Wednesday, November 4, 2015 – Thursday, November 5, 2015
My Trip to Egypt (part 4) – Darkness Came Over the Land
I went to sleep on Wednesday night wearing my CPAP. Since the power was turned off in our entire district of Egypt, we used a generator to give us light and power at night. So I laid my head down, got snuggled into my bed, and almost to sleep when it happened: the generator was turned off. Uh oh. What do I do now? It’s dark, my floor is like the Nile River or the Red Sea, I dried off my feet, and I’ve got to find my cell phone (without dropping it in the water) to use a flashlight to get my backup battery pack for my CPAP. It was an adventure trying to remember where I put everything because water was dripping through the walls, beds were wet, my suitcases were on a bed away from water, and everything seemed to be spread out. I found my phone, then the battery pack, then the adaptor, then my CPAP, and took apart the electric power transformer and plug from the wall – all without allowing it to touch the ground to get wet. It was tough but God gave me grace to do it. Thankfully, I slept through the night without a problem unlike on the airplane on the way over to Egypt where the backup pack kept shutting off – maybe 8 times in 3 hours. That was not a problem here.
On Thursday, November 5, 2015, I woke up early to a power surge as the generator was turned back on. The sun was shining and I could see! The darkness that had come over the land was no longer in control. The light dispelled the darkness and it reminded me of John 1:5: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. That light was referring to Jesus and the Greek word translated “overcome” in this verse really means cannot contend with the light. In other words, the darkness is defeated. What a good reminder this morning brought me that Jesus reigns over all darkness and though there are temporary battles, Christ ultimately wins in the end.
At breakfast, we had great fellowship with a Coptic priest and his wife who were attending the conference. It was great to hear their hearts for ministering to others and wanting to learn biblical counseling so they can shepherd the flock. The wife spoke very good English so the conversation was pleasant.
I taught the first workshop which went very well contrasting the worldly words with secular words. I had them do an interactive exercise driving home the difference between the two languages in counseling: secular and biblical. I Corinthians 2:12-16 reminds us of the fact that there are two types of words used in counseling and two types of persons we counsel: the natural man’s words and the spiritually born again man’s words. There is a difference and only the spiritual man can understand both languages. It is a crucial point to make any time you teach a “biblical-sufficiency model for soul care” (credit Dr. Wayne Vanderweir for that phrase!). Language is essential because words point us in a direction: either to Christ or away from Him toward something else.
Our day of teaching was great. Tim Brown shared practical methods from His Steps Ministries and I was able to teach my book material from The Heart of Addiction. Tim and I make a good 1-2 punch and I am grateful to call him “friend.” I thought Tim made the most humorous statement of the trip. I was teaching about Ephesians 5:18 and the command NOT to become drunk with wine. I received all types of questions like: “What if a person drinks alcohol on special celebrations only?” and the like. Some of the students were visibly upset and aroused at the teaching. I teach that it is not necessarily a sin to drink alcohol or use drugs for medical reasons IF the heart before God is motivated by righteousness not sinfulness or selfishness. One student asked: “At some of our special occasions, the family will pass around a pipe to smoke and sometimes it will have hashish (or marijuana) in it? Is that ok?” Tim said, I want to answer this one so I let him as I had been teaching for almost an hour and a half at that point. Tim answered it well saying that anytime you smoke hashish, you get intoxicated which is the same root problem in Ephesians 5:18. A rebuttal came back and then Tim said in his genuinely Southern accent, “If you claim to smoke hashish and say that you didn’t get high, then you got bad hashish!” To which I roared as did everyone a few seconds later after the translation! You know it’s funny if people laugh in two different languages and two different cultures! Way to go, Tim!
To be serious, everywhere I travel and teach on this, students try to claim that this biblical truth in Ephesians 5:18 to “not get drunk (or intoxicated by any substance)” does not apply to them in some extenuating, special circumstance. During this workshop, I hear the same question just packaged in a slightly different way whether I am in Russia, Mexico, Egypt, America, or Romania. It truly is almost comical if not sad that we all (even myself) like to say that “God’s Word is true but it doesn’t apply to me here in this passage. I am the exception!” What a lie! Oh, how we deceive ourselves at times!
The night ended with a bang. I went to my room and relaxed as much as I could with the Red Sea on my floor. What’s tough is when I would sit on my bed and wipe my bare, wet feet with a hand towel, and then remember something across the room that I need to go get. Ugh. Splish, splash across the room and back to my bed, wipe my feet, and sit. I had always wanted a water bed when I was little but not like this!
After reading for awhile, I played a game on my phone on airplane mode and reached a record score that I had been trying to reach for 2 weeks. I had no human to share my joy with so I just thanked and praised the Lord for His grace to allow me to reach that high score milestone. That was kind of different because usually I can yell to Mary, my wife, or one of the children, or call someone or even email someone, but with no wi-fi at all and my phone on airplane mode, I had no human but I was NOT alone. Christ was with me and He rejoiced with me as I yelled shouts of victory. I hope none of the Egyptians thought I was hurt or something! It was truly special to only have God to talk to. Praying is great at home but there are always other human beings within reach. In Egypt, there was no human face within sight. Only Christ. And His Word. That’s a very good place to be!
One other highlight during the day that I forgot to mention was a precious one hour talk Tim and I had with a group of nine young women who work in a shelter/rehab for women in Upper Egypt (which is actually south of where we were but is an elevated place). We sat in a circle outside on a porch, and their questions were preciously sincere. Your heart breaks for these women and the challenges they face in working with sexually abused, raped, and victims of incest in a culture that points away from Christ and everything He stands for. Many of those women said the girls they serve cannot read which presents another significant though not insurmountable challenge for biblical counselors. I suspect a few if not most of the women we were talking with could not read or write either. The education level is very poor for many Egyptians, and their wage level is less than $4,000.00/year which is an un-liveable wage. We were able to encourage them and had a funny laugh or three during the time. They were grateful two men would spend time talking with them and gently encouraging them to keep up the good work of ministry! God’s Spirit is more than able!
An encouraging two days of ministry when you think about these students wanting to be here so badly that they would brave the lightning and thunder, flooding, closed roads, walking through mud everywhere, no electricity, no internet or wi-fi, floors that were flooded inside the rooms, beds that were soaked, wet blankets and pillows, and more challenges. These students are serious about their faith and they want to know God’s Word and how to apply it faithfully. How could I ask for anything more? It was very uplifting and humbling to be serving them when they were teaching me so much about faithfulness and commitment to Christ.
-Mark (enabled by grace to serve and yet mercifully learning much about myself to change and my unchanging Master)