"THE EGYPTIANS SHALL KNOW THE LORD!"
— ISAIAH 19:21
BY MOUNIR SOBHY YACOUB
How old is the Egyptian Baptist church is a question I always answer by referring to Matthew 2:14: “Joseph took
Jesus and his mother to Egypt.” We see the coming of Jesus to touch our land as the beginning of the blessing God has
bestowed not only upon the Baptist church, but upon all our people.
However, we can trace the beginning of Baptist work in Egypt back to 1931. It did not start by a visiting foreigner, but
by Rev. Sedik Gergis who returned from the United States after completing his seminary education to be the first Baptist
in Egypt; to be a missionary from Egypt to Egypt. He started working alone in the villages, moving slowly, praying that
the Lord might send laborers for the harvest.
Today, we have only 15 evangelical Baptist churches. That makes us such a minority in a country of 78 million with
a Muslim majority and about 10 million Christians, mostly traditional Coptic Orthodox. Our small number of churches
is a fact that raises questions. What went wrong? Why didn’t we continue growing? It reflects the difficulty we have had
in establishing churches as a minority! It also shows that we lost our Baptist vision of mission. Fear and the feeling of
being persecuted are other reasons. On the other hand, we admit that we have been preaching and speaking, but with too
little “doing” in the field of practical ministry in a community with big problems and needs.
Our biggest challenge for now is planting churches. Egypt is an international country, a mixture of races and ethnic
groups, displaying a wide range of cultural and social diversity; Nubian, Bedouins, Nomads, Berbers and others; all living
together for thousands of years. Our church has been placed “between the lion’s jaws.” The first jaw is Muslim religious
fundamentalism that imposes a fanatic lifestyle condemning even moderate Muslims. The other jaw is the permissive
lifestyle Egyptians blindly adopt as a result of globalization.
The picture of a mosque standing opposite a church is one that carries a lot of meaning. We are the nation that Jesus
visited and the country of a Muslim majority with the strong Azhar Mosque, a center that trains “Sheikhs” to go from
Egypt to all the “ends of the world” spreading the call to Islam. Egypt presses for good relationships between Muslims
and Christians, though there have been periods of tension and unrest.
As for our small convention that is led by a devout president, Rev. Wahba Gayeed, we can say that it has become very
active in seeking to plant new churches. We seek church planting by sending individual full-time church planters or teams
for the “two handed gospel campaigns,” sharing the message of the gospel with one hand and meeting people’s physical
needs with the other.
Recently, the Lord has blessed us with a land of 16 acres for a conference and training center and we are raising
needed funds and making plans for the building of the center. We hope that the center and the attitude behind it – to raise
and train real leaders – will mark the turning point and will be a step toward holistic mission to regain the Baptist spirit
and to influence our community.
(CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE)
Photo: Mounir Sobhy Yacoub, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Cairo, and Wahba Gayeed Beshara, President of the Egyptian Baptist Convention
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