The Egyptians are Coming, the Egyptians are Coming!

"Do Americans know what a beautiful country they have?" asked Emil Anwer, pastor of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Benha, some 70 kilometers north of Cairo.  We were driving around one of those "vista curves" on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Impressed with all the green, the hint of Fall colors and the lack of garbage on the highway, he wondered why more of these trees were not for fruit? After a brief explanation of deciduous trees dropping their once-colorful leaves, Emil asked,  "What do you do with ALL the leaves?" 

Read More

Egyptian Men with Men

Living in a country of 90 million on 7% of the land,  people are used to being close - very close. Touching between women, between men and parents with their children is as regular as a handshake in the West. Talking together standing close,  man touch my chest (heart) and shoulders, my knees and pat the sides of my legs. It all says, "Pay attention" or "I have your attention" and, usually, "we are friends and I like you."  Nothing more.

Read More

Egypt Partnership Network at Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly

During the first five days of our General Assembly (June 18 - 22 in Portland, Oregon) the convention center hums with all the visitors visiting a myriad number of displays and interest centers.  It's a place to buy a book or a necklace from Guatemala or learn more from the huge display of World Mission. There are about 200 booths!

The Egypt Partnership Network will also be there.   Come, find us, at the booth we will share with the Iraq and Syria-Lebanon Networks.  Each of us will have informative brochures. Each will have people to answer your questions.

Read More

Temples and Tombs

Over our three years we were blessed to visit many of the temples and tombs of Egypt, especially in Luxor, down to Aswan,  and as far south as Abu Sembel.  Wonderful.  

My favorite temple is Phillae, brought up out of the rising Lake Nasser by Swedish archeologists and engineers and placed, stone by stone, on a tiny island.  Talk about a jigsaw puzzle! The short boat trip out to the temple brings you to this lovely spot, surrounded by water.  So many of the temples (Karnak, Luxor, Dandera, Edfu, etc.) are wonderful to see but I just find this one the most intriguing, probably because of its "watery" location.

It is the colors used on the temple frescos and in the tombs which one does not first imagine.  All the National Geographic pictures ever taken do not bring the reality of this to life as it does to stand close to the hieroglyphics or temple walls/pillars and imagine all the bright colors that were used.  The passages down into the tombs are so impressive. Amazing.  Red. Yellow. Blues of several shades. Orange. The early Egyptians had a broad palate for color and were not into pastels.  They liked their colors bright!

Of course, much of this is gone as is all the gold and silver and precious stones. Robbers already took them or more legitimate archeologists shipped them off to London, Paris or New York.  I even saw some of this in Vienna where it was beautifully displayed.  Egypt is now, well,  everywhere.

The sands of time and the sad humidity of millions of visitors breathing in these enclosures is too quickly removing the colors.  It does take a lot of imagination, especially on exterior walls.  But make no mistake about it, the ancients both knew how to paint and did a lot of it.  I am sure it was once breathtaking.  It is certainly surprising and revealing today.

 - a reflection of our three years in Egypt by Steve Gorman, PCUSA Liaison to the Synod of the Nile

Land grants hold great promise for growth of the church in Egypt

Families are coming together at different locations in the city of Sheikh Zaid and other communities in Egypt to pray for the future church, including the necessary finances to build new church buildings on 14 parcels of land donated to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Egypt (EPCE) by the Egyptian government.

The future Sheikh Zaid church will be led by the Rev. T. Saied who has already started two other churches in Egypt. He and his wife and three daughters are filled with joy and eager to see the fulfillment of the vision to have a church in their community so they can begin to invite people to be part of it.

Read More

Names

A reflection of our years in Egypt by Rev. Dr. Steve Gorman, PCUSA Liaison to the Synod of the Nile

I started out confused.  I knew the President of ETSC (The Evangelical Theological Seminary of Cairo, the largest Protestant and Presbyterian seminary in the entire Middle East) was Atef Gendy (pronounced with a hard 'g').   Gendy and Gorman are said with a "g" like gasp or gunner.   We also heard Atef Jendy, a "g" that sounded more like the French saying, "Je suis..."  This is used in Upper Egypt.  But it got worse.  We also heard Atef Mehany.

"Lord, how many Atef's are there at ETSC?!"

Riding with Anne Zaki, (professor of preaching and spiritual formation), taking some travelers to stay at Anna Fora, which is a lovely, famous Coptic retreat center, we asked her about "names."  Anne did a terrific job of explaining this, as she does with just about everything in life.

