Category: Egypt

Egypt

Greetings!

We wanted to write and update you on how things progressed during our recent intensive ministry season in Egypt.

Minya is no small city, with over 6 million residents, and, as mentioned in my previous post, boasts some historical significance. Yet, in the upper region of Egypt, it is not a tourist destination by any means. Our ministry schedule didn’t permit any tourism in any case; we alternated between the conference hall, hotel rooms, the church and two ministers’ homes the entire time. 

Our generous hosts graciously lodged us in a refurbished Nile riverboat, now serving as a hotel with about 15 rooms. While it might not meet Western standards, it was likely the most “luxurious” accommodation in the entire city. In its prime, the vessel was probably not very impressive, but it remains adequate after 50 years of retirement. However, the plumbing was leaky, and the shower stalls were so tiny that one was tempted to soap the walls and spin around to wash. The narrow space made it all the more challenging when the hot water system oscillated between arctic blasts and scorching heat. Despite these challenges, the “C-Boat Inn” was crucial in our ministry in Minya, having an upstairs conference hall large enough to hold all our teaching sessions from Friday through Saturday. One unique feature of our accommodation was the Nile River, which flowed just one foot outside our bedroom windows. The Nile was a magnificent sight, sometimes rippling with a choppy current and at other times as still as glass. Early in the morning, steam rose from the river, and sailboats and party barges often cruised its current, creating a serene view that we will all remember. Unfortunately, bottles, diapers and flotillas of trash of every kind regularly floated by as well. 

Our primary teaching sessions occurred on Friday and Saturday, starting first thing in the morning and stretching into the afternoon, with additional evening events. The people we met here are dear—notably vibrant and expressive. The social discussions and greetings before and after meetings hummed with the chatter of many voices, affectionate hugs, kisses and hearty greetings. It was like being amidst a mixed crowd of boisterous Italians or Jewish groups; the whole place vibrated with intensity.

For many of them, “Christianity” is more of an ethnic tradition than a decision to give their life to Jesus. They’re born into it. The government does not disapprove of those who are born into Christianity and continue in the faith. However, those who choose to convert from Islam to Christianity as adults are often viewed with disdain. The problem is that many who call themselves Christians have never actually had a conversion experience; they’ve simply been brought up in the culture and milieu of the centuries-old Egyptian Christian community. Coincidentally, the Christian sector—especially the youth—strikes one as more garish, liberal and worldly than their Muslim counterparts.

We taught repentance as the prerequisite for any realistic hope for unity within the church. We taught two ways of knowing God—from the head and human knowledge or the heart, relationally.

After a full day of teachings, on Friday night, the youth (18-30) convened for a special meeting. Brother Teb gave his testimony, describing how many times he went to the altar and sought help from God but never found the abiding change that would alter the course of his life. He described the desperation, the near hopelessness at Christianity’s inability to give him the needed power to find real transformation. He then described coming to Texas for the first time, invited by a former drug buddy, and how God miraculously filled him with the Spirit and then intervened in the legal system, freeing him from the jail time and criminal record hanging over his head.

All of the young people were intrigued. Some were stirred in their hearts, and others copped the same quasi-mocking posture they’re likely accustomed to showing their teachers in school. Yet many seeds were sown, and even after some were sharply rebuked for their shallowness and mockery, they softened their hearts, feeling and expressing even more interest and longing for something real, something more. At the close of the meeting, they inundated us—as eager and effervescent as a room full of guileless toddlers. They were childlike in their sweetness and desire to connect with us. We felt our hearts wrenched by these dear young people. They’re all baptized as babies, giving them no real opportunity to CHOOSE Jesus as adults. They’ve never been evangelized, converted or likely even encountered God in any meaningful way.

As Brother Kash said, “Put these youth with some of ours for just a short period, and they’d all be receiving the Holy Spirit one after another.”

