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Contrasts and Sameness

The village of Deir-Abu Hennis, where our team activities are taking place on this Monday, is sufficiently remote that it requires 90 minutes of bus travel to get there each day from our hotel in El Minya.  On this trip we see the contrasts that mark this unique land.  Driving along the banks of the Nile, we see life happening much as it has for millennia – some women washing clothes, some fires for cooking – while on the other bank a spectacular pyramid-shaped hotel of gleaming stone is being constructed.  A man in traditional dress driving two donkeys pulling his cart is passed on the road by a shiny sports car.

In one meeting the women of the ANWAAR ministry hear a message of empowerment in support of their service and interact with the women of our team.  Another team member speaks on the subject, “You Are the Image of God” to a group of ten disabled villagers – all young people – and their supporters, and we witness the radiant happiness on their faces as they each receive the gift of a new wheelchair, provided in partnership with Joni and Friends.  The team hears of the inspiring work of ANWAAR as it tackles the transnational issues of poverty, education, health and societal ills that run through much of the African continent.

The children of this village are delightful.  Our team – arriving on a bus so common in the tourist areas of Egypt but very rare here – represents an exciting event in their lives.  They crowd around us with happy faces, wanting to have their pictures taken and in any way possible touch the outside world.  They represent Egypt’s future, and we pray they grow strong in Christ.

We walk through the village, sharing the road with donkeys, cows, dogs, sheep, goats and even a camel.  Arriving at the 5th century Church of Saint John, we enter the ancient world of the Copts and understand that 1,600 years later, we too worship Jesus, the same yesterday, today and forever.

Brick

I have traveled to different places, usually with very little money left over to spend.  So I’ve gotten in the habit of picking up a rock or two from my travels and putting them in a jar as a keepsake.  Most of them are nothing fancy,  but the one I’ve taken from Mallawy is unique.  It’s a chip of red brick.  You see piles of them all over the village of  Deir Abu Hennis,  where building projects are happening all over the area and take years to complete.  We spent Sunday morning listening to a sermon about leadership, delivered by a volunteer from WePartner.  It was one of three being done in different local churches.  Afterward, all the leadership from these local churches met together for a brief presentation on how the local church is serving in that community.

It was a red brick day.  We learned how one local ministry is building important relationships for today and laying a solid foundation for tomorrow.

On the Road to Minya

We wanted to update all of our friends and family on the status of our trip.  Everyone made it safely and have no problems to report with flight delays, security or immigration.  God has been good to us, providing nice places for us to lay our jet-lagged heads.

Our trip has begun with a day of travel and tourism.  Saturday, we went to see the Pyramids and the Sphinx at Giza.  On our way to Minya, we also visited an 11th dynasty necropolis in Benni Hassan.  The tomb paintings were amazing and gave us a greater appreciation of the rich history of the people we are here to serve.

Sunday will be an exciting day, with three volunteers from WePartner preaching in three different area churches.  The congregations and volunteers will then come together for a time of food and fellowship.  All of us from WePartner would like to thank you for continuing to keep us in your prayers.  We’ll keep you posted.

To Cairo and Beyond…

Several of our team members headed from Chicago on Wednesday’s overnight flight to Cairo while the rest of the team headed over “the pond” on Thanksgiving Day.  On the first flight we enjoyed playing with the individual touch-screen TVs, watching movies, and trying to sleep through the turbulence.  And, we were fortunate enough to enjoy a light turkey sandwich on the plane during the second leg of the trip – thank you Royal Jordanian!

Our travelers and luggage arrived unharmed, and we were greeted promptly by Garden City Travel who whisked us off to the Sheapherd Hotel along the Nile River in downtown Cairo.  After a brief night sleep, we woke up to a wonderful Egyptian style buffet breakfast, complete with foul and flatbread, crepes and croissants, cheeses and qahwa (coffee).

We picked up a study-abroad student from Willow who is studying in Cairo this semester and drove 2.5 hours to the maritime city of Alexandria on the Mediterranean shoreline.  After enjoying the view, discussion and people watching at the local Starbucks (seriously), we visited a local castle that is situated in a park by the beach (Montazah).  It was wonderful to walk and talk as we shared stories from home and our excitement about this twelve day adventure.

For lunch, we drove along the coastline to the renown Fish Market for a delicious fresh seafood meal together and then visited the famous Alexandria Library.  If you’ve never been there, definitely check it out online at www.bibalex.org.  Truly amazing, but perhaps not as amazing as the fresh rice pudding topped with ice cream, nuts, cinnamon and raisins from Saber!

That evening, we drove back to our hotel in Cairo to meet up at the Shepheard Hotel with those whose flights had arrived during the day.  Everyone went to bed early in preparation for our early start time on Saturday when we would board the coach bus for Giza and El Minya.  It was a treat to spend a day getting acclimated to the culture and resting up before heading deeper into Egypt to serve the people in the village.

Thank you to everyone who is prayerfully supporting us on this ministry trip.  We are blessed by God and you to be here.  Stay tuned for more posts as we journey ahead each day…

Why I Serve

Hi.  My name is Dawn and I volunteer for WePartner.  I’m writing because I think some of you are like me. Have you been wondering why the folks who are coming on this trip are going?  Is it the excitement of an exotic locale, a chance to meet other people, a love of service – what?  My own motives started long ago.  I have always been interested in Egypt.  When I was a kid I used to wrap up my stuffed animals like mummies and would check out books about archeology by the armload.  When I was looking at colleges, I applied to a couple of schools with great archeology programs on the off chance my passion would impress them.  It didn’t, so when I had the opportunity to visit Egypt a few years ago, I jumped at the chance.  The dreams of my childhood were going to come true!  It was great, the Pyramids, the Red Sea, the Egyptian Antiquities Museum filled with all the treasures I had only seen in books or on TV.  But my knowledge didn’t prepare me for a change in my heart. We went off the “regular” tourist path and rode a bus to see St. Simon the Tanner Coptic Orthodox Church in the Mokattam garbage village.  We drove through this place, a village within a city where people earned a living by collecting garbage from city apartments for a small tip.  They take the garbage and separate and sell the recyclables.  The thing that struck me was not the extreme poverty, but the hope.  As we sat in traffic, I could see people working with each other, talking, laughing.  Little kids were coming home from school around that time and they were goofing around just like little kids anywhere do.  In a situation where I would have been weeping and wringing my hands, these people were ok.  When we got to the church I was struck from my feet by a “whisper” in my ear – these people were only ok because of the church and the teaching of God’s word. This was what I was supposed to see. The church was like the hub of a wheel, with the hope of God radiating from it into the lives of people.  I believe that the local church is the hope of the world, but I had never seen it so clearly before.  This divine moment of clarity is why I volunteer.  I want to do everything I can to ensure that people who serve God are sustained and “transformed by the renewing of their minds” (Rom 12:2).  The GLS does this so well, and I’m privileged to be a small part of it.

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