A Light in the Community
It's hard to believe that today has only been our third full day in Cairo, I feel like I have already learned and heard so much from the people here. As I reflect on the last three days I find myself in awe of the many ways God is working in the church in Egypt.
On our first day we heard these numbers from the missions department at the seminary...there are roughly 3,000 churches in Egypt, 376 of those are Presbyterian. But there are 4,000 communities in Egypt that have Christians living in them, and only 900 of those have any church presence (Coptic, Catholic, Presbyterian). That leaves over 3,000 communities of Christians who have no church to which they can belong.
These numbers seem staggering to me.
But we began Friday by meeting with leaders from The Pastoral and Outreach Ministries Council of the Synod of the Nile. We heard stories from six different pastors involved in church planting throughout Egypt. They each shared inspiring stories about God’s call on their lives and the ways that God is working here in Egypt.
I left feeling encouraged even though the statistics are overwhelming, and then we headed to visit the churches of two other pastors engaging in church planting around Cairo.
First we went to the community of Abo Regela, led by Rev. Basem Rogee. Basem has been in the community for four years, and they currently worship roughly 100 people. The church itself began meeting in an elder's apartment in 2009. Then, in 2011 they started a nursery program, which now serves 32 kids. They worship in a tiny rented flat but are quickly outgrowing it. Two years ago they started looking for more land, which they found and were able to purchase. As of September they had finished five stories of the building, which they consider a miracle. Two very brave men from their church have helped make it happen. They literally have a chart on the wall, and they mark off each dollar someone gives on the way to their financial goal. Basem's prayer is that they might be a light in the community and be able to provide for the needs of all the people, not just the Presbyterians.
We then went to Gabal Asfar Church led by Rev. Geme Wageh. Geme was first called by God in 2004 while attending a prayer conference. He then attended seminary and, in his church planting course, learned of the more than 3,000 communities throughout Egypt who have no church presence. Sensing God's call into church planting, Geme graduated in 2010 and moved with his wife and three children to begin this ministry in Gabal Asfar. This is considered one of the poorest areas of Cairo, and most families living in the community are uneducated and the schools have 100 children per class. They began meeting in people's homes, then started renting a space that allowed them to all worship together. Three years ago they added a Sunday School, which now serves 50 children. They have purchased land and are in the process of building the first floor of their new building, with hopes that it will eventually be five floors so that they can provide for a variety of needs within the community including literacy and medical care.
God is up to something in both Abo Regela and Gabal Asfar! And these two pastors are only representatives of the church planting efforts through the Egypt. The numbers are staggering, but we serve a mighty God who continues to be at work in this place. I am grateful for the chance to witness it here in Egypt.
As we left Gabal Asfar I was reminded of the prayer of blessing in the book of Ephesians, “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
Thanks be to God!
Rev. Kimmy Stokesbary
Clairmont Presbyterian Church