To our pleasant surprise, many of the youth, who had not attended previous meetings, joined their parents and elders the following Saturday morning for the teaching sessions. A visual anointing from God was on the teaching Saturday as one truth rocket after another landed on the reinforced bunkers of intellectual Presbyterianism, proving that God is Spirit and desires a spiritual relationship with us through expressive, exponential encounters, true, demonstrative prayer and praise. There’s just no way to hear the word of God on how to sing, worship, pray—and retain your attachment to an utterly lifeless form of godliness that denies the power thereof.

There was palpable conviction throughout the teaching. The vast majority were coming alive, their faces and body language revealing their excitement and rekindled hope for an exponential relationship with Jesus. As one would expect, there were a handful of holdouts, disgusted at the thought of true humility or vulnerable worship, clinging to their traditions behind the “that’s your way and opinion” rubric. Notwithstanding that, no sooner had the teaching wrapped up than the lead elder, Izaat, leaped to his feet and began yielding to the Spirit and demonstrably leading worship with a song that refrained, “We bow down to our great God and King.”

Around the room, including the pastor’s wife, people began cautiously raising their hands. Even more, you could see on their faces—they were feeling the presence of God.

After an intense barrage of questions and answers, the pastor rose to dismiss the meeting. Through broken translation, we could sense that, out of some nervousness and fear of alienating the stubborn, he was attempting to soften the point of conviction, assuring folks that—in addition to the praise like mighty peals of thunder and the roar of a waterfall, Revelations also depicted 30 minutes of silence in heaven. Though this might’ve been intended to reassure the fearful hearts of the “frozen chosen,” it did little to dull the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Hearts were pierced, and invisible shockwaves of hope were vibrating through the whole congregation.

Over tea, Izaat, a Presbyterian elder with multiple master’s degrees in theology, later explained his worship leading after the teaching. “I wasn’t expecting it, but I felt an anointing of the Holy Spirit come all over me. I wasn’t forcing it or even trying for it; it just came on me, and I yielded to it!“

We retired briefly to our rooms, knowing that God had transcended the circumstances, surmounted the “impossibilities,” and brought life and power to light through the gospel! We felt significantly delivered of our burden.

That evening, we were invited to supper at Izaat’s house. Before leaving our lodging, he had informed us that “the vast majority of the congregation is 100% with y’all.” He also alluded to the fact that he was more committed than others in leadership. He explained the great tension the pastor was under, pressured by an evangelical board that could remove him, challenged by unhappy members who wanted to stick with Presbyterian traditions, and inspired by the word of God he could not deny.

As about 10 of us men sat down in the living room, we confronted the issue directly. The pastor explained his predicament, expressing his commitment to us to walk in this way, develop the relationship, and lead his people in the truth he is now receiving. Yet, he also expressed his fears of alienating people, of moving too fast, or causing an unnecessary or premature rift. In response, we assured him that we sympathize with the anguish of his situation. We drew a sharp contrast between the role of a politician and that of a shepherd. The former is inherently false as the master of compromise. The latter lays down his life for the sheep, cultivating the right ear and attitude toward the word of God. We explained that we had done our part; now, it was up to him and the congregation to determine how they would respond to the word that they knew was from God. We could not and would not apologize; we had merely opened the scriptures under the grace of the Spirit’s anointing, and everyone experienced that undeniable work of grace.

After a beautiful evening hosted by Magda, Izaat’s wife, we walked back to our lodgings, accompanied by the elder and pastor. Pastor Methad hung back with me as we walked, and together, we opened our hearts and discussed the course in the future. “What would you do if you were in my shoes?” he asked. By the time we reached our hotel, there was a profound sense of unity and resolve. He could not have been more adamant in his commitment to foster the right attitude toward the word of God and the changes God was proposing to his congregation. “We want to walk with you and get to know you better. We want to continue learning. We ask you to come and come again!”

I should mention that tensions are currently high in Egypt, especially toward Americans, largely due to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Many Egyptians have boycotted American-based restaurants like McDonald’s or KFC as a protest against what they perceive as America’s backing for an unjust war. The national government of Egypt assigned 15 full-time agents as a protection detail to shadow us everywhere we went. We could not step out of the hotel without men toting machine guns accompanying us. They took turns 24 hours a day, five on shift at a time, accompanying us to our taxis, following us to our destinations, waiting outside the church doors—everywhere we went, Egyptian national security was also there. We did our best to make friends; they were cordial enough, even exhibiting almost a childlike demeanor at times.

