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Leading One Thousand Young People

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

Summer 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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“Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him …” (Mark 1:41)

Dear friends,

It is a great joy to see our MDiv students becoming pastors. It seems like they do not know that their visible impression changes year by year. We, seminary teachers, see this while they take classes or gather for other meetings. Esther and I recently said to each other, “Bassil has changed a lot over the past year. Isn’t he graduating this June?”

He was born and raised in a middle-class family in Cairo, attended foreign language schools before college, and studied in Paris, France for a while. He is not a typical MDiv student from Upper Egypt who graduated from a college in a rural area and now lives on-campus at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC). Because of this, it is understandable that he did not mix well with other students. It seemed to us that his attention was always on something outside the seminary.

Seeing Bassil participating in class discussions with enthusiasm, attending various gatherings with his wife, and getting along well with other students assured us that he was ready to lead a congregation. We were curious about how he was preparing for ordination. So, we invited him to our office and, to our surprise, came to learn that he was a youth director at Kasra Dubar Church, and had been leading 1,000 young people in their walk with God.

Kasra Dubara is the largest Protestant church in the Arab World. Every Friday and Sunday at least a few thousand people worship within its walls. It is well-known for opening the church to those flooding in from Tahrir Square during the civil revolutions in 2011 and 2013. Out of the three main worship services, the biggest gathering is Friday evening worship for young people. Bassil has been engaged in this ministry for almost 10 years.

According to Bassil, 200 young people attended a traditional worship service in 2014. At the time Bassil was just over 20 years old. He was a wandering Christian who due to the loss of loved ones was resentful of God and distrustful of the church. He was also in agony over the relationship between faith and society as he witnessed the exploding energy of the two civil revolutions.

For some reason, however, he did not leave the church. This was at that time when Bassil found his call for life. He went on a short mission trip to Uganda and saw amazing power and joy in African worship services. His experience of God there eventually helped change the future of Kasra Dubara’s youth group as well as his life. He decided to dedicate his life to ministry.

Meanwhile, upon returning to Cairo, he initiated conversations with others in the youth group. They formed a leadership team to shape visions. As a result, a new form of youth group was launched. It was called “ministry,” since they intended to be a church inside the church. Progressive ideas were put into practice with the full support of the session and the senior pastor.

First, young people led their worship service and selected a preacher from among themselves. Each Friday, they rearranged the pews so that the worship could be interactive in praise and prayer led by a praise team. In addition, the leadership team kept redefining what they had been doing in the youth group. This new model of youth ministry in the center of downtown Cairo was passionately welcomed by millennials and Generation Z who were spiritually thirsty in the existing churches.

Currently, 1,000 young people worship Friday evening at Kasra Dubara, and 90 small groups of 10-12 people connect individuals with one another. The youth group, which is the size of a large church, has other activities such as Bible study, leadership classes, courses for newcomers, and outreach visits. Three hundred trained staff, five full-time lay servants, and one ordained pastor guide this ministry during the week.

Bassil compares Kasra Dubara’s youth ministry to Ramses Station, Cairo’s central railway station. All kinds of people enter the station’s open space where the rich and poor, believers and non-believers gather together. Bassil’s youth ministry intends to welcome, connect, and train young people through worship, cell groups, and activities. And eventually, they are sent back to society and their local churches.

Esther and I were sitting in the back corner at the worship last Friday evening. Yet, Bassil called our names and introduced us as his teachers at the seminary. We were suddenly welcomed by the congregation as special guests. That day, we also saw two other MDiv students, one as a preacher and the other as an usher. We felt so proud of them for leading a big group of young people while they are trained for ordination.

On our way back home in the Metro, we talked about the number of ordained pastors we have taught since 2016. It could be about 100 and, if we include those graduates who have not sought ordination, the number could rise to at least a few hundred. How valuable is our ministry as seminary teachers in the Arab World? Of course, we don’t forget that it is you who make these fruits of ministry possible. I like to assure you that your prayers and support enable us to teach students like Bassil and others who will lead Christian communities in the Arab World.

Peace!

Esther Shin & Noah Park
Associates for Ecumenical Partnership in Egypt


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