"We get a name from my family.  Our second name is our father's.  All the children have this name.  Our third name is our father's father's name.  Our fourth name is our grandfather's father's name..."

"So, I am Anne Emil Zaki.  My brother also has Emil Zaki. Everyone knows who our father and grandfather and, sometimes, great grandfather is. It's a living genealogy.  The people from Assiut know Atef well so they call him his name and his father's,  Atef Mehany.  Understand?"

"Ohhhhh."

"Another thing," Anne went on, "the woman does not change her name in marriage.  Her children follow the patriarchal line but she keeps her name as is."

"Ohhhh."

We had to try it.  Start with the wife. Cinda's name was originally Lucinda Evalyn Warner. She had been using Cinda Warner Gorman after our marriage.  But in the Middle East her name is Lucinda (Cinda) Donald George after her father and his father.

My name is Stephen Edward Gorman.  In the Middle East it would be Stephen Edward (after my father) Benjamin.  

All our kids would be Benjamin Stephen Edward or Joseph Stephen Edward or Jillian Stephen Edward.

I have had fun with this in the programs I have done on itineration throughout the US.  I suddenly break-up my talking with this little exercise done in the pews or around a table. Some of the older people giggle,  unable to remember their grandfather's first name.  "Make something up!" I shout.  But it did help them to understand why a man might be named Mohammed Mohammed Mohammed, as I have heard in train stations or airports.  Or why the head of the UN had been Boutros Boutros Gally.  It's not three Mo's.  We know the son shares the same name with his father and grandfather.

When the 21 Egyptians were beheaded by ISIS/ISIL/IS/DAESH on the beach in Libya, we could tell who was related and, to some extend, where they were all from their names.  They could quickly go to the village and find their families.Everyone would know who was related to whom.

Of course, when Egyptians move to the West they have to use consistent names. Sometimes they change them so people will understand that these two are really married to each other.  And, they have to explain "how it's done in our part of the world," rather than the quirky boxer, George Forman, naming all his sons - George! This is more about ego than culture.

I kind of like it: Stephen Edward Benjamin.  At least here in the Middle East people can say your "middle name" without making you feel your mother is calling - and you're in big trouble.

Dorm Life

Dorm Life - reflection by Steve Gorman, Regional Liaison to Egypt

    I lived in a dorm for four years at Whitworth College (now, University). I lived in barracks among language instructors at Lackland AFB also called dorms.  I lived in a dorm 3-4 nights each week throughout seminary.  I know dorms.

    Now, in Egypt, we found ourselves again in a dorm. How is living as late middle aged people in a men's dorm different from all the earlier experience?

    - the relationships here for us were very polite and sensitive.  The men, ages 24-42, always treated us with utmost respect whether that was getting on/off the elevator or offering to help carry our bags.  

    - while they could be sometimes raucous in volume, it did not have the crudeness of language or actions I experienced in my first and second go-around in a dorm.  Not that I did not find much of all of this amusing.  Being loud at ETSC was more centered on joking and post football(soccer) activity.  

    --hours were later here.  Egyptians love to sleep in and take long naps in the afternoon.  Staying up well past midnight is normal.  Our/my going to bed closer to 10 p.m. meant we had to shut the door into our bedroom to quiet down some of the singing, laughing and loud talking in the hallway

    --nakedness is simply not permitted to be seen, not by Cinda, not by me. If we were invited into their room they would very likely even put a shirt on over their t-shirt. Covering up is part of the culture and was true in the dorm.

    --we could eat all of our meals in the dining room on the first floor if we liked, save Sundays where things closed down.  We ate breakfast in our apartment so as to (1) not have to change out of our pjs/shorts and (2) we could eat cereal and eggs and more western fare.  Hard boiled eggs, fuul and creamy feta cheese was pretty much the b'fasts of the dorm.

    Cinda ate more lunches, the biggest meal of the day, with the students.  I was either traveling or eating at my desk: pbj sandwiches most frequently. She ate lots of CHICKEN!! The students eat A LOT!  They pile their plates high with rice, cocheree and béchamel. I would more often join them for dinner around 8:30 p.m.  I look forward to eating more around 6 and not having to sleep on this late meal.