Sunday morning, we met in the Presbyterian Church, where our brothers were able to lead worship, and Danny gave an anointed telling of his testimony, ministering from the question, “what if “—relating this to all the beautiful opportunities, transformations and miracles that he might have missed, had he not trusted God and found the grace to submit to His promptings.

After church, we had a smaller meeting with adults who peppered us with questions about raising children, what it means to be a community, where and how to draw the lines regarding technology, what it means to become vulnerable, and so forth. It felt like one of the more meaningful moments of our stay, as God helped form a fuller picture of His vision in the minds of these people.

Sunday evening, Brother Dan taught on unity in the church—avoiding truth without love and love without truth, but instead engaging in the progressive pilgrimage of an unfolding walk of faith, exhibited in the life and response of the great Apollos, who was able to be shown the “more excellent way,” and thus prove the validity of all previous steps of faith. It felt like this final message left them with a vivid framework in which to consider all that they had learned and received over this packed season.

Our goodbyes were rich with gratitude, their pleas for us to return, testimonies of how God had changed them, and a kind of warmth and connection that would indicate a longer relationship than we’ve been able to form in such a relatively short period.

Despite our weariness, we broke bread and engaged in fellowship with church members until after midnight. Izaat’s face and voice are imprinted on my heart forever. We have formed a deep connection with this man, as has marked our relationships with men of God like Jared, Rowan, and so many others. This is a brother—a bona fide servant and child of God. He loves his people, is an honored patriarch of his family, and he sees the miracle of what God has given us and is determined to bring it to Egypt. Please pray for him and the pastor. God has sown much seed, watered by His Spirit. And a great harvest can already be seen not far in the future.

Brother Howard sent me the following scripture, my heart’s prayer for our dear brothers and sisters:

“In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD at its border. And it will be for a sign and for a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the LORD because of the oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Mighty One, and He will deliver them. Then the LORD will be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day, and will make sacrifice and offering; yes, they will make a vow to the LORD and perform it. And the LORD will strike Egypt, He will strike and heal it; they will return to the LORD, and He will be entreated by them and heal them.” (Isa. 19:19-22)

Pray for Izaat and Methad—their spouses, families and all the brothers and sisters in Egypt. Pray that God will move on many hearts to seek His Spirit until He rains righteousness upon them. Pray for protection from the religious principalities arrayed against God and His work.

This feels like a solid, fruitful labor in Egypt. We will see fruit.

After over 30 hours of travel, we reached South Africa yesterday afternoon. It’s refreshing—not only to be in this lush, picturesque land after the moonscape deserts of Egypt, but especially to see the body of Christ budding, blooming and flourishing like a tree planted by the water! I cannot restrain my emotions when I think of where we started nine years ago and what God has done to bring us to this point today. This congregation is getting ready to be a bright beacon and witness to all of Africa. The body of Christ is glorious!

We love and miss you all, and we thank you for standing in your places of service all over the world. We are one body with one heart, one purpose, one kingdom and one great King. We all feel so grateful to be extensions of your faithfulness and witness wherever we go. We would be nothing as individuals; as part of you, we are the fragrance of life to those who are being saved!

With much love,

Brother Asi

Egypt

We held our first ministry sessions here in Minya, Egypt, yesterday.

The majority of attendees are from this area. Many of them are related to one another, and their deep familial bonds are evidenced by their warmth and camaraderie towards each other. Many come from a “churched” background, and it is striking to see the same people who interact so vivaciously with one another become stoic once “church” begins. Their worship is filled with Arabic flutes, accordions, and tones unfamiliar to our Western experience, yet beautiful.

After introductions, Brother Asi spoke on repentance as the foundation for the kingdom of God. He reiterated that the church cannot be unified until each “demi-king of self” is removed from the throne and God is allowed to be king over every area of life. 

