Cultivating Christian Leadership
Impacting Lives from Texas to the Middle East
Over the last few years, my wife Danae and I felt God was preparing us to serve Him in a different capacity. While we had both been fully engaged in the ministry of Adventist education in Texas, it felt as if God was asking us to do something much different. Consciously aware of the stirring within our hearts, we received contact from Egypt regarding a possible opportunity. At first, we weren’t too sure that this was what God meant by leaving our life of normalcy and predictability. We even made a list of all the reasons we shouldn’t move to Egypt. In an effort to be open to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, we chose to pray instead of decline. Time continued and we found that our “reasons not to go” list began shrinking by the day. In the end, God changed all of the reasons not to go into reasons why Danae, our children, Bryce and Peyton, and I had to accept a call to work at Nile Union Academy in Cairo, Egypt.
Nile Union Academy (NUA) is located on the northern outskirts of Cairo, and has served as the Seventh-day Adventist boarding academy for the country since 1954. NUA is currently at full capacity with 120 students. Out of those students, approximately 30 are Adventist and the rest are Orthodox Christians. The students come from Egypt and South Sudan to study at a North American Division-accredited school that places emphasis on learning English. Graduates from NUA continue studies at Middle East University, Andrews University, Union College, and other Adventist and public universities around the world.
The students at NUA are very special. They work hard, yet do so with a joyful spirit. Christians in this part of the world face discrimination and persecution regularly, yet this does not deter their faith. In fact, it’s quite the opposite! Christians in Egypt, which are a tiny minority of the population, have stubbornly clung to their faith for centuries. Our students proudly wear tattoos of crosses and pictures of Jesus as a way to differentiate themselves from the overwhelming majority of the population. A tiny cross tattoo on the wrist is a telltale sign of brother or sister in Christ!
Each Friday evening and Saturday during church services, our students sing songs of praise in English and Arabic, often off-key as the musical rhythm in Arabic is quite different than in English. To us, the off-key singing just makes the songs even more beautiful! Our students sing jubilantly and passionately with the love of Jesus shining radiantly on their faces.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Egypt has less than 700 members. It is estimated that there are more Egyptian Adventists in California than in Egypt. For this reason, emphasis on leadership among the youth is essential. NUA’s purpose is to raise up the next generation of leaders for Jesus so that the Gospel may be spread throughout Egypt and the surrounding areas.
We are in our fourth month of service in Egypt. As with any transition, there have been numerous challenges. We have alternated between pure joy and homesickness, laughter and tears, and the thrill of conquering new challenges and being frustrated at a different way of living.
Through the difficult times we have learned to lean on our loving Savior as He carries us. Each time we have entered a new valley, God sends us a gift to raise us up. These gifts range from praising God for running water on campus, to finally receiving our shipping container of personal belongings in November, after living out of suitcases since June. God has been with us every step of the way.