Sevcik's Blog

A year in Cairo Egypt

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

minya el qamh

Last Thursday Teri and I took a north-bound train to a village town in the Nile Delta to visit a small evangelical congregation. Pastor Nassif,a student at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, had asked us to visit his church to speak with the young adult youth group whomeets every Thursday night for prayer and worship. Teri and I jumped on the chance to spend time with Egyptian Christian youth.

Frankly, Teri and I had no clue where we were going, other than we should get on a train going north into the delta. We didn't know what stop to get off at, nor could either of us remember the name of the town (and even if we could, we couldn't pronounce it). Nassif told us he would give us a "missed call" when the train arrived at the station, but that never happened. Luckily, we decided to call Nassif just as we were pulling away from the right station, so we did the hop-off-the-train-as-it-is-moving scene. Gosh I've always wanted to do that! Within minutes we met Nassif and Demiana, a young Coptic woman who attends Nassif's church and is also a student at RCG. (She takes thetrain to RCG and back home every about commute!) Following the two through the dirt streets we came to an unmarked door and found ourselves in a place of worship, just across and down the street from a large and expressive Coptic Orthodox church. Nassif's church was basically a hidden flat and I would never have been able to find it on my own.

Quoting from Teri (because I know how much she loves it :-): It turns out that the evangelical church uses this flat--with a room for a sanctuary, a room for Sunday school, a room for prayer meetings, and a small library--for all its worship, meetings and business because their school and land and church were confiscated under Nasser. You see, the Presbyterian missionaries in Egypt set up schools, and then churches. So churches often used the school building as a worship facility as well. Several decades ago, the Presbyterian church transferred most of the properties to the newly-independent Synod of the Nile of the Coptic Evangelical Church of Egypt (then the Evangelical Presbyterian Church). And then, when abd-el-Nasser came to power, foreigners (especially Christians) were kicked out and a lot of church property was confiscated and church schools were nationalized, becoming government schools. This is what happened in Minya-el-qamh (which, by the way, means something like "land of wheat" and is in the area of Goshen, where the Hebrews stayed while they were in Egypt. There are several traditional biblical sites in the area.). The Evangelical church lost its school and its worship space...and with it, quite a lot of members. The Orthodox church came in and built two large buildings. At one time, all the Christians in the town (about 1/4 of the population) were Evangelical. No longer...primarily because there is no place. One of Nassif's goals is to get money and permission to build a school with a worship space so that some of the families that aren't worshipping or participating will come back to the church.

Inside a group of women were waiting for Nassif to begin the woman's worship, so Teri and I sat in the back and watched the woman sing and pray to the Lord. After the woman's service we were given loads of cakes and desserts to eat, and then some fuul and taamia. As always, we were served well the Egyptian style :-) Soon about 20 youth showed up and we were ready to begin the worship. Teri and I did our best to follow along, and even though we couldn't understand the Arabic, we were able to piece some things together.

Soon it was time for Teri and me to give "the sermon". Teri began by talking about what's in a name, and how Abram and Sarai had their names changed as signs of their relationship with God. As I listened to Teri, a camp song kept running through my head, "I will change your shall no longer be called wounded, outcast, lonely or afraid....I have changed your shall now be called...confidence, joyfulness, overcoming one...faithfulness, friend of God, one who seeks my face..." and I was daydreaming back to good times at FLBC. Teri concluded by saying one way we have relationship through God is through prayer, and this transitioned into my part of the sermon; Prayer. I wanted the youth to get involved, so I asked them questions about what is prayer, why do we pray, when and where do we pray, and how do we pray? I wanted to get a good idea of what this group of young Egyptians thought about prayer and found that it was similar to my own and very deep. (I even had the sense they pray without ceasing. :-) We talked about Matthew 7:7-8, where Jesus says "Ask, and it shall given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and the door will be opened onto you. For whoever asks shall receive, whoever seeks shall find, and whoever knocks the door will be opened." R

emembering what I learned from my friend Kim Elg, I talked about being bold in prayer--do not be afraid, as our Lord so desperately wants to be in relationship with us. We also talked a lot about listening, and they seemed to like the concept of "we have only one mouth but two ears" --that tells us something about how we should live our lives. I was excited to find myself very comfortable in front of this group--to the point of feeling like I was just conversing with a bunch of old friends. The "sermon" was mostly on the fly, and I could sense the Holy Spirit helping me with continuous flowing thoughts and words. Nassif was standing next to me during this time, translating every sentence. It was an odd experience to speak about 10 words, then wait until you could say the next thought. In some ways it was distracting, and I know Teri had a hard time figuring out if she was repeating herself (did I say it or just think it?), but it was fun to speak and then watch the youth understand what I said five seconds later. It gave me the opportunity to concentrate more on their response than what I was saying.

After the service we were offered more food and time for fellowship, but it was cut short because we had to board the south-bound train for home. Still, in that short time I witnessed a great group of young adults who joyfully serve God and each other. Being a witness to those relationships gave me the sense that the church has a real sense of hope, peace, and love. Hopefully we'll visit again soon.


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