Far, Far Away from Our Cairo Home

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

November 2020

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Write to Esther Shin

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Greetings in Christ!

This year has been unusual. When our last term ended, we had to leave Cairo due to the pandemic. All the Egyptian airports then were closed, but there were some specially arranged flights for non-Egyptian nationals. At the end of many twists and turns, we arrived in Seoul, Korea, in late April and were immediately sent to a government facility for a two-week quarantine. For more than six months, we have worked seven thousand miles away from Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC).

When ETSC closed its campus in late March, both students and professors were at a loss. However, the seminary’s online education experience helped us quickly adapt to this new situation. All the classes were reformatted into online versions. The major issue was the internet speed, especially at students’ homes in the countryside. Many of them did not have a landline, and their mobile signal was not strong and fast enough to watch video lectures and participate in Q&A on Zoom. It was painful for us to see them getting disconnected and connected repeatedly with their poor devices.

As we were wrapping up the spring semester, our son Andrew joined us after the same two-week quarantine process. It was such a relief that all our family members could gather together and stay together in a safe place. It was also an unexpected blessing that we could be with our extended families. Without the pandemic, we could not have imagined being able to be together for months. We have experienced the beautiful changes in seasons, we have enjoyed walking around the small town where we stay and catching up on so many things we have missed during the past 20 years.

During this summer, one piece of good news was Abdu’s submission of his ThM thesis, titled “A Geographical Reading of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8.” When I first met Abdu (Abdalrahim meaning “servant of the Compassionate”) four years ago, he had no idea what his thesis topic might be. Soon I suggested the Ethiopian Eunuch, an African in the NT. Everything was going well. He came to my office regularly and, after research, was about to write the first chapter. However, Abdu had to leave Cairo in 2018 to teach at Nile Theological College in Khartoum. As North Sudan descended into political turmoil, we almost lost touch with each other. Sadly, Abdu’s progress was extremely slow. Last summer was a good chance for both of us. We both worked hard throughout the summer, and he finally submitted his thesis. The thesis examination committee was out of the ordinary: the student was in Sudan, while three examiners were in Egypt, the U.S., and Korea. The committee gave him an A-minus for his long journey.

Around this time, our son Andrew returned to the U.S. for school, and we also planned to return home to Cairo before the beginning of a new academic year. In preparation, we bought hundreds of facemasks for both Andrew and us. However, our plan was not approved because of the work-related travel ban was in place. So, we somehow had to find ways to teach our courses, shooting video lectures, and having instant dialogues with our students. We use a local library and coffee shops for work during the day, and in the evening for live classes and Zoom meetings, we use Esther’s Sunday School teacher’s home. With a seven-hour time difference from Cairo and a fourteen-hour difference from Louisville, our sessions often end after midnight.

Recently we received an email from the Louisville office that our previous request to travel can be approved on some conditions. Since we just passed the middle of the semester, it may be wise to wait until it ends in late December. As the whole world watches the second and third waves of the COVID-19, we are not one hundred percent sure what will happen in the near future. But we are hopeful that we can return home to Cairo around Coptic Christmas in early January.

As Christmas is coming close, we feel like the Magi from the east. We are far, far away from our colleagues and students in Egypt and our friends and supporters in the U.S. At the same time, we feel so close to them as we work and communicate with them. Being away from Cairo has allowed us to think more about who we are and what we do as mission co-workers. We thank all our supporters for your continued encouragement at this time of uncertainty.

Merry Christmas!

Esther Shin & Noah Park
Associates for Ecumenical Partnership


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