Throughout the Bible, Egypt fulfills a dual role both as a place of refuge and a place of oppression, a place to “come up out of” and a place to “flee to.”
When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, I had to cancel my participation in a mission trip to Egypt. I’ve always felt a little something special had been stolen from me. Last week I was given another opportunity to visit the nation that had slipped through my fingers.
I found Egypt to be full of great contrast.
Desert verses water
Ancient verses modern
Crowded verses empty
Preserved verses destroyed
We took a full day to experience the most famous attractions. We stood at the base of the great pyramid of Giza – the only remaining “wonder” of the ancient world. We bravely climbed aboard the back of camels and briefly experienced a mode of transportation completely foreign to our lives. We walked through a marble and granite temple devoted to mummification and stared at the famous sphinx and pondered its protective purpose. We walked through the halls of the Antiquities Museum and gazed upon the remnants of the life of a man called King Tut. Finally, we sailed the peaceful waters of the famous Nile.
All day long, I kept thinking of the Egyptian’s fascination with all things spiritual, especially eternal life. Here you can see the plumb line of history where for thousands of years people devoted their resources, creativity, strength and intelligence to making sure they would be prepared for the “after life”.
The ancient Egyptians were so close to the gift that has been so freely given to us.
While they either built or dug their own tombs in preparation for eternity, their very soil was being marked with the history of God’s chosen people. While they looked to the sun-god for help, they became a nation of refuge for the “Son of Man”. While they toiled to build monuments and memories that would mark their earthly existence for thousands of years, they missed the knowledge of the one true God.
God was among them but they did not know Him.
Everywhere we turned was a piece of history confirming this truth and begging to come alive through the pages of the bible: the stories of Moses and pharaoh; the amazing Exodus of the Hebrews, the parting of the Red Sea; their forty years in the wilderness; the entry into the promised land; the dreams of Joseph and his rise to power; the great escape of Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus; the visitation of the Magi and the ongoing spiritual significance of the nation throughout scripture reverberated throughout our visit.
As we traveled from Cairo to Minya to the local villages, I discovered that despite its ancient history and focus on false gods, the local church had taken root in this ancient land.
As I experienced the people of Egypt and not just their monuments and history, I found such beauty. Those who know Christ are like bright lights among those who know about Him. They are warm, passionate and builders of great communities. I met amazing moms with a very high value for family and a special love and hope for the future of their children. They are intelligent, industrious and kind. They have a natural hope and faith that carries them in spite of deep difficulty.
Although we saw tremendous needs like poverty, sickness, and persecution, we also saw deep faith, diligent prayer and unquenchable hope. I am not allowed to post pictures of the local believers or of those who work among them as representatives of the ministry, Healing Grace, due to potential persecution. If I could, I would show you their beautiful faces, acts of worship and places of community.
I hope we left some seeds of strength with those we served, that there was value in the teaching, prayer and prophetic ministry we poured on them, and that the individual families we visited and the children we blessed were strengthened and encouraged. The personal friendships we formed will bridge distance and time. I trust the investment we made to participate in the trip and the gifts we freely gave will bear eternal fruit.
But there is more than that. There is also what was given to us.
I have a fresh sense of the value of my personal salvation and all its benefits. I’m rubbed raw by the awareness that what I take for granted, others must believe for like manna in the desert and water from a rock. I am sensitive to the fact that you can easily live in a place that is pointing to the one true God, and totally miss Him.
I had forgotten I live under an umbrella of the most extraordinary favor and grace. I am free to worship without persecution. I live with virtually unlimited resources and education at my fingertips. My children sleep secure at night in a home that has food, electricity and running water.
I’m not just grateful, I’m mystified. I’m mystified by the hand of God in our lives. I’m mystified by His eternal purpose and plan. I’m mystified that He chooses to reveal himself both to me and to the beautiful young woman I now sponsor.
I’m bigger on the inside today than I was a week ago. Egypt worked its mystery in my heart.