Orphanage to Ministry

Vindicate the oppressed and suffering. Rescue the poor and needy. Psalm 82:3-4

Having experienced the life of an orphan, Bill Kassis then devoted himself to following God’s commands in Scripture to rescue other orphans. His compassion and service became bigger than just one person’s story. Thanks to a scholarship in Bill’s name, it continues to bear fruit in DTS students and around the world.

Born near Beirut, Lebanon, Bill lived in an orphanage from age eleven. As a teenager, he helped build another orphanage. Then he worked for Middle East Airlines at Beirut International Airport, where he discovered a love of electrical engineering. He also found hope in Jesus. Correspondence with a pen pal in California led to an invitation from that friend’s parents to come to Oakland, California, and pursue university studies. In 1959, Bill accepted their invitation—and two years later, that pen pal, Janette, became his wife!

With persistence and hard work, he completed engineering degrees from California Polytechnic State University and San Jose State University. In his career, he worked as an electrical engineer at IBM, a volunteer Old Testament instructor at Bethany University, and president of the Scotts Valley Water District board.

Bill continued to invest his time and leadership into Dar El Awlad (“Home of the Sons”), the orphanage in which he had lived, and two other orphanages in Lebanon and Egypt. In 1972, he took a year’s leave of absence from IBM to return to Lebanon and complete renovations on the orphanage’s buildings and water system. More trips followed. “My personal spiritual conviction is that I want the boys to have a fuller life—more meaningful and productive,” Bill said. “As a boy who didn’t have these opportunities until I came to America, I want these children to have a fair chance at life.”

Bill’s vision included not only present needs but also those of generations to come. “Give a boy an opportunity, and he won’t have to forcefully make one. Give him education, hope, and faith, and he can build a better country. Show him how to love and give, and he will know how to love and to give to others.” He wanted to give other boys the same opportunities God had extended to him when he was in their place.

After Bill’s death in 2020, Janette continued his vision for the gospel in the Middle East. In honor of the many times they’d enjoyed DTS’s annual retreats at Mount Hermon Conference Center, Janette established the Wm. Kassis Arab World Ministry Scholarship to support DTS students with a heart to serve in the Middle East.

One of the scholarship’s beneficiaries is Lizzie Dagher, who has just completed a master’s degree in biblical counseling at DTS. Growing up in North Carolina, Lizzie had a friend from Lebanon who taught her about Lebanese hospitality, delicious cuisine, and the country’s beautiful geography. Lizzie also learned of the need to share the hope that’s found in Jesus. Inspired by stories of missionaries, she felt a calling to ministry in Lebanon. When she moved to Dallas for seminary, Lizzie met her friend’s cousin, Jad, who was pursuing a ThM. Jad helped Lizzie move into her apartment. They became friends, and soon they married, ministering together to Middle Eastern friends in Dallas and planning for a future in Lebanon. Lizzie hopes to specialize in trauma counseling, helping Lebanese neighbors in the local church understand mental health to bring wholeness and hope to the many refugees in the area. In doing so, she will continue the story of an orphan in Beirut who used his life to serve others.

About the Contributors

Neil R. Coulter

Neil R. Coulter

Neil R. Coulter completed degrees in music performance and ethnomusicology from Wheaton College and Kent State University. He and his family lived in Papua New Guinea for twelve years, where Neil served as an ethnomusicology and arts consultant for Wycliffe Bible Translators. In 2015, he helped design and launch the PhD in World Arts at Dallas International University. He teaches doctoral courses in theory and ethnography at DIU’s Center for Excellence in World Arts. At DTS, he teaches about art, literature, film, and theology, and he is senior writer and editor of DTS Magazine. Neil is married to Joyce, and they have three sons.