Last Day in Egypt
by Marilyn Borst
A wall of children awaited us on the steps of the church! Sunday School had finished that Friday morning and the pastor, Rev. Isaac Estanfanous, had asked them to stay and greet us. I have no idea how long they had been waiting, but we were re-energized by their enthusiasm – and truth be told, we needed that, because this was the 12th church we had visited in the past seven days. As we made the 75 minute drive from dense and chaotic Cairo and were approaching this spacious and well-planned “new city” called Tenth of Ramadan, I had wondered if there could be anything here that could move us after having already seen so many of the vibrant ministry sites of the Synod of the Nile. I need not have worried because, as had been the case for each church and every one of the 20+ Presbyterian pastors with whom we had met, there was no shortage of vision and energy here to see Christ made known in this particular 3,000 square meters in this most ancient of lands.
With 400 already in worship, and growing, Rev. Isaac made it clear that they are eager to finish out the sanctuary which will seat 1,200 (we lifted prayers for this in the still-yet concrete shell). He has no doubt that they will soon fill it. For the moment, they are crowding into a fellowship hall. As we chatted with some of the elders and with Isaac, we were inspired by their vision to soon begin planting other churches in this city of two million, even before theirs is complete!
A fulsome buffet of local dishes had been prepared for our lunch (one we very nearly missed when, in my desire to NOT be a burden to the congregation, I had told the pastor we would be happy to stop at a McDonald’s before we got to the church – thankfully, he talked me out of that notion!) and found our hearts and stomachs well satiated as we said our good-byes and prepared to get back on our mini-bus. But before leaving, one of the elders wanted to share a word with us as we stood in a circle: a tribute to the American missionaries who, in the 19th century, had founded the Presbyterian Church here. I responded by acknowledging that, while those missionaries had been the teachers for this fledging fellowship of faith that would grow to become the largest Protestant community in the entire Middle East, the Church here now was a “teacher” to us, instructing and inspiring us with their lives of faith and faithfulness. Perhaps it is this latter “lesson” that is the overwhelming reality of these vision-trips – “mutually encouraged by one another’s faith” as Paul reflects in Romans 1. We certainly were and pray that our presence was to the Church in Egypt.
On behalf of The Outreach Foundation, I am so very grateful for the individuals, their families and their home congregations who were a part of this journey as, together, we discern ways to partner with the Presbyterian church in Egypt – through the power of the Holy Spirit, with the love of Christ and to the glory of God!
Associate Director for Partnership Development