There are many things that can divide believers, even churches, but there is plenty we can all agree on. Our ministry tool, Discipleship Essentials (DE), focuses on the basics of the faith that are essential to understanding and growing in the faith.
I am touring Alberta this week sharing about TWR Canada, so I asked my good friend McDaniel Phillips to guest post on the blog today. McDaniel has been a missionary with TWR Canada longer than I have. He’s served in a variety of places like Bonaire, Singapore, the USA, and recently has been working out of our London, ON office giving leadership to Discipleship Essentials. McDaniel was also in Egypt in March though we only crossed paths in the airport. I’ve written about Discipleship Essentials before here and here.
Take it away, McDaniel.
I was in Egypt to represent TWR Canada with the Together Network for the rollout of the Arabic Discipleship Essentials Train the Trainer conference. I was invited to address the conference three times, and did so through a translator, but most of the time I was simply a spectator. Dalia, my translator, would whisper every now and then what was going on, but mostly I sat through the sessions which were presented in Arabic. As you can imagine, since I didn’t speak the language my mind would disengage every once in a while.
Now, hospitality is a point of cultural pride for Arabs. I witnessed this first hand as my host drove me to different venues. More than once he got turned around and would pull over to the side of the road, even on a busy super highway, stick his arm out the window and wave. Very shortly another driver would pull up, roll down their window and happily give directions.
Well, this culture of hospitality led to a moment of embarrassment for me. During one of those times when my mind was disengaged I closed my eyes briefly.
A moment later Dalia’s husband, Maget shook my arm. “Brother Mac, come, you’re tired. You can lie down.”
“No, I’m OK.”
Maget pulled me out of my chair. “You come and lay down.” They dragged me out of the conference room. They had noticed my eyes closed (I was not sleeping) and found a guest with an extra bed in their room and led me there. They put me to bed because they felt I was tired. They were such sweet people.
During my visit, I learned that there are just a few senior Christian leaders in Upper Egypt who can minister to the people. One of those leaders is a Catholic priest who is respected and thought well-of. He shepherded Catholics throughout this city of about 400,000 people, but also Catholics in a number of villages surrounding the city. I was encouraged to speak with him.
The priest’s name is Father Mina. He said he led a church without walls. I asked what that meant and he said, “The whole community is my church. I work with the poor and visit homes.”
As we talked, I asked how long he had been a priest. “I have been a priest for 25 years, but I’ve been a follower of Christ for only five.”
My interest piqued.
He talked about his time as a student and working in the Vatican for Pope Benedict. He shared that as he read the Word, he began to understand it differently (outside the classic Catholic interpretation). “I had a supernatural encounter with Jesus and I’ve been a follower ever since,” he said.
Through our discourse, I came to recognize him as a true believer. He was very much on fire for Christ. How did those in the Vatican react, I asked?
“There were a handful of evangelical Catholics,” he said “so I tried to encourage them.”
I asked him what he thought of the conference and the materials. He said it was exactly what he needed for his work. Could he use it? Of course, I said. I began to show him the content in English and his eyes grew wide as we flipped through the lesson titles.
“Can you do this in Italian?”
Italian isn’t on the list of languages we’re working on, I said. Father Mina takes out his phone and begins talking in Italian. I hear my name mentioned. He talked for a minute or so and hangs up.
“I was on the phone with Rome,” he says. “This could be used to bring a change to my church. We would like to have these materials.”
DE is available to anyone who wishes to use it. I told him TWR has a partner in Italy and he wanted to connect with them. “How can I help,” I ask?
“Pray for me,” he said. I laid hands on him and prayed that God would use this man and possibly the tools of DE to bring about a change in his church. We pledged to stay in contact.
What I heard from Father Mina, and many others, was that DE was easy to present. The material was simple but powerful; profound but easily grasped. The fact that the material is Bible-based impressed them and they liked that each point was backed up with Scripture references. DE is intentionally neutral on church doctrines or theological issues — it sticks to the basics. And now, for such a time as this, Discipleship Essentials is in the hands of Father Mina.