Families are coming together at different locations in the city of Sheikh Zaid and other communities in Egypt to pray for the future church, including the necessary finances to build new church buildings on 14 parcels of land donated to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Egypt (EPCE) by the Egyptian government.
The future Sheikh Zaid church will be led by the Rev. T. Saied who has already started two other churches in Egypt. He and his wife and three daughters are filled with joy and eager to see the fulfillment of the vision to have a church in their community so they can begin to invite people to be part of it.
“This is a God-given opportunity, an open window to establish many new churches where none exist,” says Atef Gendy, president of Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC). He says of the ten million Christians in Egypt, 6 million people do not have a place in the church simply because no church is available.
PC(USA) liaison in Egypt Steve Gorman says once construction begins on the Sheikh Zaid church the “clock is ticking,” and the entire building must be complete in three years. “If not, the government can and might take the land back.” So, Gorman says, “They cannot start until their financial resources are in order.” The same is true for each of the future churches planned for these government-donated parcels of land.
In addition to financial resources to build the churches, Gendy says another great need is for trained pastors. “Of the 375 Presbyterian churches and fellowship communities supervised by the Synod of the Nile, 71 are currently without a pastor.” He says the desire to plant new churches and train new leaders continues to gain momentum, but resources are sorely needed.
“We consider ourselves as a daughter of the PC(USA), and we consider the PC(USA) as a leader of Presbyterian churches all over the world,” said the Rev. Refat Fathy, general secretary of the EPCE in the Synod of the Nile. “We don’t feel so alone. We feel your support.”
The EPCE, founded by missionaries from the Presbyterian Church of North America in 1854, believes the church should be of service to everyone regardless of religious faith. The Presbyterian Church in Egypt operates 23 schools in all parts of the country, serving more than 30,000 students; two major hospitals in Cairo and Tanta; four retreat and conference centers; and the seminary in Cairo, the largest divinity school in the Middle East with more than 300 students.
“The role of a Presbyterian mission worker in this particular time in Egypt is extraordinary, wonderful and a real privilege for me to be a part of,” says the Rev. Darren Kennedy, professor of theology at ETSC. “I have the chance to work with dynamic Egyptian colleagues who are incredibly well educated, very creative and very able. And, at the same time, they deeply value a voice from outside, a partner who can come alongside them to work with them, to help train and send out a future generation of leaders that can really have an impact for Jesus Christ in this region.”
ETSC has trained pastors for churches from Libya to Syria to Iraq. Its graduates serve in a variety of ministries throughout the Arab World. ETSC is well positioned to increase its impact in the region—opening satellite campuses and developing online coursework in the Arabic language, reaching into nations and communities that a missionary could never enter.
Once these churches are built, a vision for the growth of the church in Sheikh Zaid and other cities in Egypt includes teaching and discipleship of new believers; diversity of ministries to use each person’s spiritual gifts; training of disciples for ministries and full-time mission work. The future congregation at Sheikh Zaid will work cooperatively with the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS) to provide spiritual and social resources.
In July 2015, Jim Davis, a member of Miami Shores Presbyterian Church in Florida, and a long-time supporter of Presbyterian World Mission, gave $1 million to support church growth in underserved areas in Egypt and theological education to train leaders at ETSC.
“I believe sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with people around the world is the most important thing we can do as a church,” Davis says. “There’s so much strife in the world today because people don’t know about the love and forgiveness that Jesus teaches.”
Hunter Farrell, director of Presbyterian World Mission says Davis’ gift comes at a time when it is needed more than ever. Davis says he gave this money specifically to challenge others to make significant gifts.
Individuals and congregations interested in responding to Davis’ challenge to support Presbyterian World Mission by helping to grow the church in Egypt may visit presbyterianmission.org/donate/E052179 or send a check to: Presbyterian World Mission, PO Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700. Checks should be made to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and noted for fund E052179. For more information, please contact Nicole Gerkins at email@example.com or 502-569-5611.
For more information about Presbyterian World Mission’s efforts to share the good news in Egypt and around the world, contact international evangelism catalyst Juan Sarmiento at 502-569-5262 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In nearly 180 years of Presbyterian mission service, Presbyterian missionaries have planted churches, built hospitals and started schools on every continent. The seeds sown by those missionaries have, in many places, developed into self-sustaining churches and institutions led by local Christians. Today, more than 94 million Christians around the world belong to churches that were founded or co-founded by PC(USA) mission workers.