This setting reframes the whole context of often-used metaphors equating the “world” with “Egypt“ or Satan with the magicians who opposed Moses. It’s a different matter to talk about those historical events while sitting in the very context where they unfolded, among the people who still bear that name. 

Later, Brother Dan spoke about two ways of approaching God: a loving, father-to-son relationship versus analytical observation. He drew heavily from the story of Paul at the Areopagus, highlighting the wrong type of religiosity. He contrasted that with the story of the disciples on their way to Emmaus and their encounter with the Lord, marked by their hearts burning within them. Both sessions prompted a time of boisterous questions, which stand out in marked contrast to the response to worship or to the word of God.

After a break, we convened for a time of worship with a large contingent of youth ages 17-30. Brother Teb shared a moving account of his testimony, illustrating the power of God to accomplish what no degree of human effort can do. Several people testified of the impact it had on them, and it also prompted a time of questions. Although these young folks look identical to any Westerners, they are corralled by the Egyptian Islamic culture around them. Alcohol and drugs of any kind are not available in these parts (although smuggling certainly exists), so their demeanor can be misleading in that they look worldly yet have a smug self-righteousness due to their churched background and the greater Islamic influences around them. That said, they were overjoyed to meet this many foreigners and basically suffocated us in their greetings and well-wishes. You cannot help but love these people.

In a moment, our second day of ministry begins. Please continue to pray for God’s grace, anointing, and insight to pierce the strongholds of Satan and prepare the way for God’s kingdom. May it come, Lord, even now!

With love,

Judah 

Egypt

We flew yesterday from Entebbe to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and then on to Cairo, making it to our hotel just after 2 AM.

We were blessed to meet Brother Dan over breakfast this morning and review our preliminary schedule of events over the next four days here.

Breakfast was delicious and even more welcomed was the luxury of air conditioning and reliable showers at the airport hotel. The desert air is dry and crisp, a pleasant distinction from our Uganda experience.

Yet, we are keenly aware, once again, of the religious and political tensions surging like a powerful current just beneath the surface here.

No sooner had we hired our driver to take us in a van the 4-hour drive from Cairo to Minya, loaded our luggage, and clamored into our seats than we confronted the first tension. Armed, plainclothes Egyptian security began questioning and challenging our driver concerning where he was taking these foreigners. Kash got our Egyptian contact, Brother Ezaat, on the line, who began explaining our situation over the phone to the driver and authorities. It was unclear whether they wanted to track us, worried for our safety on the open road, or were simply flexing their muscles. Regardless, we prayed, and before too long, we were on the road.

As Brother Dan pointed out, Egypt redefines the meaning of ‘desert.’ As far as the eye can see, in every direction are endless stretches of sand without even a hint of vegetation. We are accustomed to calling things ‘deserts’ with much more life than can be found in this sunbaked region of the world. A full 95% of Egypt’s land is lifeless desert. For contrast, ‘desert’ makes up just 9% of Texas.

And yet, it is precisely those vast stretches of barrenness that create such stark contrast with the flourishing farmlands of the Nile Delta—a ribbon of emerald through a sea of sand. This Nile Valley farmland is mostly cultivated on a small scale, not as agribusiness. We saw countless farmers working with donkeys, often piled high with produce or supporting their cajoling owner. But even seeing these beautiful cultivated regions offers its contradictions: all along the fields is modern plastic garbage piled in the medians, creating an incongruous foreground for the fieldworkers whose traditional attire and rhythms seem indistinguishable from 2,000 years ago.

A Westerner finds other sights to be astonished at—an 18-wheeler barreling down the road, top down, with a trailer full of camels! At random intervals along the highway, we came to ‘checkpoints’ or just partial roadblocks that slowed traffic, allowing small fruit stands or hawkers of various wares to ply the passing vehicles with their goods. It’s somewhat befuddling to repeatedly see a Muslim woman, burka-clad in black from head to foot, not even showing eyes, standing out in the middle of the highway peddling cigarettes! Yes, it is a land of contradictions.

