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14 years, a teenager church in Ministry
The Middle Eastern Presbyterian Fellowship is an Arabic speaking Fellowship, since 15th August 2008, welcoming all Arabic speaking worshipers in Tucson Arizona. So far there are the following nationalities: Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi, Palestinian and Egyptians.
The MEPF is a ministry of the Presbyterian Church (USA) through Presbytery de Cristo. Northminster Presbyterian Church in Tucson offers meeting space for worship and education, housing, and also provides support for the fellowship as well.
The MEPF is an outreach ministry that teaches and ministers in the name of Jesus Christ within the Tucson area and introduces the Christian Reformed Faith within the Arabic-speaking and Middle Eastern community.
There are people amongst us who have been here since the foundation of this church and are still supporting this ministry. For different reasons those who left searching for a better opportunity, those who discovered a better place with their families, and those who left to discover another Possibilities for jobs in different areas of the States.
The church received 39 families from all over the Middle East during those 14 years, we are proud that among us today 2 new families, Palestinian and Egyptian. Out of the 39 about 18 decided to change their route and go to other communities. Some are still here and changed the church, some families came back to live in our midst. Some are committee active members and making history to this church. All are welcomed, embraced, and loved.
For 14 years our church was trying to build partnerships with all the churches around and specially, of the Presbytery. We succeeded with some and still trying with others. The organizing pastor answers the call of every inviting church to preach at any time. Some churches asked for a teaching session about the Christianity in the Middle East, some about Islam. We responded to both teachings, and will for future needs.
Through 14 years we worked very hard to resemble and do our motto. We Care, we Share, and We Dare. In many times we succeeded to achieve our goals, in others we failed. Through our very small budget we tried to help every family with all what we had. Regardless of their religion, ethnicity or family. We kept welcoming strangers and care for every one of them. We kept our doors open to all, and still do the same with everyone.
Through the 14 years we studied the Bible, OT and New. We studied from the Psalms and Proverbs, we studied Gospel of John and Paul’s apostles, Romans, Ephesians Galatians, Hebrews, Thessalonians 1&2, Revelation Spiritual gifts and recently we are studying the Old Testament Prophets and Kings, Psalms, Proverbs, and Beatitudes, Matthew 5.
Through all the 14 years we had the Identity crisis. Who are we? Is Christ in this church? Is this Our Church? Are we legal church? Why don’t we join another church? Are we able to sustain financially? Shall I give this church or take from it to give other one?
14 years is a teens age, church. This church is a teenager in year count, but had a huge, and warm heart of Giving. Everyone of this church love so much. This young church had embraced all because our church believes that the heart She has is not Hers, but the Lord’s, who loved Her. Our church is in God’s heart also. The hearts of its people love limitlessly, and though our church is poor in resources, but her reputation is all over the state and even beyond now.
The first 14 years of the life of any church is the years of formation, basics, and foundation. It is well known that in every NWC, there are many landmines, exaggeration from some and still unclarity of identity for other some. No doubt that we grew spiritually and culturally together through and with the new steering committee.
The pastor hopes with the new committee to have courageous people to say I am here to learn how to love and how to study and how to witness to others about what the Lord has done through me. The pastor hopes with the new committee, that the sister churches to keep supporting our young special, vital and embracing ministry to keep going and ministering to Tucson and the surrounding needs of immigrants.
Today is a new beginning of the next 14 years of our lives together. We are all invited to be more serious about our faith, about our commitment to Christ and commitment to our Church.
We don’t forget to thank Northminster Presbyterian Church for their generosity to offer the worship place and the living spot for the pastor and his family and the office from which all operations are made. Moreover, we thank the Presbytery and all churches of the Presbytery, Mountain Shadows St. Andrews Green Valley, Safford, Immanuel, Christ and Tortolita who pray for our church and support our mission to keep witnessing to the Love of Our Lord and Savior who gave us His Everlasting Peace, and embracing His people from everywhere. Special thanks for those who keep MEPF going when the pastor was on his vacation, Pastor Nuhad Tomeh, Elder Kamal Abdul Karim and the steering Committee with brothers Nael and Sarmad with Amal Khawam. We also give big thanks to the Women’s committee, and other ladies who made the food and are the backbone of hospitality and support to this church.
