“They’re all Egyptians!”

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

2 thoughts on ““They’re all Egyptians!””

  1. From the southern tip of Africa, praying for strength, wisdom, protection and multiplication for the work in Egypt! Over a century ago Cecil Rhodes dreamed of a British empire that would stretch from the Cape to Cairo. His dream only got as far as Rhodesia! May this kingdom go all the way!

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  2. Praise, Him for all of you sent to labor in a place so destitute and needy to the few there to be compelled to come! We ❤️ you All, Brothers and pray for the Vision you bring, and that you all have favor in the strength of His Spirit—“JOY “ unspeakable!!!❤️!!!

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