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Egypt’s Baptists Serve Many Poor, Illiterate People

The indigenous mission workers in Egypt work sacrificially, usually among the poorest and often illiterate people.

Their mission is twofold: to share the message of the gospel and do social work, which virtually brings the bright rays of light in a dark reality.

The multiethnic and socially diverse population of Egypt numbers nearly 80 million.

About 90 percent of the Egyptians are Muslims and only 10 percent are Christians, Coptic and Orthodox being the largest groups.

The evangelical believers are the “minority of minority” in Egypt because they comprise only about 10 percent of the Christian margin.

The beginning of Baptist movement in Egypt is usually associated with Saddik Gerges.

He was the first Egyptian Baptist to study theology in the United States and returned back home in the early 1930s to start the Baptist ministry in his homeland. Through his efforts, many indigenous churches were planted.

The Baptist Convention in Egypt is now led by pastor Mounir Malaty from Cairo. The convention comprises 19 local churches and many groups that are considered church plants.

The small convention has become active in seeking opportunities to plant new congregations.

They send either some full-time individual church planters or teams for the two-handed mission – with the message of the gospel in one hand and social work in the other.

The European Baptist Federation (EBF) has been supporting several indigenous mission workers in Egypt, which provide reports about their ministry.

Youssef (his full name wasn’t given) shared that they had surpassed their 2015 goal of serving 100 families, and that they “started evangelistic meetings that were held in a private house of a believer.”

“Our goal now is that by the end of year 2016 we will have ministered to 200 families,” he said. “In 2016, we hold our meetings on Fridays and Sundays. Additionally, on Sundays we continue the children ministry for about 30 kids and organize a Bible study for adults on Wednesdays.”

They are also running a free learning center for children. “Some orphans and children of people who can’t afford other schooling attend,” Youssef said, with around 70 kids being served by seven teachers.

“This center started in October 2015 as the response for illiteracy, which is a problem in Egypt,” he explained. They hope to continue the schooling center, and to complete a church building to help them reach more people.

Another congregation, led by Saad (full name not given), ministers to around 300 people – meeting for Bible study on Tuesdays and for prayer on Saturdays.

“Ten of the 45 who attended made sincere decisions to follow the Lord, and we keep in touch with them,” he said. “We are planning to have a baptism celebration soon.”

They meet in a rented apartment but are hoping to obtain their own building. “The Egyptian culture emphasizes the value of the church building,” Saad explained.

The congregation also established “an NGO (nongovernmental organization) as a sort of cover up for a day care for children and social help (distribution of parcels to the poorest),” he said.

A “mobile church” is led by Nabil (full name not given), whose “meetings are organized in different homes.”

“The recipients of our ministry are farmers and it is impossible to gather them together for one regular meeting because of the long distances and the differences in the working times,” Nabil said. “I visit them on a regular basis according to their social and spiritual needs. Personal visits in homes are helpful in building relationships with them.”

“Most of our contacts are illiterate people, so we use the orality ministry techniques,” Nabil said. “We are praying that the Lord may help us to start a reading class. I am planning to have a fixed discipleship group in the future in order to grow leaders. I plan to build a bigger team to reach out among the numerous people who are in our neighborhood.”

It is evident that these mission workers work hard and sacrificially among the poorest and often illiterate people.

They usually start ministry from providing social help in order to build up the trust and later try moving toward the gospel presentation through so called “orality method” (telling Bible stories to those who are illiterate).

Eventually, they invite them to meetings where the Bible stories may be discussed in groups and the principles of spiritual life explained.

The Egyptian mission workers emphasize how particularly essential for them it is to have church buildings, which is somehow culturally imprinted in their understanding of a church.

Daniel Trusiewicz is mission partnerships coordinator at the European Baptist Federation. A version of this news article first appeared on the EBF website and is used with permission. You can follow EBF on Twitter @EBFNews.