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Journey to the End of Egypt

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

Winter 2023

Write to Noah Park
Write to Esther Shin

Individuals:  Give online to E132192 in honor of Noah Park and Esther Shin’s ministry

Congregations: Give to D500115 in honor of  Noah Park and Esther Shin’s ministry

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

 


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Dear friends,

Last May, when the spring semester ended, we went on a road trip to meet recent graduates of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, who were serving congregations in the farthest places from Cairo.

We left at four o’clock in the morning, considering the distance of more than 1,200 km. When driving a long distance in Egypt, one should know that the road conditions are not always in good order and Google Maps is not always correct. In addition, one should be aware of the many police checkpoints and high fatalities while driving. It was an adventure for foreigners like us. Fortunately, my cheap Chinese car ran well without any problems.

We reached Aswan after driving for 14 hours. In ancient times, it was a southern limit where the ancient kingdom had a military post against the Nubians. Its traces remain on the island of Elephantine in the Nile River. This island is also remembered because a Jewish temple once stood on this island. The Persian conquerors in the fifth century BCE deployed Jewish mercenaries. We can imagine the size of the Jewish community. Presumably, they were the ancestors of the Jews in Alexandria who translated the Old Testament into Greek 200 years later. We may say that the baby Jesus’ flight to Egypt was not a sudden event. We can easily imagine the community that welcomed Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus when they fled to Egypt.

The next day, we met Pastor Rami and his wife Christine in Edfu. It was surprising that a Presbyterian church existed in that town. They greeted us with excitement, showing the worship hall and telling us about their ministry. What I still remember is Ramy’s question. “Why has not anyone come and visited us from Cairo for the past three years?” We gave him a pastor’s stole we used to wear and encouraged them with their serving three congregations in the southernmost part of Egypt. It was not difficult to understand why pastors do not want to live in those places.

Our next destination was Luxor, the world’s largest open-air museum. We rested at a hotel by the river. In the morning, we managed to have a quick tour of the Medinat-Habu temple to see the images of the Sea Peoples. What interests Christians is the Philistines in the images. As part of the Sea Peoples, they invaded and ruled the mountain areas of Palestine until the emergence of the tribal nation of Israel. It was beyond description that we were standing in front of the battle scene of Ramses III, which I used to explain in my class.

Pastor Michael and Joanna, two graduates of the seminary, were very happy to see their teachers. Since they ministered in a suburb just outside the capital of tourism in Egypt, their circumstances were different from Pastor Ramy’s. They lived in a new settlement being developed as a satellite and education city. Yet, the number of difficulties looked the same. Especially for Joanna, who grew up in an upper-class family in Cairo, Luxor seemed even farther away than Paris and London. After lunch, we headed to their church, which is under construction and will be surrounded by four universities. We prayed for God’s blessing, holding their hands, and promised that we would attend the dedication worship service.

It was Sunday morning when we headed for Malawi for our last visit. On our way, we drove to Nag Hammadi where the Gospel of Thomas was discovered. But we could not find the location after searching for a while. Instead, we stopped by a beautiful Coptic monastery. We were welcomed by a priest who showed the original site of the Nag Hammadi library on the map and told us that the ancient documents are stored in the Coptic Museum in Cairo, very close to the Cairo Geniza in the Ben Ezra Synagogue. Along with the Dead Sea Scrolls, they show the richness of Christian and Jewish heritages in Egypt.

After five hours of driving, we managed to arrive at a rural village outside the city of Malawi. Pastor Peter and his wife Nermeen looked proud to have us from Cairo. He advertised all over the neighborhood, and the church members gathered for a special worship in the evening. With the church being renovated by the members, they worshiped inside a dimly lit tent sanctuary. We could see farmers, the elderly, teenagers, children, and the disabled who sang, listened, and ate at the Lord’s table. We were so impressed and thought that the worship at the earliest church had been like that. At the end of the worship, we were able to hold each member’s hands, blessing and being blessed.

Peter and Nermeen insisted we should rest the night in the village. But we decided to return home to Cairo. While driving the desert highway for another five hours, we talked about how Ramy, Michael and Peter had grown at the seminary, the importance of their commitment in remote places far away from Cairo, and the Spirit we experienced at the worship service. Though we were extremely tired, we were delighted and confident about our ministry at the seminary.

We thank you for joining us in this meaningful ministry. Your prayers and support help our graduates plant and strengthen Christian communities, even in the southernmost part of Egypt.

Esther Shin & Noah Park
Associates for Ecumenical Partnership in Egypt


Please read this important message from Director of World Mission Rev. Mienda Uriarte

Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Matthew 25:34-36

Dear friends,

Great things are happening in World Mission! As you know from the letters you’ve been receiving, our mission co-workers are at the forefront of showing us what Matthew 25 looks like in the U.S. and in the wider world. They are addressing issues related to eradicating systemic poverty, building congregational vitality and dismantling structural racism. Together with our partners, mission co-workers are engaged in life-transforming ministries in 80 countries around the world. Here are just a few examples:

As an education consultant in the Democratic Republic of Congo, José Jones assists the Presbyterian Community of Kinshasa (CPK) education department in the development, implementation and evaluation of strategic plans to strengthen the church’s primary and secondary education programs for more than 350 schools.

Based in Manila, Rev. Cathy Chang works closely with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and other partners in ministry to engage programs and networks across Asia that advocate for people vulnerable to forced migration and human trafficking.

Nadia Ayoub works alongside our Greek partners as they faithfully hold to the biblical call to welcome the stranger. Nadia serves with Perichoresis, a ministry of the Evangelical Church of Greece that provides housing and support to refugees; most of whom have come to Greece from Arabic-speaking countries.

Joseph Russ strengthens and supports a network of partners working in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to address migration issues in the Northern Triangle. Based on the needs people on the ground identify, Joseph empowers U.S. congregations to engage in advocacy related to Central America and immigration reform.

Revs. Drs. Noah Park and Esther Shin serve as professors at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC). ETSC graduates work toward revitalizing congregational ministries in Egypt and work with refugee and peace ministries in various countries in the Middle East.

Please consider giving an extra gift this year to support our mission co-workers as they walk alongside our partners and help shape a more life-giving, equitable and hopeful world!

Prayerfully,

Rev. Mienda Uriarte, Director of World Mission
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

To give online, visit https://bit.ly/23MC-YE.

Honorary gifts can be made by checking the box and writing the mission co-worker’s name in the comment field online.


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