A Letter from Noah Park and Esther Shin, serving in Egypt
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Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net
that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.
In our almost two years in Egypt, we have learned and witnessed that God has been weaving a big net that is let down into the sea of the Arab world through the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC). Here we constantly meet people being sent from all over the world to support various ministries in Egypt, and people being sent to different places in the Arab world. As the largest theological college in the Middle East, ETSC has attracted students over the years from many different countries, and that has continued this year.
ETSC has a tradition of welcoming students from Sudan and South Sudan, and at one period there were more Sudanese here than Egyptians! Today we have Abdu who is studying for his master’s before returning to Khartoum to teach at Nile Theological College. He comes from the Nuba Mountains in Sudan, which are made up of 99 mountains — each with its own tribe, language and customs. Some tribes are Christian and some are Muslim. The Nuba Mountains were not included in the area that made up the new country of South Sudan, but there has been an independence struggle for many years, with many (both Muslims and Christians) fighting against the government.
Sudan is composed of multicultural ethnic groups with different languages and cultures. When Sudan gained its independence from the joint British and Egyptian government in 1956, there were about 600 ethnic groups, speaking over 400 languages. A few years after independence, these groups started fighting one another. The war between South Sudan, which has more Christian and English-speaking people with darker skin, and Sudan, which has more Muslim and Arab-speaking people with lighter skin, lasted decades, until it ended with the separation of the country into two in 2010. However, Abdu says, “the separation did not solve the problem in Sudan because the majority of lighter-skin color who think they have Arab blood started to discriminate against those who are ‘less’ Arab and not Muslim.”
Abdu explains that the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) has a lot of new believers who are accepting Jesus and joining the church. The number of Arab Christians accepting the Christian faith with joy is growing rapidly. Some of them go to Nile Theological College to learn about God and to be ministers, but they also bring the social and racial conflicts derived from their previous religious identities, their ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and their skin color. Though being Christians should unite them, it is hard for them to shed the tensions that have characterized relations between Arab Muslims, Nubian Muslims, Arabic-speaking Christians, and English-speaking Christians for decades.
Abdu, who will teach at the seminary in Sudan, has a vision for building the body of Christ with pastors of different tribes, different religious upbringings, and different skin colors. He shared that the courses at ETSC and life in Egypt made him confront social problems and religious conflicts among Muslims and Christians. Being in Egypt and studying in ETSC have sharpened his vision and prepared him for his future ministry in Sudan.
We are grateful that we are able to help Abdu through our classes and life together. We hope and plan to visit Sudan to support his ministry in the near future. We thank you for sending us to Egypt with your prayers. In being sent to Egypt and in sending others from Egypt, all of us are creating a big net for the Kingdom of God that embraces different countries, ethnicities, skin colors, languages, and cultures. Working together in the net of faith and with God’s grace, these diverse groups will bring about God’s peace and reconciliation.
In spite of the joy and excitement of our work, we can’t deny the reality that we sometimes struggle to practice love and patience. A few days ago, when I was meditating on God’s words and expressing my feelings of frustration and impatience, I was struck by an inner voice saying, “I have loved MY people; I have been working on them for thousands of years. You have been here less than two years.” This experience made me humble and more grateful for being part of God’s long, patient, and merciful ministry here.
We thank you again for your prayer, your blessings, and your financial support, which enable us to create a strong net of Christ. Every day, we pray that we will throw the net of Christ on the “right” side of our boat, attentively listening to God and being aware of where God is already working.
Jesus said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. John 21:6
May God bless you, your family and your ministry of sending!
Noah Park and Esther Shin
AGEPE (Associates of Global Ecumenical Partnership in Egypt)
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Tags: Abdu, Arab, christian, culture, ETSC, fishing net, Frustration, government rule, humility, impatience, independence, language, love, Matthew 13:47, ministry, Muslim, nile theological college, patience, race, south sudan, SPEC, sudan, theology, tribes, war
Tags: Noah Park and Esther Shin