Egypt #4: Equipping

by Matthew Hornaday

After sleeping in a bit, we enjoyed a life-giving day with leaders and students of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC) learning, worshipping, laughing, and even riding on a felucca boat. Dr. Tharwat Wahba*, Dr. Atef Gendy, and Dr. Sherif Nakhla shared about the history of ETSC and how ETSC has evolved since Dr. Atef became President in July 2000.

Dr. Atef began his remarks by reciting ETSC’s mission statement: to equip and prepare pastors and leaders to serve the church and impact society. It is striking how this mission statement has guided all aspects of ETSC’s work, and how integral The Outreach Foundation has been to ETSC’s evolution.

Dr. Atef inherited a difficult situation at ETSC – with a declining student population (67 students) and only 1 Ph.D. on staff (himself). His creative, bold, “open door” leadership style has led to God-sized work at ETSC, which began in his first days as President when he came across a piece of mail from Jeff Ritchie indicating Outreach was eager to support the development of ETSC’s mission department and provide funds to do that. While Dr. Atef questioned Outreach’s willingness to support a declining entity, he eagerly responded indicating ETSC was planning to establish a mission department. This communication from Outreach was the catalyst for the establishment of ETSC’s mission department, and the hiring of Swaileim Hennein (developed mission department structure), Dr. Tharwat (leader of the new church development movement in Egypt), and many other influential ETSC leaders.

There have been many challenges Dr. Atef and his team have faced. And with each challenge, they have reacted boldly with faith the Lord would provide. Dr. Atef’s visionary leadership has led to tremendous growth in students (from 67 in 2000 to over 400 currently) and now numerous Ph.D.s on staff (there was only 1 in 2000). Dr. Tharwat’s tireless leadership of the new church development movement has led to 119 church plants in the last 10 years. It is clear that all of ETSC’s work has been guided by and is dependent on the work of the Holy Spirit.

We were privileged to worship with ETSC students and receive Rev. Deena Candler’s message from John 21 where she challenged us all to love Jesus more than anything else. Mariam Hanna, Director of Development, provided a tour of ETSC’s facilities, including the wonderful new Centers for Church and Social Services, Alumni, Worship, and Distance Learning and Media. And we enjoyed a lunch with students on a felucca boat where we learned about their life, internship experiences, and daily challenges.

As we wrapped up with team time and dinner, I was struck by the courage of the students and leaders of ETSC to pursue their call in an environment where they are persecuted daily. During our team time our fearless leader, Marilyn Borst, referenced a frequent prayer of one of her travel acquaintances: Help me not to duck. Friends, I can tell you, the students and ETSC leaders are not ducking their call, they are running with arms wide open to spread the gospel throughout Egypt and beyond.

*In Egyptian culture, a person is addressed by title and first name. So, instead of referring to Dr. Tharwat Wahba as “Dr. Wahba,” I’ve referred to him as “Dr. Tharwat.”