Egypt

Waiting patiently

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I’ve been dwelling on Psalm 40 recently, “I waited patiently for the Lord…” One thing the Lord is teaching me at the moment is that his plans for me are better than mine. I’ve seen him continually provide for me and guide me in ways I would never have expected. This is a transitional season of my life, where I am only planning one semester at a time, and seeking to trust the Lord for the present and the future.

Study. I really enjoyed the last semester at Trinity. I got the top grade for all my courses — not that getting As in seminary is the most important thing, but that I learned more in and grew in studying preaching, early church history, Hosea and Anglican theology this semester. For this last course, I enjoyed writing a essay about Temple Gairdner, one of the first CMS missionaries in Egypt who was ahead of his time in his work with the majority religious group. This semester I’m studying Hebrew (it’s similar to Arabic!), ethics, Romans, and God the Son (systematic theology).

Uncommon Grounds. I’ve loved getting involved in this community café in a struggling neighbouring town. Set up by Church Army USA, they run lots of programmes for addicts, veterans, women, and are a place of welcome. I’ve committed to attending (and dishwashing!) at Church of the Margins, where anyone can sit at the table, eat, share from our lives about a different question each week and pray together. It’s always unexpected what happens and it’s a joy to be part of this ministry.

Arabic Bible study. I’ve continued to enjoy spending time with four families from Aleppo. I ambitiously decided to cook Thanksgiving dinner for them (more than 20 guests), and wonderfully a local store donated the food so I only had to learn how to source and cook a halal turkey! I had been praying about how to follow up on their interest in learning more about Jesus. God provided an Egyptian and an American man who both have Arabic fluent enough to lead the study and translate. Each 2 weeks, we listen to the Bible in Arabic, and together answer four questions: what does it tells us about God, what does it tell us about each other, what can we obey, and how can we share with others. Our last study was about the story of Cain and Abel, the first murder. It was powerful to hear these friends talk about the violence in Aleppo in relation to the “blood crying out from the land,” and the universality of the power of sin and violence. Please keep these families in your prayers.

Home life. In August, I moved in a wonderful new flat, located above the SAMS (the USA equivalent of CMS) headquarters and across the road from seminary. I’m living with Grace, a priest who arrived from Kenya to study. She is a great friend to laugh, cry, sing, dance, cook and pray with, and I’m so thankful for her. We’ve sought to make our home a place of hospitality — most recently a winter night gathering with poetry and banjo-uke singalong.

Summer and beyond. In July this year, I will co-lead a small group from seminary to learn from our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Church in Egypt. I’m really excited to re-connect with friends there, and it may help with future discernment also. After this, my plans are open to where the Lord leads. I’m planning to write a thesis related to community development and the church, and I have a development professor from another seminary to supervise this.

In You Alone I’m Free

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In a recent newsletter from Rosie’s Diocese in Egypt, Bishop Mouneer shared a poem:

I was moved by the words below, written by Rev. John Young, a Scottish pastor. He wrote them in a song inspired by the last words of one of the Egyptian Christians beheaded by ISIS in Libya last month. Before one of the young men was killed, he said, ya Rabbi Yesua, “oh, my Lord Jesus.”

They can break my body They can break my pride They can cut my head off And post it up online But when the morning breaks It’s Jesus I will see O my Lord Jesus In you alone I’m free

They’re asking me to say My faith is just a lie They tell me ‘turn away And I won’t have to die’ But how can I abandon The one who wouldn’t abandon me O my Lord Jesus In you alone I’m free

It is difficult to imagine such brutal persecution facing Christians in the twenty-first century. However, it is not surprising. Before going to the cross, Christ warned his disciples in John 16: “they will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” This is exactly what happened in Libya.

 

Please pray for the situation throughout the Middle East, particularly in the region of Egypt/Libya.

Tragedy in Heliopolis

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Pictured: Members and friends of the St. Michael’s Church congregation gather to pray. Article re-posted from The Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa.

One child is dead and eight women are hospitalized following the Monday explosion of three gas bottles, sparking a fire in the Kilo 4.5 neighborhood of Nasr City in Cairo. The group of ladies were preparing a meal for a meeting at the St. Gabriel Center, a Sudanese social center and ministry of St. Michael’s Anglican Churchin Heliopolis.

