Cairo Adventure (with an excursion to Amman)

8/1/09, I’ve arrived in NY but Wally was not on his scheduled flight.  This is nerve wracking, but I really do trust God’s sovereign design.  He works out all things together for good.  Wally has 2 ½ hours to get here before we leave without him.  Worry is inappropriate for the believer . . . but then I never claimed to be a very good one. [2 hours later] Wallace and I are sitting on the plane headed to Amman.  He had been rerouted through Atlanda.  Everything was fine.  We spend an hour briefing and now I took a Tylenol PM so I will crash pretty quickly.  Wally is saying goodbye to Jerilynn.  9:35, we leave at 10:00.

9/1/09, Yahweh delivered the Israelites out of the hand of Pharaoh – that has been his MO ever since.  But he delivered them into the wilderness for discipline and training long before entering Canaan.  So what is it, Lord, you to do with me?  I have no Pharaoh and really, my desert is well watered.  So how will you train me to rely on you for Manna?  How will you teach me to remember your wonders and listen to your law?  I’m past the place in my life where I want to accomplish for you.  Now I just want to be: ethical, reliable, wise, kind, pure, strong, patient, true.


10/1/09, It is the Lord’s Day and for me it began at 4:00AM.  I was wide awake and instead of fighting it, I got up, read, watched some sports, did my calisthenics, and took a shower.  Tried sleeping again at 6:00, but by 6:35 I was up again and ready to eat.  Today we will worship three times –once with an Arab pastor, Yusef Hashweh, whose family can trace their roots back to the Day of Pentecost, second on Mt. Nebo, where Moses looked in to the Promised Land, third will be at the baptismal site of Jesus.  It will be an extraordinary day.  [At church later that day] The church where we worship is a minority people, about 0.5% but they are faithful and joyful in their white limestone church with white marble floors.  The women wear veils, and raise their hands as they sing.  But their prayers go out to their suffering relatives in Gaza who have been attacked by Jewish troops for twelve days, as our service ends, the call to prayer of the Mosque begins and our prayers continue.

12/1/09, Maken told the story of his four children. The first Down Syndrome child survived (little Michael is now almost 5), the 2nd and 3rd were stillborn, and the 4th (also Down Syndrome) died in three months, one month after I was here in June.  While Maken’s little girl was dying, , he was preaching to youth and giving an invitation, one young woman named Esther had come forward and wanted to talk with Maken about her problems. Just then his cell phone rang and She over-heard his telephone conversation with the hospital telling him that his girl was dying at that very moment.  When Maken cried, she comforted him saying, "I am now your daughter.”  Her own father, who had been a pastor, died when she was very young.


13/2/09, 3,000,000 stones, some weighing 30 tons, make up the pyramid of Kufu.  All this for security in death and the grandeur of a memory.  How many lives were spent in this pursuit?  Millions of tourists every year stand before this pile of rocks in awe. But why?  Because of it’s architectural beauty? Surely not.  The simple lines are nothing striking.  They wonder at its size and the sheer tenacity it took to build.  Nothing more.  The fear of death and the intoxicating lust for recognition lead Kufu to expand his power and resources to build something bigger than anything the world has seen—and for what?  It certainly captures our imagination and for that alone it can be commended.  But if we would live for Christ, this same tenacity could be turned to the grandeur of God.  And for what?  To what end?  The support and salvation on the very ones who slaved in anonymity to make Kufu famous. [Later that day at the Citadel] Just out side the 500 year old Mosque of Mohammed Ali, I bath in 73º sunshine overlooking the hazy skyline of Cairo—a city where east meets west and east has stubbornly refused to give way.  Between this citadel and the pyramids which crouch in the haze, are millions of souls, striving daily in grinding poverty and spiritual blindness.  They live in the shadow of wickedness, deception, and the ancient curses of Egyptian sacrifices to false gods and human deification.  Each of the thousand honking horns is plea for our prayers of intercession. 


