Disciples in Danger: Egypt
by Gilbert and Gertrude Wandera – Nairobi – Friday, 25 February 2011
South Asia / Middle East
Editor’s note: The author, Gilbert Wandera, is a member of the Nairobi church in Kenya, and his work as a sports writer takes him to various countries across Africa. In January, Gilbert visited Egypt. Upon his return, he and his wife, Gertrude, shared this message with their region of the Nairobi Church of Christ to help the disciples understand what Christians in the Middle East endure. This sharing also kicked off a prayer campaign in Nairobi for the situation and the saints in Egypt.
We want to begin by asking a few hypothetical questions.
– Would you still be willing to be a disciple if one day you arrived at church and found tens of armed policemen frisking you and asking you for identification in order to allow you to enter for worship?
– What if your government today ruled it illegal to carry the Bible publicly, and ruled that anyone found doing so would be arrested?
– What if you we were not able to invite people to church on the streets or anywhere else and had to share your faith underground?
– Suppose you lived in real danger of being bombed as you met to worship God?
– What if your congregational leaders were under constant surveillance from the security apparatus for preaching the word of God?
Courageous Christians in Egypt
Up until the end of last year, when told that there were places in the world like this, I (Gilbert) took it with a pinch of salt. I am a firm believer in the freedom of worship and association and had almost taken for granted the fact that I come to church and worship God without the dangers I have mentioned above. I had rarely been making the effort on a daily basis to live for God until I visited Egypt in January for a couple of weeks and had fellowship with the disciples there.
Being there helped me to understand what it means to be compelled by love and to live for God on a daily basis because I learnt that in the Egypt disciples’ environment it takes something especially deep to remain in the faith. That something is love prompted by what Jesus did for us on the cross.
On the face of it this city in Egypt looks like a liberal city as you hardly see women wearing veils as is the custom in most Muslim countries. Yet behind all this apparent liberalization, the country is home to radical religious fundamentalism.
My first experience was being frisked and asked to produce my identification and give my details.
Normally I don’t carry my passport with me, and for a time I was scared that they wouldn’t allow me in. Luckily they accepted my hotel key as identification and I got in.
The moment I stepped inside the church I was really scared. As the message was being preached, my eyes roved around looking for a possible escape route in case a bomb was thrown inside the building. The preacher was talking about trusting God, and if any message has ever made sense to me, this one did. I could fully relate.
Prior to this there were reports that Muslim radicals were bombing churches in the area and I could feel this sense of fear and thoughts of this happening went through my mind. I thought about my wife and children back home.
And I wondered what reasons we give for missing church back in Kenya where we are free to express our Christian faith. Do we take for granted what we have?
Another thing I noticed was that the disciples in Egypt don’t carry their Bibles to church like we do here. It is dangerous for them because the religious fundamentalists have been shooting at Christians. So the disciples leave their Bibles at church and use them while there. How much do we take for granted the fact that we can carry our Bibles around? Do we even read them? Do we share God’s word with others?
In Egypt you cannot just reach out. Mostly those who are reached out to are asked whether they have any friends or relatives who can be invited to church (you don’t even mention the word “church”) and through this network they are reached out to.
How much do we appreciate the fact that we can easily invite men and women to church? Do we even use this opportunity, or we do we let it go?
I had opportunity for some great fellowship with the lead evangelist and he shared with me the fact that he is not sure how long they will allow him to be there. The authorities have previously made other leaders leave the country and they follow him around.
Seed Sown in Sudan
I met a couple who had previously been sent to Sudan to plant the church in Khartoum, and had some great fellowship with them. Like Egypt, Khartoum is a predominantly Muslim city. At one point the lead brother was arrested for preaching and thrown in jail for two and a half months. At the time his wife was pregnant. The brother did not get to see his baby when it was born. The amazing thing is that when he left jail and was deported, he left behind 80 disciples. Because of his effort there are now four congregations in Sudan!
Personally, we’ve been inspired by this and have vowed to reach out more to our neighbors, appreciating the fact that we are in no danger of getting harmed in any way.
In the book of Esther when the queen is faced with a potentially dangerous situation, she does not try to handle it on her own but turns to God. This scripture has really encouraged me (Gertrude) to trust in God and reach out more boldly, and now I have a lady with whom I am studying the Bible.
Let us keep praying for peace, stability and open doors in the Middle East. And let us be inspired by the faith of our brothers and sisters there.
Click here to see the plea for a Day of Prayer and Fasting for Disciples in Danger in countries around the world.