As we ventured further and further from Cairo, midway between there and our destination, the driver instructed us to cover the van windows with the attached green curtains. He explained that this was a very ‘Muslim’ area and additionally, the ‘police’ might be prone to harass us if they discovered foreigners were traveling in his van.

Kash sat shotgun, Teb directly behind him, and the rest of us tried to stay obscure behind the curtains and tinted windows. One immediately senses just how volatile this situation could become as the van grinds to a halt behind a row of cars, and drivers explain their destination and purpose to armed federal ‘thugs’ in the middle of the road. No one of us said a word; we stayed pretty still as our driver forcefully repeated the same Arabic word again and again—‘Miṣriyyīn! Miṣriyyīn!’

We all sighed in relief as the van launched back into motion, widening the distance between us and the ‘bad thugs.’ In barely understandable English, the driver explained that he told the agents we were ‘All Egyptians, all Egyptians!’ His lie—not ours.

Upon our arrival, two dear brothers from the church here in Egypt greeted us warmly. With faces beaming and hugs all around, they were saying, “Habibi, Habibi!” (“You’re Loved!”).

The pastor and his family graciously invited us over for a fantastic meal of authentic Egyptian food. There were many different kinds of cheeses, breads that would remind you of piratas, and delicious falafel. They are a wonderful group of big-hearted, childlike, and sincere Christians!

Minya is an ancient city located on the banks of the Nile in Egypt. It is the region of Pharaoh Akhenaten’s capital, the most unconventional monarch in 5000 years of Egyptian history, known for his radical shift to monotheism. 

“The Ipuwer Papyrus” is an ancient Egyptian “prophecy” which some scholars attribute to this same time period (though others date it earlier), as it depicts events shockingly similar to those found in the book of Exodus. 

The Ipuwer Papyrus:
“Behold, the river is blood, and one drinks from it.“
“All animals, their hearts weep. Cattle moan…”
“Behold, trees are destroyed, no fruits nor herbs are found…” 
“The land is not light…” 
“He who places his brother in the ground is everywhere” 
“It is groaning that is throughout the land, mingled with lamentations” 

In the days of Akhenaten, the previous Pharaoh was suddenly killed, along with his heir, leaving the throne to go to his nephew, Akhenaten. This young Pharaoh was unlike any before or after him. He believed in one God! This belief drove him to deface the faces and gods of his people throughout the land and abolish the polytheistic state bureaucracy run by the priests. The only monotheist in Egypt’s history. (“I will execute judgment on all the gods of Egypt.”)

There’s no concrete evidence, either archaeological or literary, that supports the idea of the exodus occurring during Ramesses the Second’s reign. The fact that the Bible mentions Israelites living in the ‘land of Ramesses’ doesn’t necessarily mean that they lived contemporaneously with or after Ramesses. This is because scripture often refers to regions by their contemporary names. For instance, it mentions Joseph and the Israelites living in ‘Goshen,’ but it also acknowledges that it wasn’t called that until later. Therefore, the Bible also refers to the ‘land of Rameses,’ even though it wasn’t known by that name when the Israelites were there.

So, here we are—in a land of such history and contradictions. I think that one contradiction is simply the fact that we are out here in the middle of nowhere, preparing to spend four full days ministering to devout Christians who are needing more from God. But I suppose all redemption is a story in contrast—the irony of hope coming from despair, beauty from ashes, vibrant life from decrepit tombs of human loss. And in that sense, the driver was right: we are “all Egyptians” trying to become children of God and find our stride in this exodus of salvation. Maybe promise, miracles and power can still emerge from the murky waters of the Nile. Perhaps another contradiction is getting ready to be born—a vibrant expression of the Spirit’s power here in the barren land of Egypt. ‘Out of Egypt, I have called My son.’

Pray for us. These are going to be packed, exhausting days. We seek God’s wisdom and strength to match the message to the need, break the bread of life, and see the multiplication that only He can create.

It’s your prayers and support in the Spirit that have carried us this far—from Turkey to Israel, to Uganda, and now to Egypt. 

‘Your kingdom come; Your will be done!’

We love you all!

Asi