14/1/09, We’ve traipsed through the Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Hatshepsut, the only female pharaoh, and now we are on a boat trip on the Nile.  Again I’m struck with how death consumed so much time, money, and human resources in ancient Egypt.  Of course my own time and people spend almost no time meditating on or preparing for death.  Perhaps if we would die daily, throughout our lives, in service for others, we would be appropriately prepared to live after death with God.  Lord, what a difference that you came to us rather than us struggling to meet you.  Save me, Lord Jesus, from both demonic superstition and humanistic rationalism.  Bring revival to this place.  As the water of the Nile takes it’s four month, 5k mile journey from Ethiopia to the Mediterranean, so send your Spirit like a constant flowering current – silent,  life-giving, ominous, irresistible, overflowing on this place to her precious people. 


15/1/09, Wally and I had a serious conversation while waiting for the bus to bring us to Port Said at the mouth of the Suez Canal.  I mentioned how I had three decisions to make about speaking and writing.  He asked what the Holy Spirit said and I didn’t have an answer.  He challenged me that of I didn’t hear the Holy Spirit it was not because he was not speaking, but because I was not listening.  I tried to argue but could not.  So, here goes: Holy Spirit, I want to learn to hear you.  I don’t know how, but I think silence is the beginning of the solution.  I desperately need to learn the sound of your voice.  Help me to hear you so I can be released from this pressure of self-determination. May every decision be a response to seeing, sensing, and participating in your on-going actions.  Encompass me so I can be finally free. 


16/1/09, The training was just fantastic, except for coming down with a sore throat.  At first I thought it was the 3 hours of teaching Thursday evening and 4 more on Friday morning.  But as the afternoon wore on, the other symptoms of sickness accompanied my throat.  I spent the 4 hours on the bus from Port Said to Alexandria trying to sleep.  The sunset over the Delta was extraordinary.  We are tired and increasingly ready to be home.  But the satisfaction of encouraging beleaguered and persecuted pastors is so satisfying that these minor inconveniences are barely noticeable.  Our guide, Maken, took us to dinner with his wife, Alice, and their three year old down syndrome boy.  It was cool and a bit windy as we walked along the Mediterranean.  Sleep came sweetly at midnight. 


17/1/09, Today started with a one hour taxi ride to the site of a new training center, outside Alexandria.  The fumes of the gas leak in the cab were stifling but our prayers over the property provided a fragrance the drown out the other.  Afterwards we toured the library of Alexandria and the wonderful little museums attached (manuscripts and archaeology).  We were too tired to appreciate much beside the family bucket of KFC overlooking the bay.  On the way to the train station we picked up souvenirs for our wives, a sure sign that we are heading home.  As the train rolls toward Cairo, I’m ready for a good long nap and perhaps a bit of Latin review.  Lord, meet me in my dreams.


18/1/09, Today was a much needed day of rest, particularly given my flue like symptoms and diarrhea.  But it was productive none the less, especially for Maken whose computer I tuned up.  But getting him back on the internet provided the personal advantage of an hour of email so I could do some prep work before lading in Joplin with my wheels spinning.  Maken and I left for dinner at 5, ate huge and returned to Safaa’s flat in time to leave at 7:00 for the evening service where I preached.  The church was in the middle of a very poor and very secluded barrio of Cairo where the police seldom frequent but ‘radicals’ do.  This was a persecuted church where my presence was needed.  For security reasons I carried my passport and travel information on my person, not leaving it in the car in the alley.  Those people were salt of the earth –a genuine remnant of Christ followers in a very dark and dangerous place where threats of persecution are the norm.  I talked about how Egypt was the cradle for God’s people three times –Joseph, Moses, and Jesus and that even today she houses the hope of evangelism in the Middle East through hundreds of small, struggling, but faithful congregations.  Communion was like celestial nectar, nourishing my soul—here, if any where, consubstantiation is a reality.  After the service we were cajoled into dinner with the pastor in his home.  Our objections were met with tenacious resistance—his honor was on the line and a feast was prepared.  I could eat very little, but feasted on every sight and sound which is now burned in my brain.  Honestly, being in this remote and aggressive neighborhood frightened me a bit, but it was, indeed, holy ground.

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