    --laundry meant we went up near the top level to the "faculty" washing machine.  It would take 90 mins. to do a load.  Then, after wiping the lines down of dust we could hang the wash out, minus under garments. In the warmer days, all of this would dry in an hour.  In the winter, sometimes after the whole day we still had some damp clothes.  Oh, the remainder of our clothes, especially Cinda's under garments, we hung on a small metal foldout laundry lined table off our balcony.  No women's bras/panties visible, please!

    --taking an elevator up six floors was never a problem except when it did not work.  Carrying everything up to our apartment could be a real heart stopper. Oh well.

    --when our a/c stopped, we needed light bulbs or tanks of gas for our stove, Gamal, director of the dorm, came to the rescue.  We did get our linens, some towels and toilet paper most weeks.

    --we worked around cleaning projects with wet floors, garbage cans out,  folded beds, etc. to move around.  The workers were always polite and must have wondered about my tiptoeing in my shoes on wet floors since they were in flip flops or bare feet.

     Dorm life at Whitworth was usually fun; dorm life in the military was pretty rough and crude; dorm life in seminary was pretty quiet and staid; dorm life in Egypt was, overall, a wonderful part of our adventure of living in Egypt. It made us feel a lot closer to the students.  I'm glad we did it.  But not for forever.

Please "Pray for Me"

Prayer is HUGE among Christians in Egypt.  Prayer and fasting. During and after every visit,  whether by the pastors and their families or guests I had short visits with (or another huge meal!) the request to "pray for me/us" was always asked.  Meet a seminarian.  Pray for me.  Speak with a medical student.  Pray for me. Talk with an Elder or Deacon.  Pray for me and our church.  Visit in a home. Please pray for us. Meet a young person or couple.  Pray for us.

I have tried to keep my own prayer life rich with these prayers.  Praying for my folks, brothers and their significant others, our children's families and situations back in the States are on my daily list.  Sitting out on the 7th floor balcony in our dorm suite,  my coffee getting cold, I pray.  For all of them. So, too, the seminary, the  synod,  special friends, the pastors and churches and leaders, and President Sisi of this lovely, precarious, vulnerable nation.

Add to these the requests from Heliopolis Community Church (HCC) or St. Andrews.  Add to this the emails and Facebook messages..  Of course, I look at the monthly prayer list from my former church,  Westwood First Presbyterian on the west side of Cincinnati.  We're on it.  Many are praying for Cinda and me. Thank You, Lord. My own pray list should keep me in prayer for hours everyday.  "Pray without ceasing" the Bible teaches.  Given all the requests, of course.

For two years I was able to attend the major Prayer Conference of the Synod largely organized by Dr. Tharwat Wahba and Rev. Hani Jack.   The last one was in mid-November in  Minya. These three days included lots of singing and short prayers followed by long prayers and the reading of prayer requests in front of, oh, 500 -1500 people.  

There is preaching and some teaching.  More prayers.  The evening was more praising, preaching and prayers.  First Presbyterian Church of Minya, a large church, was packed.  I cannot imagine Americans in such numbers willing to fill a church to the brim for three days, 9:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. or so  in prayer!  (Ok, they did take a 3 hour lunch and "Egyptian nap break" in the middle of the day but I have no doubt some where praying even then!)

What is going on here?  Trust.  Trust that God cares, hears, forgives, loves and responds.  Everything in your life one brings to our Lord. Hold nothing back. Open yourself and the needs of your church, family and friends to Him.

People at these events suddenly stood and prayed out loud for 5- 10 minutes, pouring out their thanks and requests.  Women and men.  Yes, some emotions came to the surface. Tharwat had handed me a packet of tissues before the conference began. "You will probably need these," he said.  It was all so powerful even if I only knew some of what was being said in Arabic.  God knew.

Or, we would be asked to pray with the person beside us or to form a group of 3 or 4 standing in the pews together.  I prayed with Rev. Zahar Lotfi, a young pastor and recent graduate of ETSC. His church is north of Sohag in the village of Gizzaret Chandawheel. I prayed with the strangers of any age around me. They prayed in Arabic; I prayed in English.  God hears us all. For school. For a job.  For heath.  To have a baby.  And thanks for their family and friends and Jesus, Himself.  To be hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm, heads so close you felt their breath,  praying long prayers together was so powerful. 

