New Church Development in Egypt - December Update
Note: In November I led another team to Egypt with a key focus of our journey being visits to some of the new church developments and church revitalization initiatives of the Synod of the Nile. Of the 400 congregations which comprise the Presbyterian Church in Egypt, 100 have been planted or revitalized in the past 10 years! “Revitalized” churches are historic congregations – some more than 100 years old – which had dwindled in size usually because members moved to larger cities for jobs. In danger of disappearing completely, they could no longer support a full-time pastor or basic ministries. Often their building was deteriorating. The Synod, with help from partners like The Outreach Foundation, has supplied full-time pastors and other resources to “restart” these congregations, and many are thriving again. Below are excerpts from my journal which give glimpses into these Spirit-infused efforts which are strengthening the witness of Jesus Christ in Egypt. Marilyn Borst, Associate Director for Partnership Development
A wonderful day spent with the exuberant congregation of the Presbyterian Church in Zagazig in Egypt’s northeast Delta (the Biblical Land of Goshen). Rev. Wael Nashat and his congregation embraced us like family. We shared dreams and visions and challenges of our individual congregations and celebrated our Oneness in Christ. It was a feast of food, fellowship, faith and friendship. After a few hours together, it felt like we had known one another for years. Family. Yes, we are family. Grateful to Dr. Tharwat Wahba (Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo professor and Chair of the Synod’s Pastoral Mission and Outreach Committee-PMOC) and Eriny Ayad for facilitating our visit. Both work tirelessly on behalf of the Synod of the Nile’s PMOC.
Sabbath blessing #1: We worshiped in the morning with Rev. Ayman Samy and the congregation at the Presbyterian church in Ismailia, a church which had lost most of its members because of an internal conflict but is reviving under Rev. Samy’s leadership. Our own Rev. George Haugen was invited to preach, and we were blessed to celebrate Holy Communion together. Afterwards, Rev. Ayman shared the vision for this church to be Salt and Light to the cities along the Suez Canal and dreams of renovating the large conference center, adjacent to the church, which could be a center for equipping and spiritual renewal for many in the area. Sabbath blessing #2: We returned to Zagazig for evening worship (with communion and our own Rev. Tim Norton preaching). By now, we really are FAMILY there and were, again, overwhelmed by the love and fellowship. One of Rev. Wael Nashat’s favorite verses is: “How good and pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in unity.” And it truly was good and oh-so-pleasant to be with the congregation. Thanking God that we are brought together as brothers and sisters because of the one Lord who has claimed us as his own!
Down an unpaved street is a dark apartment block – dark until the stairway light appears and then you hear the exuberant voices of children singing. Our team arrived midway through the evening children’s gathering here at this “outpost” of the Synod of the Nile in Hurghada; the “Second Presbyterian Church.” Rev. John Fady is blessed with a team of dedicated lay leaders who sat with us, after the little ones had left, to share their vision to reach ever-deeper into the city with the Light. As this city prides itself on the tourist industry which thrives on the Red Sea resorts, workers and shop owners work late and irregular hours and so ministry must go to them in their places and on their schedules. This team is both mobile and passionate for the Good News! It was an honor to pray with them and for them.
A full day here in Hurghada as Dr. Tharwat Wahba and Eriny Ayad guided our team as we absorbed more of the vision of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church beside the Red Sea. In a developing area outside of town “First” Presbyterian Church started with a hall for worship and then built an attractive retreat house around it to host groups for spiritual nurture. A thriving Sunday School grew up along with ministry to the poor. Now there are 150 active members with a total of 500 involved throughout the year. Grateful for our time with committed leaders here like Elder Maher and Deacons Sally and Remon. Back in town, we met up with Rev. John Fady and Paules Ayed Shaker with whom we had been at the OTHER Presbyterian group last night. Not far from the apartment block site there is a small park (Flowers Garden) given to the fellowship to use for ministry with the handicapped. We prayed over it, confident that God will bless it. At day’s end, Rev. Reda Farag drove an hour from Safaga to be with us. He has been serving there for eight years at a church plant in a resort workers’ community where there are few churches and fewer services. With dreams for a medical clinic and a nursery school, Rev. Reda prays to shine the Light into this city of 70,000.
Our final day here in Egypt began on Holy Ground in an unexpected place, on the outskirts of Cairo where garbage sorters – mostly poorer Christians – live and work and where basic city services, like paved roads and public schools, are not to be found. But to Moassat, as this area is called, came a young pastor in 2013, fresh out of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, to plant a church. This was my third visit to see the faithful ministry of Rev. Ekram Ataa, and our entire team was inspired by the brightness of the Light which shines here, the joyful worship of those who have found Christ in this place and the zeal with which Rev. Ekram seeks to better the lives of this marginalized community through a tiny clinic and a nursery school for the children of working mothers. The sanctuary is still unfinished, and we prayed for the resources to complete it. Grateful anew for Dr. Tharwat Wahba’s mentoring of these missionary-pastors (and of our team!) as he follows the wind of the Spirit which is clearly blowing in Egypt today!
Read more about New Church Development in Egypt HERE.
The Outreach Foundation is seeking $7,000 a month to support the planting/revitalization of Presbyterian churches in Egypt.