Monday, May 29, 2006


Well, that was interesting. I posted a video to my web site several days ago that shows my journey around the pyramids of Giza, and then a few days after that I posted similar videos of the pyramids at Dashur. Apparently they became quite popular on the internet... so popular that the sheer volume of web traffic shut my site down for nearly two days.

For those of you not into geekspeak... skip this paragraph. My web hosting plan allows for 3 Gigabytes of traffic each month. Normally I don't even scratch that. But yesterday alone, my web traffic burned through 85 Gigabytes, and eventually my web host pulled the plug, ending my access to email and my ability to remove files from my site.

I finally got ahold of the web hosting company and they removed the videos for me so the same thing wouldn't happen again, and then they reinstated the site. I am still getting tremendous amounts of traffic even though the videos are no longer there, but hopefully my site won't be shut down again.

I've been given tips for FREE places to store my videos, so I won't have to deal with all these bandwidth issues. Once I find someplace to put them, I will let you know where to find them. Unfortunately the links to the videos on my site won't work until I find a new home for them.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

Different day, different pyramids

This week I ventured to the pyramids of Dashur to duplicate the little experiment I performed at Giza. This time I got the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid in front of my camera.

To see the Bent Pyramid movie, click HERE.

To see the Red Pyramid movie, click HERE.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Happy Days are Here Again

The last several days here in Cairo have been wonderful. My jobs have been going really well and I am excited about the work ahead. I am continuing to work on photographing the old volumes that the Synod of the Nile has so that I can make digital copies of them. Most of them are books containing minutes from Synod meetings that date back to the late 1800’s. It’s really amazing to see the beautiful handwritten Arabic that has since become a lost art. Nobody really writes like that anymore. Emil, the General Secretary notified me that my work, while tedious, is not in vain. He told me he recently traveled to a small town in upper Egypt and used material from one of the books to inform people about a school that used to exist in their town. He used it as an example of the type of ministry that they ought to be doing.

The school was started by American missionaries in the late 1800’s and served Muslims, Christians, and Jews, in a co-educational environment. By comparison, schools run by the Egyptian government are segregated by gender to this day. The idea of teaching children from all the major religions in a gender-mixed environment was revolutionary at the time.

Somehow a Muslim, who is also an ex-parliament member, found out about Emil’s presentation and decided to lend a helping hand. He informed the congregation that his older brother, who was also a parliament member, went to that school as a child. He explained how the school had shaped his brother’s life and how it enabled him to make something great out of his life. He told the congregation how important it was that the church had this educational ministry and how it affected the life of the community and the children who lived there and of all the good that came from that ministry. Sadly, his brother is no longer alive, but the man’s testimony to the success of the ministry drove Emil’s point home: church ministries in Egypt can’t be about evangelism, but they can still shape communities and change people’s lives regardless of their religion. Emil wants to revitalize ministries that aren’t about seeking some benefit for the Church, but for society in general.

I recently completed the update of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo web site. The site still has a kink in that the link to the online card catalog doesn’t work, but that wasn’t a part of my deal. I hope those that are responsible for that part of the site work that out soon. But I am pleased with the way the site looks and how it flows. Check it out at

Now that my work on the web site is relatively complete, I am plowing full steam ahead into the three PowerPoint presentations that I must complete before the upcoming graduation. I’ll talk more about that as I complete them.

Yesterday evening I went to Al Azhar Park, which is a really nice park that overlooks a portion of Cairo, with three of my friends. Brice, my “supervisor” at the seminary; Tukei (pronounced “2-K”), a Ugandan seminary student; my Iraqi friend that you know by the name of “Ramsis,” and I enjoyed a nice stroll around the grassy areas. We talked about a plethora of subjects from the types of plants that were planted in the park, to the war in Iraq.

Brice had to leave early, so Tukei, Ramsis, and I sat around and watched the sunset and listened to the Muslim calls to prayer that drifted up from the numerous mosques in the city below. Later, we took a cab back to our neighborhood.

Ramsis communicated with the driver about where we wanted to go since he can speak Arabic fluently. The taxi driver started guessing where Ramsis is from since his dialect of Arabic is different from Egyptian Arabic. “Jordan?” he asked. “No,” said Ramsis. “Syria? Lebanon?” “No,” answered Ramsis. Finally he told the taxi driver he is from Iraq. Then a few moments later I started speaking in Arabic to Ramsis, trying to learn the correct pronunciation of particular words, and this caught the curiosity of the taxi driver.

He asked me where I am from. I told him America, and he responded by jokingly holding his hands up in the air as if to say, “Don’t shoot!” We all laughed and I heartily patted him on the shoulders from the back seat. It was a few more minutes before he caught on to what was plainly obvious to me. He had an American and an Iraqi sitting side by side in his back seat. I could almost hear the gears grinding. “He’s an Iraqi… and… you’re an… American?” That’s what I imagined he was thinking. A few minutes later he said, “How is this possible?” referring to our uncommon friendship. I was tempted to say, “Because we are Christians,” but I thought better of saying that to a Muslim taxi driver. In the end we both smiled and shrugged. Later, I reached over and shook Ramsis’ hand and said, “I’m glad you are my friend.”

Yours in Christ,

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Fun at the Pyramids

Here's a little project I did today. I hope you enjoy it.

click here!

It's a Quicktime file so you will need Quicktime to play it.
A warning to you dial-up users out there: the file is 7.5MB!

Interview with an Iraqi

Well, it wasn’t so much an interview as a conversation, but the alliteration sounds cool.