Youssef Attiya, a nine-month-old infant, succumbed to smoke inhalation and died this morning. His mother Mona Ismail remains in critical condition in the Galaa Hospital of Nasr City.

Ikhlas Ali is also in critical condition, suffering burns over 90 percent of her body. She is two months pregnant and the wife of Rev. Hassan Jemes, associate pastor of St. Michael’s in charge of the Sudanese congregation. Hospital staff at the Nile Emergency Center in Nasr City said she has little chance to survive, according to Rev. Jos Strengholt, dean of East Cairo Anglican churches and priest-in-charge at St. Michael’s.

Another child, nine-year-old Sonita Musa, suffered a bad head wound but was discharged this morning. Her mother Aziza Ibrahim remains hospitalized but is in stable condition. According to Shawgi Kori, director of St. Gabriel’s Center, Ibrahim helped around eight other women and children escape the fire, pushing several through a window, before being injured herself.

The meal was to be in commemoration of a child relative of one of the church members who recently died in Sudan. The explosion blasted pots of boiling oil to the ceiling, which then sprayed onto several women. The church community is now organizing rounds of visitation to care for the injured and the needs of their families.

The St. Gabriel’s Center serves the large Sudanese refugee population of Nasr City without discrimination. It runs a clinic, a vocational training program, English lessons, and provides a social outlet especially for women and youth in the neighborhood. One of the injured women is a Muslim.

“These are women associated with our church,” said Rev. Strengholt, stating only two have medical insurance. “We are committed to helping them whatever we need to do.”

 

Since this was written four women have died, including Ikhlas, the wife of Rev Hassan. Rev Hassan Jemes is the priest of the Sudanese congregation and  just became the Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Kadugli and the Nuba Mountains. Our Mission Partner Rosie worked with Hassan in the prison previously – her heart breaks for him.

A New Spirit and a New Hope

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The following is an update from Bishop Mouneer of the Diocese of Egypt where our Mission Partner Rosie is based.

Dear friends,

Last week we heard about terrorist attacks which targeted the army and the police in Egypt. These attacks occur from time to time since the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood from power.

Also last week, millions of Egyptians queued in the banks to deposit whatever they had in order to participate with the Egyptian government in fulfilling a new project in Egypt to establish a new canal parallel to Suez Canal. This was the response of the Egyptian people to the call made by President Al-Sisi to participate in this ‘project of the country’.

The new canal project will cost around 60 billion Egyptian pounds, but it will improve the economy and create many job opportunities. People bought shares in this project according to their ability from as low as 10 Egyptian pounds to several thousand pounds. The surprise was that the people paid more than the 60 billion pounds needed for the project.

This was an amazing response from the Egyptian people who did not allow fear from terrorism to hinder their hope in the future of Egypt. I see the millions who crowded at the banks as another referendum in support of the current government. It is a new spirit and a new hope.

I hope the similar new spirit may spread in the church of the Middle East. We need such a new hope while we are facing many challenges such as the immigration of youth and violence against Christians.

We can have such new hope when we hold on to God’s promise ‘Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert’. (Isaiah 43 : 19)

Let us lay aside every fear, wrong and weight which can hinder us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

May the Lord Bless you!

Bishop Mouneer Hanna Anis

 

Egypt Appeal Update

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Last year a special appeal was issued by Bishop Mouneer from Egypt. Here is a small update about the appeal and what it has accomplished.

Background to the Situation

The last few years have been traumatic for Egyptians. We have witnessed bloodshed on our streets, vandalism and the deliberate destruction of churches and government buildings in lawless acts of revenge. In 2013, one of our Anglican churches was attacked, and other ministries received threats. We praise God that our churches and congregations are safe, but we grieve for the loss of life and for the churches which were burnt in August 2013. Unemployment is at a record high, there is a lack of security on the streets, the economy is in decline, and poverty is crushing for many people in Egypt. Refugees too are suffering, those from Syria and from other African countries, such as Sudan.

