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A Time for Planting and Growth

A Letter from Noah Park and Esther Shin, serving in Egypt

May 2019

Write to Noah Park
Write to Esther Shin

Individuals: Give online to E200536 for Noah Park and Esther Shin’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507591 for Noah and Esther’s sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery).

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There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Farafra is located in the middle of the White Desert in Western Egypt between Libya and the Nile river. In the summer, it is hot and dry, with temperatures reaching 110–118 degrees. The poverty rate is quite high, and the literacy rate is extremely low. The wells that supply Farafra’s water do not meet the population’s needs.

Farafra has its own culture, with people from Libya and Upper Egypt, in addition to the local Bedouins. Most people living there are Muslims. Yet, new churches in Farafra are now growing! Their small worship places are full of children and adults. This is the news that Pastor Sameh, the director of the ETSC (Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo) Internship Program, and his ministry team recently brought to us after their Easter visitation to new congregations there.

Pastor Sameh explains, “Without a church building or governmental permission, any Christian gathering for worship or prayer is illegal in Egypt. To have a legal document for a worshipping space is extremely important.” On their trip to Farafra, our former ETSC student Mallek joined the team to help the people get the legal documents that allow them to worship in designated places. Even if the new congregations in Farafra do not have their own church buildings yet, they are happy that they got permission from the government to gather together to worship and pray.

According to Sameh, new churches were planted in Farafra three years ago by Cairo Presbytery; however, the formal church ministry began to flourish last summer with the internship ministry of Nabil Atef, one of our current MDiv students at ETSC. Nabil was the first Presbyterian minister to care for the sprouts that grew from God’s seeds in this area. Nabil is “Caireen,” which means he was born, raised and educated in Cairo. His first experience of the White Desert was a culture shock: he encountered unfamiliar customs and a very closed community. Hijabs covered most women’s faces in the streets, and people were suspicious of his presence rather than welcoming him. As a Caireen in Farafra, he was a stranger and an outsider.

Overcoming his feelings of fear and dislocation, Nabil began his ministry by connecting with the local people, with a local Coptic church and with Muslim neighbors. He first went to marketplaces and the streets to meet with people. He introduced himself, explaining who he is and why he came to the area. Then, he visited the Coptic church, met a Coptic monk and a Coptic father and built relationships with them. He asked them to work with him in helping the poor in small villages around Farafra. His good intentions were not well-received by the Coptic monk, but the Coptic father agreed to his idea.

During those hot summer days in Farafra, Nabil and the Coptic father worked together, visiting small villages to help the poor. Nabil also invited a medical team from Kassar Dobara Church, one of the biggest Protestant churches in Egypt, to offer free medical services to Muslims and Christians. Furthermore, he shared his apartment as a worship space and organized Sunday school for children and youth. Without any help, he also prepared a five-day conference in Cairo for young adults, including arrangements for transportation, food, lodging, worship programs and leadership training. He says this was some of the hardest work he undertook, but it was extremely rewarding. Out of this conference, God prepared five new leaders for the emerging congregations.

Listening to Nabil describe his ministry in Farafra, we were simply amazed by how a quiet, shy student could extend God’s Kingdom through his brave and thoughtful ministry; how one Christian leader can make a difference; and how God can use a sincere servant for God’s own purpose. We believe each of our students is like a mustard seed in God’s field. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32

Despite the region’s hardships and difficult circumstances, God’s Kingdom in Egypt is now growing. Yet, congregations without pastors are desperately waiting for their shepherds. The lost sheep without a church or shepherd have long been waiting to be found in the villages in Egypt. After the ETSC graduation ceremony on May 31, our graduates will be sent to the people who are anxiously awaiting their pastors. Having been closely connected with the graduates of 2019 for the last three years, we will greatly miss our time together praying for one another, sharing our experiences and teaching and learning at ETSC. At the same time, we can’t wait to see how God works with them through their ministries, just as Nabil has shared his ministry with us. With mixed feelings of being proud of them and worrying about them, Noah and I sincerely ask you to pray for the new graduates with Jesus’ prayer: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” (John 17:16)

In this Easter season, we hope that with our prayers we will encounter our Risen Lord Jesus Christ who is present in local churches in Egypt and in the United States, holding us as one body of Christ globally beyond our nations, our ethnicities and our imaginations.

We strongly feel that it is a time to plant new churches in Egypt, and it is a time to train future Christian leaders for Arabic-speaking countries. Your spiritual, emotional and financial support truly encourages us to continue in God’s ministry in Egypt joyfully and proudly. Thank you!

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

In our Lord Jesus Christ,

Noah and Esther

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