Egypt Trip Blog - The Water of Life
by Nancy Fox, for the team
The Nile River has always been the source of life in Egypt. For the last three days, we have been working our way up the Nile, south from Cairo, passing through various types of desert as well as agricultural communities, villages and cities, crossing and re-crossing the river on bridges and even one ferry. Over the centuries, but especially since the building of the Aswan Dam, Egyptians have built 24,000 miles of canals to bring this water of life to their communities, farms, and homes. With water (and some hard work and fertilizer), all the fullness of life is made possible.
We are a small team of six, three Americans, including The Outreach Foundation’s Executive Director, Rob Weingartner, two of us from National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC, and three Egyptians, representing the Synod of the Nile. As a small group, we are able to visit some of the more remote parts of Egypt, especially in the center of the country, which is the heart of the Presbyterian Church here. The Synod has arranged for us to see a broad range of their churches, mission and outreach:
city, town and village churches
historic churches (about 150 years old), those that are still a twinkle in the eye of those called to plant them and those who meet in small groups in homes because of the dangers of their locale
those in Christian areas, and those surrounded by a sometimes oppositional majority population
those that are planting new churches in other areas and those that are themselves new plants, but already looking for where they can plant yet another church
a historic church that was burned down during the years following the Arab Spring and rebuilt by the government, a church that removed its own doors so that the congregation could not be locked out and prevented from worshipping, and a spread of desert sand given by the government for a church in “New Minya” which the Synod will lose if it has not built a sanctuary there within the year.
The Synod has now over 400 churches, and about 25% of them have started in the last ten years!
Since we have already been in country for three full days (mostly without WiFi), I will only be able to share a few snapshots:
Sharona Church, with young, energetic Pastor Wail, is a “pastor factory.” Over the years, this congregation has sent no less than twenty of its members off to become pastors in Egypt and around the world. Stephanie and Amany (Synod staff) listen as Sabah shares about her ministry with 90-100 women from many denominational backgrounds and how they are learning to move beyond shame by talking together about difficult topics.
El Kom el Akhtar church has burst out of its old, small building and is boldly building for the future. They are especially bold and energetic in their “diaconal” (social service) ministry, presenting a holistic witness to a loving and good God in their community and beyond. As they described their varied and creative ministry, I could hardly think of an aspect of need they are not touching!
Sunday morning, we worshiped with El Tayeba’s congregation. As some prepared a veritable feast for us, others took us through “Village 3,” a rough area where people who have killed someone have fled to avoid revenge. Each week a van from El Tayeba drives through Village 3, dropping off pairs to lead home groups they have formed in the area for Bible study and help with life issues. The remainder progresses to “El Gabel” (The Mountain), where a brave group of pastors and members have stood up to the local authorities to re-open a church that had been closed. At risk of prison, they removed and hid the doors of the church so the congregation could not again be locked out and prevented from worshiping.
The stories could go on, but tomorrow we head further south along the Nile as we celebrate and seek to support the river of life that our Lord has given to Egypt through our brothers and sisters of the Synod of the Nile!
Rev. Dr. Nancy Fox
Chairman of the Board of Trustees, The Outreach Foundation
National Presbyterian Church, Washington, DC