Anyone who knows me knows I like an adventure. I have just returned from Egypt where I drove from Cairo to Asyut — a 345km drive across the desert to attend a TWR Canada sponsored conference. Egypt is more of a huge gravel pit than what I would consider a desert to be, but it was the beginning of the adventure.
Cairo is huge. Greater Cairo is only a little less than a third bigger than the Greater Toronto Area, but the population in Greater Cairo is nearly five times greater. The traffic is disorganized without rules, stop signs or traffic lights. If ten cars can fit in one lane of traffic, they do. I had the chance to visit the pyramids, within Greater Cairo, and it took us 45 minutes to drive there at 6AM, but the return trip took 2.5 hours.
90% of Egypt is desert so the entire population is crowded around the 10-20km wide strips of fertile land next to the Nile River. Farming there looks much different than here as you can imagine. You know right away when you are near the Nile because the flat desert turns to lush fields and hills filled with caves where people have resided for centuries. In Cairo, people are shopping at 11PM, and donkeys and horses pull carts alongside 3-wheeled taxis and modern cars. Even the poorest people have cell phones and everyone seems to own a satellite dish.
The adventure for me is meeting people and hearing their stories. TWR has broadcast programming for an Egyptian audience since 1960 so generations of families know TWR. A woman came up to me and asked me to speak to her husband. From Sudan, her husband had listened to TWR every day and learned about the Scriptures from Thru The Bible. This man accepted Christ because of that radio program and says his life has never been the same. Today, he is a pastor in Cairo ministering to his own people.
Many shared with me how TWR has been the only way to hear the Gospel and they hugged me and thanked me for TWR’s years of faithfulness. A friend told me no one from TWR had ever visited them before, and they were very excited to be able to express how they felt about the radio programs that had changed their lives. This always warms my heart. These people are the disciples, the foot soldiers sharing the Gospel. Most of them only spoke a few words of English, so often I could not get the full story, but their hugs told their stories.
This is actually a continuation of a post I wrote in November when we launched the Discipleship Essentials (DE) Train The Trainer Program (read that post here). DE is a content tool. Creating a tool is only useful if someone uses it and it meets the needs of the church.
So the big question is why would I make this trip? Why would I go to Upper Egypt? I wanted to see for myself how the Train the Trainer program worked. I wanted to meet the people taking the course and hear from them how valuable the training was, how helpful the DE content was.
100 people registered for the Train the Trainer event and nearly 150 showed up for the three day conference representing four denominations. Our on-the-ground partner in Egypt is the Together Network who coordinated and planned the whole event. Overwhelmingly, the message I heard was that DE and the training we were providing is important to the church. They said they previously didn’t have the tools to effectively disciple believers. Pastors are overworked and tired, and while the church is growing pastors had no tools to train others so they could participate in evangelism.
Each individual (and about 40% of the attendees were female) is now equipped to train other believers on how to use DE so our investment in the Egyptian Church is multiplied many times over. One group we are working with oversees 700 churches in Egypt, and another leader I met oversees 165 churches, and both have created strategic plans to disciple their people using DE.
The missions cycle has come full circle. We created a tool to equip local churches for the ministry work they’re already doing. We have been training the Church in Egypt on how to use that tool, and how to train others to use the tool. The Together Network will work with those who have been trained to reinforce the key elements of their training. Together Network will also provide planning help, mentoring, and encouragement. In two years, we expect the Egyptian Church will have the experience and expertise to do all of this on their own.
Egypt is predominantly Muslim but with an important Christian minority. In fact, the largest Christian community in the Middle East is in Egypt. There have been Christians there for a very long time – since the time of the Romans; and a large Jewish population even pre-dates that.
However, Islam was defined as the state religion in 1980; before this the state was defined as secular. The vast majority of people in Egypt believe in God. The question is not whether there is a God, but which God the people will worship.
We can make a difference by working together. We can bring the truth of the Gospel to a nation searching for the truth.
P.S. Next week, my good friend McDaniel Phillips will share a story. He was also in Egypt for part of this conference and had the opportunity to speak with people I didn’t. I will be in Alberta next week with the Alberta Ministry Tour. I’d love to meet you if you’re nearby – check here for dates and locations.