This is my third blog about preparing for my missionary journey to Egypt. Is it me or are we in America afraid to face every other religion? When I tell people that I am going to Egypt. A lot of people in my life respond with the following words “Are you sure, it’s dangerous over there?”. When I tell people that I want to go talk to Scientologist, many people tell me “Stay away from them, they are Satan worshippers” as if they are doomed and there is no hope for them. I want to go talk to palm readers and so on. When I hear these responses I see fear in people’s eyes and I personally wanted them to encourage me and to go with me. This is the fear that also stopped me, I did not go for many years due to fear of rejection and doing the ministry alone. These reasons kept me away from going and satisfying my desires that God placed in my heart. This fear is real. I finally broke this cycle and let me talk about this process a little to encourage those who are struggling just like I did.
Let me give you a quick summary of Egypt’s history and its state right now to establish the fear that people are pointing towards. Egypt is mostly a Muslim country. It’s about 85% Muslim and 15% Christian. Most of Christians there belong to the Coptic Church. This is basically an Orthodox church that was established there in the middle of the first century. Some say it was Saint Mark who established the church there. By the beginning of the 3rd century, Christianianity was the majority population in Egypt’s, and the Church of Alexandria was one of the major hubs for theological and cultural development. The Coptic Church is the oldest Christian church in Africa. Here is the typical church service.
In 641 AD, Egypt was invaded by the Arabs. The conflict lasted until the 9th century, they were finally subdued by Islamic followers. Under Muslim rule, Christians became second-class citizens, under constant persecution. Modern Egypt has reformed and separated state and religion but it is still difficult for Christians to live there. Let’s talk about the last decade and what is happening there now. Violence has peaked to its highest since the 14th century against Christian population there. In May 2010, The Wall Street Journal reported increasing waves of mob attacks by Muslims against ethnic Copts. Despite frantic calls for help, the police typically arrived after the damage was done. In August 2013, there were widespread attacks on Coptic churches and institutions in Egypt by Sunni Muslims. Then we all heard the news about the 21 kidnappings of Egyptian Coptic Christians in Lybia and eventually beheaded. Finally, Egypt itself is not a stable country, as we know there was a Revolution in 2011. None of this news sits well in any missionaries stomach. This is a form of fear that one would have to face, in this case, it will be me. I assure you this fear is real. It is easy to say that “I am not afraid” sitting behind a TV or a computer. I get up in the morning and worship God and imagine how fearless I would be in Egypt preaching the word of God. The reality is different. If I’m to go there without God preparing me, then all I am going to accomplish there is sit in the hotel room and support whatever ministry the established church is doing. Once I am there and see police with fully automatic weapons trailing me around, It would hit me, the seriousness of unstable society and dangers that come with it. My spirit of boldness would leave me due to lack of faith. This is where fear would get a hold of me. This is the battle of faith vs fear. What must God do to prepare me for this? Let’s talk about this process.
Here is how God is preparing me to be able to fight fear. Faith is opposite of fear. What is faith then? Faith has three elements: knowledge, acceptance, and trust. For me, faith starts with education. Without good sound reason, I am a skeptic. When I am presented with a highly complicated subject that undermines my belief, I would think these typical thoughts “What? you think you are better than me, What do you know anyway?” because I do not understand the subject and feel like I am ill-prepared to face the opposition. I would take the skeptic position and try to undermine the person in any way possible to discredit him/her in some way. This is why it is very important for me to understand the basic reasoning and conceptual knowledge of God to have an unbreakable faith. Many people state this when confronted with evangelism “Well, I don’t know theology that well to go out there”, and they are right. I was the same way, I had fear and doubt, that I would not know how to respond to a tough question. As I grew in knowledge, my faith grew as well. It is important to study the word of God to grow your faith, so it is not shaken easily with worldly philosophies. The next step may seem trivial and that is going from good reasoning to accepting the truth. This element is vital in our faith walk.
