Egypt Day 6: Adiama
by Andrew Dickinson for the team
Our morning began with our first meal at the Winter Palace hotel. It was a most comprehensive offering, complete with date juice and “om ali,” a form of Egyptian bread pudding with milk and crushed nuts.
After breakfast, we gathered for a morning devotion. Rev. Bryan Wilson led the devotion with a mediation on Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan women at the well, from the fourth chapter of Luke’s gospel.
Bryan began by saying that Jesus does the unexpected. Due to the social tensions existing between Jews and Samaritans, he would have been expected to walk around Samaria, but instead he deliberately takes his disciples into a place that would have been uncomfortable for them. It’s in this place that he meets a Samaritan woman at the well. It’s the hottest time of the day. She is trying not to interact with other people in her community, which is why she chooses this time.
In speaking with her, Jesus breaks multiple barriers that would have stood in the way of their interaction: gender, ethnicity and religion are some obvious ones. As their conversation unfolds, he reveals himself to her as the promised messiah. And she goes into the village and shares this, reaching out to people she had been trying to avoid. The result was that Jesus stayed in the village, with the disciples, for two days and many came to believe in Jesus as the messiah, not just because of the woman’s testimony, but also because of meeting him themselves.
Bryan wondered what those two days with Jesus must have been like and also what happened to that village and those villagers after Jesus met with them.
A question we were left with was: What is our own personal Samaria? We are called to "get out there." We’ve all got our own version of Samaria, something that pushes our comfort zone and we will have to answer to God for the choices we have made in pursuit of him... or not.
We then boarded the coach to drive 90 minutes to Adiama to visit the village church served by Pastor Shanuda Guirgis, his wife Angel, son Justin and baby girl Junester. We also met with Philemon, described as a son of the church, who is serving an Evangelical community in Armant, another village close to Adaima.
Pastor Shanuda told us the church was established in 1935 and while the fellowship hall where we had lunch was newer, the church itself was clearly in need of maintenance. Something that stood out to us as we listened to the history of the church was that although the church was built in 1935, it didn’t have its first permanent pastor until Rev. Redda came to serve the church in 1992!
We met Afida who, at the age of 85, runs the ministry of hospitality for the church. She came around to each of us hugging us and welcoming us with a warm smile and a word of greeting.
Pastor Shanuda shared about the church's ministry efforts. They reach out to small villages 50km away e.g. Qena for outreach or to help with service. The church also participated in a seminary study called veritas, which is about interpreting the Bible and is now a curriculum for training servants. The seminary teachers travel from Cairo to the church. There are two 11-unit studies. The first examines the Pauline epistles and the second the second covers the Old Testament, from Kings onward.
Although the church does not have elders, they have a board, which meets once every month.
As the church building is small, they can’t have conferences in it. So they join with another church to have their conference. This is a term that seems to be used to speak of a gathering of those they are reaching out to in the community who wouldn’t necessarily come into the church building itself.
Pastor Shanuda shared some of the needs of the church. They want to rebuild the church itself. They want it to be four floors. The ground floor will be for special occasions such as weddings and funerals. The main sanctuary for worship services will be on the second floor, the third floor will provide services for the community and the top floor will be a residence for the pastor and a guest house. They have 60 members who attend regularly, 15 servants (people who serve in some capacity), and a total of 200 people who are involved in the life of the church. They have services on Sunday morning and evening.
Their "Sunday School" is on Friday and the youth meet on Wednesday. There is a "university meeting" on Wednesday as well as a women’s meeting. There are "discipleship groups" which are for 4th-6th graders. There are also home meetings for those who don’t come to church on Sunday. These occur on Mondays: three times per month outside of the church and once a month at the church. There are about 15 groups that participate in the home meetings and there may be two families in a home meeting. They share their news together then have open time to pray and have Bible study.
As we were meeting, sister Hella from the nearby village of Esna came to share with us. Her husband is the pastor of that church. They have 15 members and have been serving the church for 12 years. There are various challenges that are ongoing. Amongst other things she spoke of the movement of people away from the village to Cairo for work. We spent some time praying for her.
Pastor Shanuda finished by telling us about a joint venture they have been doing with a local Islamic Community Group which involves cleaning up trash and meeting together to grow in love and understanding. We then spent some time in worship together. We sang some Arabic songs one of which was to the tune of "How Great Thou Art."
Ron Gatzke brought greetings from his home church in Omaha. The text was from Ezekiel 37:11-13, about the valley of dry bones. It was a message about new life and new hope. The pastor shared afterwards that it was very appropriate because Adaima means bones and they have often thought of this particular passage as a defining message for their church.
We left Adaima and headed back to Luxor. Later in the evening we headed out to a traditional Egyptian souk, a market, where we haggled with one or two vendors under the helpful guidance of our travel agent Mourad, whose understanding of how to cut to the chase was invaluable!
Andrew Dickinson for the team