International Ministries

A Christian by any other name

June 20, 2010 Journal
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     You walk in and divide. Men to the left, women to the right. It was misty and dark in the Coptic church. I felt as if I was a time traveler going back to an age long ago, save for the flat screen TVs affixed to the columns. It was an odd juxtaposition really the modern technology with the gold leaf iconic paintings that hung in glass cases on the wall.

            There was a rhythm throughout the service almost hypnotic. You felt a warm comfort and the smell of frankincense at least that’s what Kim said the smell was. There was a pulse, a beat to the congregational response and the readings had a tempo. People came rolling in and out like the tide. All the seats were full and still more came. It almost felt like a Catholic service you stood for twenty minutes and then sat down, then stood again for a time and sat back down again. I looked to the other women for clues as to what to do. There was the passing of the peace in which you put your hands together like your praying but you face your fingers to the person in front of you and they do the same. Then you make a "v" shape with your palms still touching and close on their fingers. Nod your head, let go of their hands and bring your prayer hands to your mouth and kiss them. You proceed to repeat this to all around you.

            There was a digital number board on the wall that said what page they were reading from. I had no idea what the sermon was. I had my Bible with me so I cracked it open to the psalms and tried to read it to the rhythm. So I could still worship without knowing the language. Which was Coptic and Arabic I believe.

            A baby dedication was going on that Sunday. The first one I noticed was a baby boy dressed like the pope. While the little girls looked like mini brides to be. Tiny month old babies with earrings, rings, bracelets. It boggled my mind how small the jewelry was. It never really hits you that being dedicated to the church means your marring into Gods family, so to speak.

            I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see a little girl with these shining brown eyes. She asked what my name was and I told her. We smiled at each other and as I turned back I felt as she Xtended her fingers across my hair, like she wanted to see if it felt like hers even though it was straight. It made me smile. There was something to that touch. It lasted for seconds but made a deep impact.  Like Rofy said in one of our group meetings that, "You see the surface of things and you need to look further."

            I am not going to lie I was terrified to come here because all I hear in western culture is terrible stories and you assume everyting is like this. Humanity’s greatest sin. They spread great fear in us and its sad that we believe them. We need to Xpand our minds and delete the lies. Now I can spread the truth about these people and their warmth and friendliness.

            We then took a tour of Old Egypt and got to make a deeper connection with the Coptic faith so that we could hear what they believed. I would love to tell you everything about the tours of the Hanging Church, The Holy Crypt, and the temple of Ben Ezra, where it is said that Moses was pulled from the Nile at that place and Jeremiah was buried here, but that would take up a lot and the best is yet to come.

            An X file appeared from nowhere and it had sharp wavy lines. Water easy enough. Under that was the shape of Egypt plus a cross. and this part we couldn't figure out. Ivan and Dexter kept handing it off to one another. Kim thought that we might be looking into other Egyptian religions. We got into the Van and a few other people joined us. Hmmm could this be a clue! We got to talking to them, well mostly to F. a medical student who is only 22 and I believe said that he only had two years left. In Egypt they compress all the years it takes in the States into a short time. He was very open and engaging. T. was quiet and sat up front. Then there was C. she was one of Rofy's friends from school and she told us that she was an Evangelical. We met S. and B. at the dock.

            Sailing on the Nile was a little surreal. The X-file was starting to make sense. Here we were with Egyptian Christians on the Nile having conversations about their faith and what it meant to live in the Egyptian culture! Yes! These are the conversations that get me Xcited! We told them what the Xtreme team was all about.  We got closer as the night went on the questions never stopped coming.

            C. explained how she was faced with an ethical challenge when many of her classmates had answers to the test beforehand.  After prayer, she decided to stay home from school that day and not take the test.  

            It's crazy how influential the States are. In Egypt there are satellite dishes dozens of them per a building maybe more. All of Students knew so much about our culture. Music, TV, movies...so much! Yet when Scott asked the team who Egypt's Leader was we had no idea. It makes you embarrassed and feel ignorant. I was sad to see them go. They see our news and we say they are terrorists no wonder they get angry with us. I know I am angry when one group of Christians act a certain way then people think every Christian is that way. It just gives us all a bad name.

So… let’s work on our mutual ignorance.