January 8th always brings back memories for me. It was the day, nineteen years ago, that my family waved goodbye to the around 15 friends who went to the airport with us, and boarded a plane headed for Cairo, Egypt. It would be a huge culture shock for me and my family, but I can honestly say that I am thankful for those years of growing up in Egypt.
- There's something about moving to a new place, with a new culture, and without any kind of familiarity that makes me find my security and foundation in the One who knows me, knows all things, and who is with me all the time. A testimony of my time in Egypt would not be complete without a testimony of God's love and care for me in those years. He met the needs of my family and my personal needs too. In fact, He gave me far more than I ever deserved. I can remember trying to talk my mom into buying us computer games before we moved to Egypt because I thought that we wouldn't have anything else to do once we moved there. The picture that I had in my mind was that Egypt was completely covered in sand and dirty streets and a bunch of concrete. And for a nine-year old boy who loved to play sports, this was a terrifying thought. But when I think of how God provided my family with a wonderful place to live, friends, a church, nearby fields and gardens, sports leagues to play in, the opportunity to take piano lessons, a pool to swim in, and opportunities for travel, desert camping, and beach trips to the Red Sea, I am overwhelmed with gratitude, good memories, and all the reason in the world to trust that God will always take care of me.
- Moving to a new place and experiencing a new culture also drew me closer to my family. Even though we all made friends and had experiences outside the home, my parents and siblings became my best friends. And I am so thankful for this! My two brothers and sister (and eventually, second sister!) became my chief "play-partners" and we got to know each other really well. Even in high school, when I was working hard on baseball and preparing to go to college, my brothers were the ones who pushed me and worked out with me. And I am thankful for the close relationship that I was able to develop with my mom and dad as well. I have such good memories of times spent with them: going to the corner market or "Road 9" with my mom, or going to downtown or playing baseball with my dad. In addition, I loved the times that our family did ministry together. Whether it was going to a training with my dad or having people in our home, doing ministry together as a family is one of the most effective ways to bond as a family and realize that we are a team. God definitely used our "Egypt years" to grow us closer together as a family, and I am grateful.
- God also used my time in Egypt to provide me with a full vision of ministry. One of the difficult things about living in a place like Cairo is that there is a lot poverty and suffering on full display. Right out in the open. In addition, Egypt is a heavily Islamic country, so many of my daily interactions were with Muslims. To grow up with so much suffering and unbelief provided me with the opportunity to develop a worldview that recognized the need for the Gospel to be preached, taught, explained, and lived out. Often I talk with other Americans who talk about being "sheltered" during their childhood, and I thank God for my time in Egypt. It is really difficult to be "sheltered" in that kind of an environment. It doesn't make me a better person, for just because I grew up in Egypt doesn't mean I learned every lesson I should have learned. But I thank God for where He placed me during my childhood and the opportunities for ministry that He gave to me and my family.
There are many more things I could write about our time in Egypt, but for now I will just say that I have wonderful memories of my time there, and January 8th is a day that those memories are most brought to mind.