Wow. What a wonderful experience I’ve just had.
This Spring I was invited to join a team to teach English in Egypt and I heartily accepted the invitation! We were going to work with a group of locals, young adults, who take their relationship with Christ and His call on their lives very seriously. For them, the risks are very high, but the risk is worth it and they are willing to share the Gospel no matter what that means. To be surrounded by people like this will really challenge you, as well as encourage you…..at least this is the affect it had on me.
The area where we were, was exactly as I would have imagined for the country of Egypt…it was crowded, loud, colorful, dry & dusty, animals here and there, and riddled with fast drivers (though no one really can prepare you for HOW fast). Our English team was comprised of Americans, a Canadian, Polish & Romanian gals and a German! We partnered with a group of Egyptian believers who were so gracious and welcoming to us.
Each day we would meet in the morning together, then go into our English classes, conversational & reading groups. We used the Scriptures in our reading group and it was so fun to open and study them with such young teens. Many have grown up in Coptic homes, which is a very strict ancient Christian religion, based deeply in tradition & works, so it was particularly exciting to share with them that God died for us before while we were still sinners and that it wasn’t because of anything we had done to deserve his grace, but that He offers it freely! We ended each night with another group session, a testimony, worship & group activities. …usually youth games are cheesy and lame, but this group really knew how to put together some amazing activities!
One thing that really encouraged me was during our evening program early into the week. We had just begun to worship, when all the power went out. It was totally black, and yet the worship team didn’t even skip a beat and kept on singing!
We sang for about 20 more minutes, with nothing but a few cell phone lights, and continued our whole evening program as if nothing was wrong. We did spend some extra time in prayer that night and it was so clear that the Spirit of God was present with us. This team was such a witness, in that despite the power outage, they pressed on and didn’t let it deter them but actually compelled them into deeper prayer and worship. It was amazing. I couldn’t help but thinking about what our churches would do if the power suddenly went out and stayed out for an hour…..would we have kept going? Or just sit stunned, wondering what we should do?
One of the many students who blessed me, was very quiet in the beginning, and always on her phone. But one day she brought her Arabic Bible and I found the scripture that I have written on my arm so she could see. Later on she found me and through a translator asked what concerns I have, because she had a list of them with verses in her Bible and she wanted to write my name by that verse so she could remember to pray! Wow. Who would have imagined that would happen!
(Later she gave me the note below as part of her homework–hilarious!)
The Egyptian team shared with us about their ministries, educating children, witnessing throughout villages, leading Bible studies with women, teaching music, teaching video editing, and more. It’s incredible how they have found practical ways to influence their community & country with the Gospel. I would ask that you say a prayer for them–that they would continue in boldness, that they would be protected from the dangers surrounding them both physically and spiritually, that they would have provision for their needs and for open doors in witnessing. One lady said that at the market, a seller had remembered her name because she stood out to her as different than anyone else because of her kind character. These are just the opportunities one would ask for–an open person who is seeking the reason behind a visibly different life. Would we be noticed for the same?
On the last day we were in Egypt, we visited a monastery that was built over the place where some of the earliest Christians began a communal society. In the mid 200’s, Christian monks & nuns separated themselves from the rest of society, dedicated themselves to charity and prayer. It was an interesting place to visit. The newer monastery was similar to other places I’ve been, but significantly it is a place that most Christian and Coptic parents bring their children to be baptized. A short distance away was an archeological dig of the original site which was more interesting. Here, there are remains to the original baptismal, as well as other pieces of the settlement. Much has been stolen or removed for safety, but from what we saw, it had been a very large and beautiful settlement of early Christians living in Egypt.
Over all, God really showed me a new kind of devotion to Him. The people I met face persecution daily, and yet have so much joy. They are cut down, shut in, kept out, etc and yet they persevere in Christ. It was refreshing to serve with a new group of teenagers too, to see their excitement to learn, to teach me Arabic, to dance during worship, and learning more about Jesus. There’s something great about trying to share the Gospel in a foreign language…..you’ve got to keep it simple. I’m sure there’s more I can say, but for your sake, I’ll end this post now.
Please keep them in your prayers! Just today, the government has closed down all Christian camps and another American team had to evacuate. Please pray. Our God is big, and He’s more powerful than any of the trials we face, we only need to trust in Him!
We had our English class under this tree. A new friend gave me this bracelet which quotes Genesis 45:5b which says “…it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.”