New Church Development in Egypt - November 2017 Update
With a Capital “Z”
“Ig-ZOO-ber-ant” is the way we say it. “Exuberant” is the way we spell it. Its meaning is defined as effusively and almost uninhibitedly enthusiastic, abounding in vitality, extremely joyful and vigorous. And now I know the place where this adjective might have been invented: the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Zagazig, Egypt. “Zagazig… Zagazig” …say that a few times and you almost have to smile – it’s one of those words that is just, well, fun.
Rev. Wael Nashat, Zagazig’s young pastor, is full of zest and that is much-needed in overseeing this growing, active congregation which is also experiencing a revival as the Synod of the Nile focuses resources here to revitalize an old church (dating back to 1886) as a strategic part of its vision for New/Renewed Church Development in Egypt. Located about 50 miles northeast of Cairo, in the “land of Goshen” referred to in Genesis, this city of about 300,000 is known today for the remains of a Pharaonic temple site sacred to the goddess Bastet (symbolized as a cat) and for a large, regional university (the church has a small hostel, on site, for Christian young men who come from the villages to study here). Zagazig was also the home of ousted President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. With a concern for Christian minorities, the Egyptian government provides a visible security detail in front of the church, each and every day.
Our 15-member Outreach Foundation team spent a day in Zagazig a few weeks ago. Almost as soon as we arrived, we could hear the “joyful noise” of children coming from the courtyard, and we were compelled to join them. It was a Friday which is when “Sunday School” meets. A half-dozen young men and women were playing soccer with about 20 energetic little ones. We dodged a few balls as we made our way to the sidelines and soon were in conversation with the children and their teachers. One fearless 11-year-old was eager to try out her English on us. Ferah spoke fluently, having mostly taught herself by watching television. And she proudly introduced us to her best friend, Lily.
David, one of the young teachers, shared a vision to expand this ministry to children who are not Christians and who would not be able to “show up” at a church. They have already been going into poor areas of the city and renting space on rooftops (this densely packed city has no parks) for games, “growing close to the kids so that they can be reached for Christ.” His heart breaks over the poverty of these families – in giving out juice boxes, one day, a little boy had to ask what it was. Another child mislaid his treat and cried because it was so precious to him.
We were inspired by the BIG VISION of this 200-member church which counts 40 of those members as “servants,” i.e. lay leaders, like Vivienne who heads the caring ministry which serves 27 poor Muslim and Christian families around the church: one needed roof repairs, another, a water pump. Clothing, food and medicine are given out. One family needed help in getting their son out of debtors’ prison. Recently, they took these families on a bus to Ismailia, a picturesque city on the Suez Canal. It was only 45 miles away; most had never been there.
Rev. Wael has been intentional in building good relations in their Muslim community. For two years at the end of Ramadan they have invited their neighbors to a breakfast which literally breaks the fast. This is followed by a praise service. This year, 400 came. “Our neighbors love us too much,” beamed Wael. This church has also cooperated with the local Ministry of Education to host a training session for teachers of religion in the schools which emphasizes mutual respect for “the other.” Wael talked much about the Church needing to be “in society.” He observed, “We want to rebuild the glory of Jesus in this area.”
Zagazig Church prays to purchase a piece of land outside of town where they could open a kindergarten for Muslim children which could then expand into a primary school. “Our Message is for all of society, not just for Presbyterians.” An orphanage and a home for the elderly are in that vision, as well as a van to serve the children’s ministries.
They are few financial reZources in Zagazig. But there is no shortage of Zeal for the Gospel there! Of this, I am Zertain!
Marilyn Borst, Associate Director of Partnership Development
Read more about New Church Development in Egypt by clicking HERE.
The Outreach Foundation is seeking $7,000 per month to support the planning/revitalization of Presbyterian churches in Egypt.