Giving a Hope and a Future to Egypt’s Rural Poor
July 03, 2014
A Christian Aid-assisted ministry provides vocational training and oversees community development projects that enable gospel workers to share the love of Christ in remote Egyptian villages.
“Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor and to thy needy, in thy land” (Deuteronomy 15:11b, KJV).
With nearly 30 percent of their country’s population living at or below poverty level, Egyptians have experienced little relief in recent years from soaring unemployment and inflation. Ineffective economic policies are believed to have played a role in Egypt’s 2011 revolution, and frustrated attempts at reform contribute to the ongoing social and political instability.
Those hit the hardest are widows with children and elderly citizens, particularly in rural areas where education is limited and non-agricultural jobs are few.
Wafaa’s world fell apart when her husband died unexpectedly a few years ago. The Egyptian woman was left with a 10-month-old son to raise and no source of income. She had no practical training or skills to even obtain a job.
Her mother-in-law had heard of a vocational program run by a Christian ministry and encouraged Wafaa to take the women’s hairdressing course. Wafaa completed the course, but did not seek a job immediately. Instead, she practiced what she had learned on her sisters-in-law.
“At last, a bride asked me to dress her and do her hair and makeup for her wedding,” said Wafaa. “I was very nervous and hesitant, so I prayed and asked for God’s help. I succeeded and the bride looked very beautiful.
“The bride’s family and friends praised me, which encouraged me a lot. Many started asking me to do their hair and makeup,” she said.
Deciding to branch out beyond her cosmetology training, Wafaa turned once again to the Egyptian ministry for help. This time she took out a loan through the group’s outreach program to widows and opened up her own clothing business. She now rents wedding gowns and girls’ dresses for special occasions.
“This work has made a great difference in my life,” she said. “Now I have a good source of income.”
Wafaa is among more than 1,000 women who have taken cosmetology and sewing classes through the Christian Aid-assisted ministry. Over half of Egypt’s women are considered illiterate, but through the ministry’s educational and evangelistic programs, many are on their way to profitable careers and a new life in Jesus Christ.
The ministry also offers a variety of occupational training programs for men, including barbering, ceramic tiling, house construction, painting, electronics, carpentry, and plumbing. Mobile computerized training units are taken into economically-depressed communities. Once students complete their training, the ministry helps them find employment.
An eternal investment
Wafaa started her own business after completing a cosmetology course offered by the ministry.
An Egyptian Christian leader started the ministry in 1995 after extensive travel to northern villages and shantytowns, where he encouraged people to lift themselves out of poverty. His immediate objective was to help the needy support themselves by offering loans so they could establish their own small businesses.
Vocational courses were introduced three years later, and the program grew to include courses in many different skill areas at a residential training center outside of Cairo. The large facility is also used for church conferences, leadership seminars, children’s events, and sports ministry.
“By providing vocational training and spiritual and social input, we seek to give hope and a future to those needing a purpose for living,” said the ministry director. “In the freedom and beauty of this place, away from their normal environment, people come to find peace with God and with each other, and they are built up in Him.”
The ministry seeks a holistic approach, addressing the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of impoverished families. Gospel workers help individuals obtain basic rights through advocacy and a range of practical services, such as literacy and life school classes. The ministry has also initiated water and sanitation projects to improve the health and quality of life in rural communities.
The greatest impact, however, is evident in the thousands of lives who have been touched as a result of the organization’s “village workers ministry.” These local believers receive a year of leadership training before they are sent out to conduct evangelistic outreach and discipleship in economically deprived areas. They serve in places where there are no churches or strengthen existing fellowships.
For the past decade Christian Aid Mission has assisted in the support of these workers, and their labor of love has produced a bountiful harvest.
“An obvious change was observed in the lives of the needy people who experienced the love of God,” said the ministry leader. “Some decided to accept Jesus in their lives and start a relationship with God, while believers grew in their faith and became qualified to serve in their local churches through the leadership training schools.”
The Minya Governorate in Upper Egypt is home to one of the highest concentrations of Coptic Christians in the country and is a key area where village workers are bearing the most spiritual fruit.
The following are just a few of the highlights of the ministry’s work in Minya last year:
- 360 evangelistic outreaches attended by 42,071 people
- 5,500 first-time home visits were made; 28,039 visits were made to follow up with previously visited families
- 118 new home meetings were started
- 53 new cell groups and 54 new Bible study groups opened
- 35 new areas were reached
- Village workers distributed 954 Bibles, 4,063 New Testaments, 42,442 tracts, 11,312 Christian booklets, and 2,488 Christian audio tapes.
In one rural community, a young man who was a drug addict experienced a change of heart when a village worker presented the gospel to him.
“Many Christians had tried to talk with me about God before and encouraged me to repent, but I refused to listen to them until one of the village workers visited me in my home,” he said. “He talked with me about eternal life and God’s love. He also prayed with me, and God opened my heart.”
The ministry is seeking assistance for the vocational training classes, which cost approximately $80 per person. This amount is needed because the target groups are the poor and the unemployed, who are unable to pay tuition. Bibles ($5 each) and missionary support ($50 per month) are also greatly needed to further the gospel among the unreached in Egypt.