Fall is upon us! The air is a little more crisp. Pumpkin spice is being added to almost every consumable good imaginable. That means the November discernment trip to Egypt is rapidly approaching! As many of you heard during this past Sunday’s Moment for Mission, we are currently in a discernment process for a possible sister-church relationship with an Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Zagazig, Egypt. Below is a little more information about this opportunity.
The Outreach Foundation, one of the mission partners for our denomination (ECO), holds the mission statement of “Connecting Presbyterians to build the church’s capacity to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.” In 2015, the Outreach Foundation connected ECO with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Egypt since we both are particularly focused on church planting and church revitalization. In Egypt, a unique window of government-approved access to land is available to the EPCE for churches and ECO’s partnership is one way to provide the financial and relational resources needed to ensure these churches stay open and engaged in mission. Three years into the partnership between denominations and our interest in this Egypt Initiative, First Presbyterian Church has been invited to take the next step and meet with a local congregation in Zagazig, just north of Cairo.
While Missions Team and covenant partners of First Pres have prayerfully considered a new international initiative and the specific opportunity in Egypt for several years, there are a specific series of events that have lead to the upcoming trip. Here is a timeline of what’s happened this past year:
- January 2018 – Marilyn Borst and Sasan Tavassoli (Outreach Foundation representatives) speak at our church regarding Christ’s work in the Middle East and how we might get involved. Covenant partners respond enthusiastically as the Mission Committee continues to investigate a possible connecting with Zagazig.
- February 2018 – Several meetings transpire between the new Associate Pastor for Mission (me), Matthew Hornaday, Marilyn Borst, and Pastor Peter Barnes to discover what reasonable next steps might be in discerning this potential partnership. It becomes clear that direct contact with the church and leaders in Egypt is needed. Marilyn extends an invitation to join her on the November trip under the leadership of The Outreach Foundation.
- August 2018 – Matthew and myself (Tim) officially commit to traveling and reporting back to the church. With input from the Outreach Foundation, they design a deliberate preparation process that includes additional teammates for prayer and discussion.
- September 2018 – The full discernment team (see ‘The Team’ below) commits to reading the background materials from Outreach Foundation, Andrew Johnson’s book Missions: How the Local Church Goes Global, as well as both Acts and 3 John in Scripture. They meet twice to discuss these materials and how they shape the goals and process of the November trip. The team decides to create a discernment guide including possible questions to be asked of the leaders in Egypt, our own church, and the Outreach Foundation. The finalized questions, and the reasoning behind them, will be submitted to the church’s Staff Leadership Team, Missions Team, and Elders.
- October 2018 – The full discernment team will gather throughout the month to discuss the book Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett. Members of the discernment team will arrange for discussions with various men and women with first hand experience of Egyptian culture so that Matthew and I might be as prepared as possible for navigating the culture gap in a winsome way.
- November 2018 – Matthew and I will travel to Egypt (see ‘The Trip’ below).
Matthew Hornaday and I will represent First Presbyterian Church on this vision/discernment trip. Additionally, we are joined by First Presbyterian Church covenant partners Kendra Norton, Rick Wesley, and Katherine Atala to form the primary discernment team. These three individuals have fully engaged in the preparation process and will be the initial group to debrief the trip soon after our arrival. They will also be the primary prayer team before and during the trip. Stay tuned for more information about our awesome team!
On November 1, 2018 Matthew and I will be flying from Raleigh Durham to Cairo. After arriving late on November 2, we will be led through a 10 day journey in Egypt, returning midday on November 12, 2018.
The Outreach Foundation writes, “In the midst of upheaval and uncertainty, the Presbyterian Church of Egypt is hard at work. They are planting churches and revitalizing congregations which have been faithful for well over a hundred years. We will visit some of those initiatives and see how God is working through his people. While in Cairo, we will stay at the Evangelical Theological Seminary (ETSC), where leaders are trained for congregations throughout the Middle East. We will have opportunity to meet students there and hear inspiring stories of their calls and aspirations for ministry.”
In addition to this, we’ll be meeting with the pastor of Zagazig’s church, Rev. Wael Nashat, as well as other leaders of the congregation. Our hope is to get to know these men and women who are on mission for Christ in their city, celebrate how God has been at work, and consider together if our Lord might be calling us to partner together for the sake of the Gospel.
The Invitation to Pray
Discernment is a corporate, church-wide project, so we need your help! We would treasure your prayer and offer the following as possible prayer points:
- Praise God for the work he has done in Egypt and Winston-Salem. We do not go to start a new thing, but to see if God is inviting us to join what he’s already up to.
- Ask God for the Gospel of Christ to spread in Egypt and Winston-Salem. All of our involvement in God’s work begins with the recognition that we don’t do work for We do it with God.
- Ask God for wisdom. We confess that the task of discernment is too large for us to do on our own and that our natural tendency is still to be self-sufficient. Pray that God would keep our hearts humble and open to what he might be doing.
- Praise God that he is God of all nations. We know that God unites diverse people into a Christ-centered family. Pray that God would give us eyes, hands, and hearts that model cross-cultural sensitivity and understanding so that we might be a glimpse of that family of Christ.
We are excited to continue this journey of discernment with you!
Grace and Peace,
Associate Pastor for Mission