Testimonies

The funds that were donated in response to the appeal have been used to help many families and individuals in difficult situations. Below are testimonies of three people who were helped by this support.

Rehab: I am 37 years ago. I got married many years ago, but my husband became psychologically unstable and started to beat me up. I took my two daughters and moved to my mother’s house. I started to clean houses to make a living and to put my children through school. My daughters have now graduated from university and one daughter recently got married. According to the culture in Egypt, the bride’s family must provide the furniture for the house. I did not have enough money to do this, and I shared my problem with the staff at the Boulaq Community Development Centre. The centre helped me a lot and financially supported me to buy furniture for my daughter. This was a big blessing for me and for my daughter.

Nahed: I moved from Upper Egypt to Ras El Soda, a very poor area near Alexandria. I heard about the Ras el Soda Community Centre and started to attend some lectures about raising children and health education. I also sent my children to the nursery at the centre. I had no toilet in my house, which was so difficult for my children. I desperately needed a toilet and so I went to the centre with my problem. They agreed to pay for the labour and I paid for the materials. This was a great help for my family.

Om Farouk is a 75 year old woman. She broke her leg badly, and the church helped her to pay for the surgery. The church visited her regularly to give her Holy Communion in her home and provide her with food supplies.

 

For more details click here.

Tensions in the Middle East

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The following is an update from Bishop Mouneer. Our Mission Partner Rosie works under Mouneer in Egypt. Here he captures the feelings that many believers throughout this region are experiencing.

My dear friends,

The Middle East is groaning.  You hear about what is happening in Iraq and the many Christians who are being forced to leave their homes and also those who were killed by ISIS (Daash).  Over 1500 have been killed in Gaza and 8000 were injured in the recent days because of the fighting between Israel and Hamas.  Syria is suffering greatly, and we are receiving many Syrian refugees here in Egypt.  Libya is struggling with tribal wars and conflicts, and Christ the King Anglican Church in Tripoli is in the midst of this.  South Sudan is torn again by fighting and hundreds of thousands are fleeing to neighboring countries, including Ethiopia.  Here in Egypt, every other day we hear about a violent and terrorist attack, especially in the Sinai where military and police officers are targeted. What a region, full of flames and blood.

In the midst of all this, many people are saying “Where are you, God? Why are you allowing this to happen to your people?”  It reminds me with the cries of King David in Psalm 77 when he said, “Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?”  We find the answer to all these questions in the same Psalm, “I will remember the works of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.”

Indeed, we need to think of how God was faithful to his church in this region in the last 2000 years.  Just as the blood of the martyrs became the seeds of many churches throughout this region, we trust that this current turmoil will turn into something good.  We don’t understand now, but one day we or the next generation will.

We don’t have any way to heal the situation, except by prayer.  One of the good outcomes of this very difficult time for Christians in the Middle East is that last week all churches in Egypt gathered together in the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral to pray.  This was a very special time and we felt united in Christ through prayer.  We prayed for our fellow Christians and Muslims throughout the region, and we remembered what King Jehoshaphat said in 2 Chronicles 20: “For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”  We also remembered the words of St. Peter “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4).

Do pray for peace in our region and grace for us.

Bishop Mouneer

Refugees in Gambella

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I spent 10 days in Gambella (in the west of Ethiopia) in April. Since the war broke out in neighbouring South Sudan, 150 000 new refugees have arrived and the number could rise to up to 300 000 by the end of this year. The total population of Gambella before the conflict was 380 000 so this is a huge strain on the already scarce resources of this region.

As many of the refugees are from Anglican churches, we have new congregations in the camps. I joined Bishop Grant and Wendy to visit Akula refugee camp. As we entered in a landrover, I felt like an outsider – viewing poverty from behind a glass window. But as I joined the church service, I became a member of God’s family worshipping together. ‘Church’ was a large tree around where 3000 Christians from many denominations were gathered. The camp, then only one month old, already sheltered 33 000, with more arriving daily.