Rev. Georges Bitar
Organizing Pastor – MEPF
From Rhashell Hunter
Director, Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries (RE&WIM)
There is a rich heritage and history of Middle Eastern Intercultural Ministries in the PC(USA). There are currently more than 50 Middle Eastern Presbyterian congregations and fellowships in the United States worshiping in the Arabic, Armenian, Assyrian and Farsi languages. Presbyterian Middle Eastern Americans trace the origin of their faith to the apostolic age and their Reformed roots to Presbyterian mission in the Middle East in the 19th Century.
Today, Middle Eastern Intercultural Ministries works in partnership with congregations and mid councils to assist in the development and growth of new Middle Eastern worshiping communities and to equip leaders in existing Middle Eastern congregations for effective ministry in the church.
We also partner with the National Middle Eastern Presbyterian Caucus (NMEPC) to coordinate leadership training events, equip Middle Eastern Presbyterians to witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ, identify social justice inequities and act as a bridge for dialogue, promoting educational and cultural understanding of Middle Eastern issues. Rev. Magdy Girgis is field staff for Middle Eastern Intercultural Ministries in Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries. Following are some of his reflections:
A Beautiful Tapestry
by Magdy Girgis, Associate, Middle Eastern Intercultural Congregational Support
As field staff, I have the privilege of going around, as free as a bird, to see God in action. I can see that God really is the sustainer and upholder of the world.
I could see a new worshiping community where the pastor and his wife get in their cars early Sunday morning and pick up refugees from their homes to bring them to the church for worship. You can see the smiles on these worshipers’ faces as they restart their lives and get to practice their faith again in a new place and new culture.
During worship, they all engage in from-the-heart singing, and as the pastor shares the Word of God, you can see its effect on their faces. After worship, everyone puts out the food they brought from home, and the congregation eats together with gladness and singleness of heart. “Where did I hear that before?” I could see images and colors woven together in a beautiful story, skillfully woven, in a beautiful tapestry. These people entered God’s story with their own story, and they can see that God really is the sustainer and upholder of the world.
Dr. Safwat Marzouk, a Middle Eastern Emigrant Scholar,
wrote about “The Intercultural Church”
“Safwat Marzouk offers a biblical vision for what it means to be an intercultural church, one that fosters just diversity, integrates different cultural articulations of faith and worship, and embodies an alternative to the politics of assimilation and segregation. A church that fosters intercultural identity learns how to embrace and celebrate difference, which in turn enriches its worship and ministry. While the church in North America might see migration as an opportunity to serve God’s kingdom by showing hospitality to the migrant and the alien, migration offers the church an opportunity to renew itself by rediscovering the biblical vision of the church as a diverse community. This biblical vision views cultural, linguistic, racial, and ethnic differences as gifts from God that can enrich the church’s worship, deepen the sense of fellowship in the church, and broaden the church’s witness to God’s reconciling mission in the world.
Today’s church faces the challenge of what it means to be church in the light of the ever-growing diversity of the population. This may entail advocacy work on behalf of the undocumented, asylum seekers, and refugees, but the church also faces the question of how to welcome the stranger, the migrant, and the refugee into the heart of the worshipping community. This may mean changing worship, leadership, or ministry styles to embrace diverse communities in the church’s neighborhood. Marzouk surveys numerous biblical texts from the early ancestor stories of Israel to the Prophets, to the Gospels and Acts, the letters of Paul, and Revelation. The stories introduce themes of welcoming strangers, living as aliens, playing host to outsiders, discovering true worship, and seeking common language for expressing faith. Discussion questions are provided to encourage conversation on this complex and important topic.”
About Magdy Girgis
Rev. Dr. Magdy B. Girgis serves as the part-time field staff for Middle Eastern Ministries. His responsibilities include working in partnership with mid councils to develop and grow Middle Eastern new worshiping communities and their leadership. In addition, he identifies social justice inequities and acts as a bridge for dialogue, promoting educational and cultural understanding of Middle Eastern issues in partnership with the National Middle Eastern Presbyterian Caucus and other groups. Magdy is a board-certified chaplain at Vitas Hospice Care in California. In addition to English, Magdy speaks his native language, Arabic.
Magdy brings to this position the characteristics of leadership development, communication skills, partnership, wide and diverse administrative experiences, and proficiency in various fund development efforts. He is committed to understanding the goal of igniting the movement to grow 1001 new worshiping communities “by investing a good time of my life in leading missions and developing local evangelism, which is what my life is centered around because it is my passion.”