Sustaining Hope in Egypt
In 2019, Chase Oaks Church began engagement with two Partners in Egypt. These Partners minister and bring hope to the poorest of the poor in the vast and busy city of Cairo, as well as in villages about six hours to the south. Their strategies are very similar: creating opportunities, trainings, loans, and monetary gifts that will provide a sustained income and a better life for families in the poorest communities.
Post-COVID Partner Updates
Recently I had the pleasure of revisiting these Partners after a pandemic-forced hiatus—one that had the potential of negating all the previous help given pre-Covid. But I saw firsthand how our Partners have faithfully continued to serve families in difficult and risky ways, many times at their own peril. They chose to do it (some contracting Covid-19 in the process) because they knew if they didn’t, no one would. So for the last three years, they have visited, cared for, and brought bright hope to many. Here, I share just a portion of what I experienced while in Egypt.
After the 30-hour trip to Cairo, I spent the next morning visiting a vocational training center for refugee women. This center serves these women, many of them Muslim, through classes around hairdressing, barbering, computer and cell phone repairs, refrigeration/AC repairs, computer software skills, music, and English. They reach around 500 people in a year with plans to grow!
Then we headed out into the poorer areas of Cairo to visit some of the people served by this Partner.
Their stories are gripping: an angry young man who lost his leg in an accident and whose wife works but uses all the money herself; a 19-year-old girl with many health challenges; a mother and son in huge conflict around debt incurred for education; a young man who has severe burns from a work accident. It’s difficult to see people in poverty struggling when disaster hits—they have no resources to help them move forward in health and physical well-being.
Thankfully, this Partner is there and making a real difference!
At 6 AM the following morning, we traveled to the city of Assiut. Assiut is south of Cairo in Upper Egypt. (Upper Egypt is south of Cairo but it’s “up” since the Nile River flows from south to north.) We went via van with our partners N and P. The trip typically takes five hours, but it was longer because of the police, who wanted to ensure nothing bad happened to the American in our group (me) on the roads. So we were constantly stopped and followed, and we even had a police guard overnight where we stayed.
On our second day in Assiut, we had eight armed police and army personnel join us as we visited a local church. That was a huge day, not just physically (with temps in the high 90s) but emotionally as well. We left at 8 AM and spent about an hour with a Coptic priest whose house has become a place where he and some volunteer ladies cook and distribute food to 350 people, six days a week. It’s also going to become a short-term accommodation center for poor people who must come to town for medical treatment but have no place to stay. He’s a lovely man, and the kofta they were making was amazing.
After that, we travelled north from Assiut into rural Egypt. This is the poorest part of the country and where the bulk of Egyptian Christians live. One of our partners has made many loans to residents in this area. Due to the police presence, we were only able to visit three loan recipients.
But we could see how the loans are helping to transform lives. One woman with five kids has bought a sewing machine and is now, to her delight, able to educate them. Another crippled young man bought some goats; he has added more, and more still are on the way. Finally, a young woman who is unusually small and unlikely to marry has purchased a buffalo. She’ll sell it soon for a large profit, buy another small one, and make a good, steady income.
We then went on to Pastor W’s home where his wife made an amazing meal for us. Egyptian hospitality and food are amazing and offered in vast quantities. We had chicken prepared in two ways, rice, potatoes, salads, bread, and pigeon. Two plates of rice-stuffed pigeons, which were a culinary first for me. They were actually pretty good!
The next day, we spent time with partners from Nasr City Church, meeting people who have received loans for small businesses. We had previously visited those in need of emergency funding, and these were individuals getting help from the revolving fund the Partners operate.
The first visit was to someone who had used his loan to purchase tons of random cloth offcuts from sewing factories. With his wife and another relative, he was sorting them into their respective colors, one piece at a time. He then sells the bags of cloth, and the color is stripped out and used for stuffing. What a laborious job in a dingy place! But he’s happy, making quite a good income, and able to live much better than before.
Then we met a lovely woman with a very active faith and a beaming smile. She had a very clear vision to provide for her family, so she got a loan, rented a building, and now raises 200 chickens at a time. She’s done six batches of chickens now and her family is thriving.
We met another woman at a hair salon. She used her loan to refurbish and tidy up her place, and now she gets more customers (and more with the money to pay her well). It’s a great help to her family, and her daughter now works with her. They have been able to befriend many Muslim people and pray with them; their salon has become a ministry center.
We then visited two grocery stores. The first is owned by family whose 15-year-old son, a twin, was killed a few years ago. The loss ruined them financially. Now they are doing better and making progress. One of the sisters is a seamstress and supplements the grocery income by sewing for local people. The second store, though small, belongs to a man who is making much-needed income.
It was encouraging to meet these families. Clearly this lift in economic strength has also increased their faith and commitment to the church. Our partnership runs for a couple more years, and we (along with our Partners) expect the loan program to generate enough earnings to remain sustainable when Chase Oaks’ pledge is complete.
In the meantime, we can pray for the churches overseeing the loans and financial gifts. Please join us in asking God to provide sustained income, good health, and His wisdom for whom to help in the next couple of years. We are blessed to be a part of this great work that these Partners are doing!
Find out more about our Global Partnerships here.