Glimpses of the stories and thoughts of those who have fled here for shelter:

“My sister died on the way. Her children were suffering from dehydration so they were brought here for medical care without being registered. Now they are with me, but they are not registered, so I cannot get food ration cards for them. Pray that I can get rations to feed them”

“My husband Jacob has been missing since December 15th. I can get no news. I pray to know if he is alive or dead.”

“We should not be surprised at the calamity which has fallen upon us. It says in the Bible that these things can happen. But be encouraged, for nothing, not even this, can separate us from the love of God.”

“It was quarreling that brought us here. We must forsake quarreling.”

“Let us greet one another, and when Jesus comes, we will all love one an-other.” “Let us kneel together before our Jesus”

Bishop Grant was invited to preach: “Jesus hates suffering and death. He wept at the tomb of his friend, Lazarus. A couple of weeks later, he gave him-self to die on the cross and to rise again, de-feating suffering and death. Because Jesus rose from the dead we know that one day there will be no death, there will be no suffering – God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. And on that day people from every tribe will be together around the throne – white people and Chinese and Arab and Nuer and Anuak and Dinka and Murle – so we should get used to being together now!”

Many of our partners have given generously to the newly arrived refugees, and spoken out about the situation which is lost in the world news. See this video for more info about the situation in Gambella and South Sudan: anglicanaid.net/south-sudan-appeal

New Prison Ministry in Alexandria

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The Anglican Church recently started a new prison ministry in Alexandria, on the north coast of Egypt. This new ministry is co-ordinated by Nabila, a member of the St Mark’s Anglican Pro-Cathedral in Alexandria.

There are 8 regular volunteers from different denominations. There are also 4 students from the Alexandria School of Theology joining the prison ministry for the practical component of their training. The team visit Borg el Arab Prison and Hadra Prison. Borg el Arab is located 45 kilometres south-west of Alexandria. It is a men only prison, and there are 8 foreigners and 250 Egyptians. The conditions in which the men live are very poor. The cells are underground and have only small windows. Many men share the same rooms and there are no beds, only mattresses on the floor. Skin diseases are common. As most of the Egyptian men are from other areas of Egypt, they receive few visitors and no one else provides for them except this ministry.

One of the challenges facing the men and women at El Kanater Prison is the lack of health care and medicine. The prisoners asked if we could bring non-prescription medicine for them such as cold/flu medicine, bandages and painkillers. We bought some one time through a pharmacy, but it was expensive and it is difficult for us to afford extra expenses, as we only just cover our running costs. It was therefore a great blessing when Harpur Memorial Hospital in Menouf offered to provide the medicine for free. Harpur Memorial Hospital is another ministry of the Anglican Church, founded more than a century ago with a mission to serve the poor. It is wonderful that our ministries can support and serve each other!

Impressions from Visitors

“I recently joined the prison visit knowing it would be an experience, just not sure what kind. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I spoke with three men from the prison – one from Europe, one from the Africa, and one from Central America. For me, there was a huge disconnect between the joy that I saw in them, and the length of their sentences. At times it was hard holding back tears. I came away thinking that I had seen something on Christ in meeting them.” Andre

“After my first visit to the prison my heart was so warmed by how God can meet people at their lowest point, I was super excited that I couldn’t sleep nor get the prisoners out of my head and prayers. I was also a very humbling experience to see myself not better than any of them, I could have been in their place easily if wasn’t for God’s grace.” Silvia

Air Tickets Saving Lives

There are many Eritrean refugees at El Kanater Prison. Many are victims of human trafficking. They are either kidnapped, or promised a better life and pay a high fee to leave Eritrea. They arrive in the Sinai region of Egypt, one of the most notorious routes for human trafficking in the world and well documented abuse. Many are tortured, raped, and cases of organ harvesting have been reported. There is also extortion, where desperate families will pay large ransoms for the freedom of their loved ones.

Often, the traffickers will call the Egyptian authorities, and the prisoners are rounded up and brought to Egyptian prisoners. Our Prison Ministry has in the past supplied basic needs to these prisoners. There are currently 5 Eritrean men who can return to their families. We have funds for three air tickets, and need to raise funds for the remaining two.

If you’re interested in helping getting these men home, please email jon@nzcms.org.nz