As the Global Engagement Symposium began, I interrupted the buzz of conversation...
Global Engagement for May 2019
There is nothing quite like the traffic in Cairo to test your level of risk-aversion! My capable driver, who pastors a new church plant in a low-income neighborhood in Cairo, weaved through narrow, unpaved roads. He dodged pedestrians, horse carts, a slew of cars and covered motorcycle taxis, and a whole herd of goats eating trash which was piled up in the center of the intersection. I arrived safely and glad for the view out of my backseat window. By the time we had made it through rush-hour traffic and pulled up to the church that Friday afternoon, I had seen some of the color and culture of the neighborhood. Veiled women holding their young children’s hands as they walked. People rushing about, and colorful shops lining the streets.
The Synod of the Nile had intentionally chosen this crowded, low-income neighborhood to send a recent seminary graduate as a church planter. This neighborhood, which hosts over 500,000 people has only 3 protestant churches that can each seat 100 or so people, including this new church plant. Not only had they chosen this unchurched neighborhood, but they had purchased a building on an alley known for being unsafe at night because of drug activity. The young church planter explained, “Many people come to Cairo from the countryside looking for a better life, but they don’t find it.”
When I asked about the impact of planting a church in that specific location, the pastor explained the overwhelming needs in the community, and how they had started as a non-profit renting space to do outreach to help the poor as a Christian witness. When he was sent as the church planter after his graduation, they purchased this property despite the financial risk and complicated governmental approvals – a miracle of God’s provision.
The first thing they did was install a street light and camera for security outside the door. The light and presence of regular activity in the space quite literally chased away the darkness on that corner. As they have been renovating the space for worship and a preschool ministry, many Muslim neighbors have stopped in to bless and thank these Christians for helping to chase away the unsafe activity. Women and children can now safely walk that way at night for the first time.
After I first arrived and announced that this was my first trip to Egypt, the youth ministry leader at the church asked, “Why did you come here?” implying that there were nicer places to see on my first visit to Cairo. Maybe so. But, after worshipping with this vibrant group of believers, sharing a message about discipleship and prayer, and taking communion alongside my Egyptian brothers and sisters in Christ, I was overcome by the experience of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).
Light becomes most visible when it shines in the midst of darkness. The witness of putting a street light in this neighborhood of Cairo brought light that exposed and dispelled darkness. But even more significant is the church’s presence, which stands as a testimony to the goodness and grace of God in Jesus Christ which “gives light to everyone in the house” (v. 15). The light of Jesus was clearly shining all around and through the witness of this Christian community, not just within the church, but outside of the building as well.
I invite you to pray for God to strengthen the witness for the church in Egypt, especially our friends in the Synod of the Nile as they carry-out a strategy to shine the light of Jesus not only Cairo and Egypt, but the Arabic-speaking world. And as you pray, invite God to lead you and your church to take the risk of carrying the light of Jesus to dark places, as well.
Jen Haddox serves ECO as Director of Global Engagement. For more insights on her visit with the church in Egypt, contact Jen, firstname.lastname@example.org.