Many times good reason does lead people to accept the truth but not always. I’m surprised when I watch my heroes debate in academic arena or as I try to reason with people out on the streets, that most do not accept the truth. Therefore, there seems to be this “acceptance” element at play, no matter how trivial the subject is, people just don’t want to accept the truth of it. Jesus talked about something similar in the story “The Rich Man and Lazarus” Luke 16:31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'” It’s as if people’s cognitive faculties are broken. I can’t say they are not genuine about their decisions in life because they are. This paradox brings light to passages such as Rom 1:24 “God gives them up to their depraved minds”. It’s like a virus in a computer software but in our case, it is much more complicated since it deals with a human mind. It kind of leaves you scratching your head, you covered every base but why is it not working. This is also true about each one of us to some level. Especially when we are confronted with a radical way of life – give up your life to gain it. This is very difficult to do. We all read the radical call of Jesus, we even preach it but to accept it fully in plain terms is difficult. I made up excuses, came up with complicated interpretations to wean off the guilt. Finally, I simply could not sit anymore. I had to accept the truth of the radical call of Jesus in my life. It’s like graduating from baby faith. I stopped caring for work, my potential in business, money or pension and even my own family. I state this not out of careless spirit but from an unselfish spirit. There is a big different, one will lead to a homeless spiritual life and the other will lead to becoming a servant of all. I am not that important, I am a creature and the world does not depend on my survival. I saw the skills and gifts that I have been given were useful to others in life and I knew that I needed to do something with them. I need to go and show the way of truth and the light to the lost or else they will perish. I had many excuses and still do at this point. But as I go forward I sense this growth of faith in me that I never had before. This is not that I lacked knowledge but that I lacked the element of acceptance of the radical call of Jesus. I had to accept the truth and start to walk in it.
Now I am accepting God’s call and walking where He tells me to go. As I walk, doubts do come to my mind but I have to trust God. He is the one in charge and leads my life. This is the element of “Trust” that completes faith. I understand the truth and accept the truth but it seems like there is still something that is trying to hold me back. About a week ago I walked up to a Scientology building and I literally hear my own thoughts speak out to me “Do not mess with me”. I knew it was the demonic spirit trying to bring fear into my life. I had put my trust in God and make that first step forward and the demonic spirit disappeared. I accept His will and if He tells me to go, then I go and If He tells me to stay, then I stay. As I make the first step, faith just takes over.
This trust is important without this element you will end up homeless. The other day I was talking to a homeless lady on the street. To my surprise, I was astonished the amount of knowledge she had. I was like, “why are you homeless”. Then at some point in the conversation, I realized that she never took a step of trust. She told me she accepted Jesus in her heart, she was very genuine about it as well. She had a good understanding of theology. So I asked her, I think her name was Hallen, “Hallen, do you minister to people”. She responded, “What do you mean?”. I tell her “Like, do you go and talk to people about God, do you help people, do you serve people in some way.” Her response was “No, I do not”. At that point, I encouraged her and prayed over her to go and start ministering to other, so that she can receive fulfillment in her life and to grow in her faith. She is not the only one and I am not the only one, America is full of these type of people. Is it possible that American culture has enculturated us into this easy way of life? I am not saying we are lazy, but when it comes down to real issues in life we are politically absent. In other words, we are afraid to trust God and speak out and stand up against the evil in this country. We do not want to risk our comfort for it, our finances, our time. To many of us in America have enough knowledge, we accepted the radical life of Jesus but are afraid to trust God, we are afraid like a little bird on the edge of the cliff that does not want to jump. Some stepped back and hid in church buildings and accepted that as the Christian way life. Let me tell you, going to church is not that radical. Most importantly, if faith ultimately saves you, what faith do you have without trust. Hebrews 11:6 “…without faith, it is impossible to please God…”. I, for one, are ashamed showing up to church when I do not bring something to the table, I am not talking about money but about my daily faith.
This is my process and hopefully, this encouraged many of you to go and trust God. For some, these elements of faith are in a different order in life. Whatever it is, go and develop all three elements to have complete faith in God that is unshakable. In contrast to American life, as much as we, the evangelical church in America, look down on orthodox church and how they are not following Christ in the way they should then check this video out. This is how families of the 21 kidnapped Egyptians responded to the tragedy. It is inspiring.
God is faithful and I stand behind him and go where He wants me to. It’s such a great feeling to accept God’s will and to trust Him in all things as I live out the radical life of Jesus in my life.
Blessings to you all,
Up next: Engaging local Muslims.