Whenever I visited a church to encourage the pastor and preach, the service always, always ended with people coming up to me in the center aisle or out in the courtyard, asking me to pray for them,  for their health, their marriage, to have a child, to bring a family member to Jesus or for peace in their anxious lives.  Poor people live on the edge. I would hold their hands.  Sometimes the man - and even the woman -would hug me. Sometimes I placed my hands on their head.   Tears. Smiles. It didn't matter.  These people had the pastor praying for them, with them.  That was enough.  Pray.  Pray.  Pray for us.

This experience of prayer has made my faith and trust in God grow.  It has made me give so much more of my life to Jesus, opening all of my concerns and hopes, joys and fears, before our Almighty Lord.  Prayer has become more frequent each and everyday of my life. 

It was always there.  But I truly believe that the Christians of Egypt have helped to expand both my understanding and practice of prayer.  This sharing and reliance upon God has been so enriched as I have prayed devotionally and communally in this nation.

So, "Pray  for me."  Please. 

Rev. Dr. Steve Gorman 
PCUSA Liaison to the Synod of the Nile  
The Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Egypt

Introducing the Egypt Partnership Network

From across the country, Presbyterians with a heart for Egypt gathered in early August at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary to discuss the formation of a network to support God’s mission in Egypt and the region.  The PC(USA) has a long-standing partnership with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Egypt (aka Synod of the Nile) and its Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC). In an effort to create additional support for the partnership with these organizations, the meeting participants elected to form the Egypt Partnership Network (EPN).

Meeting attendees heard compelling updates directly from Egyptian church leaders.  Rev. Dr. Tharwat Wahba traveled from Cairo to attend the meeting.  He shared extensively over two days about the outreach opportunities in a post-revolution Egypt.  Rev. Dr. Wahba currently serves as the Professor of Missions and Department Chair at the seminary in Cairo, as well as serving as the Chairperson of the Council on Ministry and Outreach for The Synod of the Nile.  

Rev. Dr. Wahba said: “The Middle East is changing and the Church is in the heart of this change. The strategic state of the Egyptian Church gives it the privilege and responsibility to lead not only Egypt but also the Middle East to spread the message of the Gospel of hope and peace. The partnership between Egyptian and American Presbyterians could be a historical, dynamic and effective model that benefits the Kingdom of God.”

ETSC was founded in 1863 on the houseboat Ibis, which was used as a floating seminary for theological studies and practical training.   The Seminary has been growing and spreading the Gospel in Egypt for over 150 years.  Christians currently represent approximately 10 percent of Egypt’s population.  Recent studies conducted by the ETSC conclude that more that 70% of those Christian Egyptians do not have access to a church.  For legal and cultural reasons, a congregation must have a dedicated building for worship and church activities.  The current opportunities for growth of the church in Egypt are preparing enough pastors for communities with no trained church leader and funding to construct new church buildings or renovate old or damaged churches. 

Participants attending the inaugural meeting for the Egypt Partnership Network collaborated to establish the Network, and, together, a Purpose Statement was established: 
“Celebrating generations of partnership between the PC(USA) and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Egypt (EPCE) and its related ministries, the Egypt Partnership Network (EPN) exists to facilitate communication, promote partnership opportunities and ministries with congregations, and to mutually encourage each other’s faith.”

The Egypt Partnership Network is now one of forty such networks related to Presbyterian World Mission that provide a community where PC(USA) mission participants, global partners and World Mission staff come together to collaborate in a common mission passion.
Since the first meeting in August, members of the EPN have begun working together to discern how God would use this collaboration for God’s Mission in Egypt.

“World Mission-related networks provide opportunities for Presbyterians to be directly involved in the work of God’s Mission,” says Amgad Beblawi, coordinator for the Middle East in World Mission. “As the Middle East goes through one of the most difficult times in modern history, the Presbyterian church in Egypt is playing a key role in nurturing and invigorating Christian presence in the region. The EPN provides a venue for all Presbyterians to come alongside those sisters and brother who witness to God’s Kingdom of justice, peace, and reconciliation to the hurting peoples of the Middle East.”

Plans for upcoming events:
- In 2016 Information and update sessions will be available during the GA in June and the New Wilmington Mission Conference in July.
- Plans are on their way for a November trip to Egypt this year to visit the Seminary, Synod, various ministries and churches. Info about the trip will be sent out this spring.

How to stay connected:
- Please keep Egypt and the Egypt Partnership Network (EPN) in your prayers.
- contact us at egypt.partnership@pcusa.org to get more information or if you want a Network member to come speak to your church or Presbytery.
- Use this website to learn more and stay connected to the ministries happening in Egypt.