final call when they’re at risk.

“Be there for them, protect them, and guide them in decision-making. I try to remove the word punishment from the students’ vocabulary as decisions have consequences, not punishments,” she also adds. Punishment doesn’t foster decision-making skills, in her beliefs, but she wants students to choose wisely.  

“As a Christian, I believe this aligns with God’s approach. He doesn’t dictate our lives; He offers guidance. I use Christian values to treat my students with honesty, respect, and dignity, mirroring how God treats me.”

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