Ramsis (Not his real name. I don’t know if using his real name would get him in trouble, so I am going to err on the side of caution) is a student at Evangelical Theological Seminary of Cairo (ETSC), where I work. He is from Basra, in the south of Iraq, and is one of the friendliest guys I have ever met. I see him occasionally at lunch in the large dining area for all of the seminary students. He always smiles broadly at me and wishes me a good day. He is living proof of something I never would have thought existed: a Christian Iraqi. I think the thought that all Middle-Easterners are Muslim has been drilled into my head so much by the media that I am continually surprised when I hear about Christians in places such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. If I have learned nothing else this year, I am privileged to have learned about fellow Christians and the way they live in this region.

One day Ramsis invited me to his dorm room, which he shares with an Egyptian roommate, to drink some hot tea and talk. I wrapped up my work a little early that day because I was excited at the prospect of talking with him. Ramsis invited me in and showed me all of his pictures, which were displayed all over the walls and shelves. There were pictures from his home, some of his family, and a few from his trip to Harvard University. He was the only Christian in the contingent of Iraqis that went on that particular trip. The rest were Muslims. He proudly talked about the people he had met at Harvard, and showed me his mug with bright red letters on it that spelled out the school’s name (He later let me use it to drink my tea).

We began talking, and of course I was eager to talk about what it is like in Iraq right now. He is able to keep in touch with family by using an internet cafĂ© down the street so he stays informed. He said the situation was getting worse and worse, but not for the reasons I suspected. He said the problems in Iraq have more to do with factions of Muslims fighting each other than anything else. Sunnis and Shias don’t get along very well apparently. He seems quite certain that Shias from Iran have been pouring over the border to exact revenge against the Iraqis who won a war against Iran years ago. That’s why you hear things in the news about mosques being blown up. Unfortunately Christians are literally caught in the crossfire.

Ramsis says that during the days of Saddam, Christians were much better off. He agrees that Saddam was indeed a horrible tyrant, and he is glad Iraq is rid of him, but there was much more stability than there is now. He says the security situation in Iraq is becoming worse and worse and the American forces are taking the blame.
But, this is the part of the conversation that I was surprised about: Ramsis also said that since the war began there have been many more Iraqis converting to Christianity. He said that it has been happening in secret, that people aren’t out professing their faith openly, but that more and more people are converting to Christianity covertly; much more than Christians converting to Islam. He sounded very enthused about this. I am sure that if I came from a country where I was one Christian in an oppressed minority, I would be excited about that too.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

More Family Photos

I have posted the rest of the photos from my family's time in Egypt. Check them out!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Glimmer of Hope

Last night we had a really great bible study lead by Sherri. She asked us to think back to the beginning of the year and think about what we expected from this year. She wanted to know what had we expected to accomplish during our year here and had we accomplished it? I thought about it and I remember approaching this year by saying wherever God wants me to be, and whatever God wants me to do, I will be there doing it. I tried not to set any concrete goals because those would probably be my goals, and what I hoped to accomplish was God’s goals.

It was refreshing to think back to that time. I think Sherri was trying to get us to refocus and revisit our original thoughts on coming here. What I had set out to do had gotten muddled by all of the recent struggles with our site coordinator, how the women in our group have been abused my Egyptian men, and the daily frustration that comes from dealing with Egyptians on the street. I think I had lost my dedication. It was great to think back and place myself at the beginning of the year. Have I been doing what I set out to do… to follow God’s will?

I think recently I haven’t. I have come to a place where I suspect any Egyptian I meet. I suspect their motives in why they want to meet me. Do they want money? Do they want to use me to get to America? Those seem to be the pervasive reasons people want to meet me. My perspective of Egypt and Egyptians has become warped because of these consistent requests. Is this really what God had in store for me?

Stephen pointed out that Christ was used on many occasions. People sought Christ out simply to be healed. I imagine that went down just about the same way my daily experiences go.

“Hi there. What’s your name?”
“Jesus of Nazareth.”
“So, you’re the Jesus I’ve been hearing about, huh? Would you mind healing this bit of leprosy I have?”

“Hello. What’s your name?”
“Jesus, son of Joseph.”
“Oh, I can’t believe it’s really you! My nephew is afflicted with demons. Will you come expel them?

“Will you give me some shekels?”

If we are supposed to live as much like Christ as we possibly can, does that mean I should give all my money away and try to get every Egyptian I can into America? Maybe. But perhaps it simply means understanding why everyone is so interested in money or getting to America.

For starters, the unemployment rate in Egypt is 35%. Over one third of Egyptians don’t have a job. Add in the fact that Western style capitalism is taking hold of this country more and more every day, enabling the rich to become richer while the poor remain extremely poor. Poor people see the extreme wealth and are envious. They are not immune to the allure of western style advertising that has become so prevalent here. They simply can’t even begin to live that kind of lifestyle.

In some cases there is a backlash to western styles of living. For instance in the mid-nineties Muslims became increasingly more conservative, to the point that women began to wear higabs (head scarves or veils) again. For years higabs were the exception, not the rule, but over the course of a few years Muslim women donned the scarves in droves. That’s one way that a significant portion of the culture here has tried to deal with the “western invasion.”

Other parts of the culture seem securely caught in the trap, so well in fact that they will hassle any westerner for money or the chance to move to their country for better employment opportunities.

Of course this is an oversimplification of what is really going on. There are many complicated layers, most of which even I can’t begin to understand, and I been here for three-quarters of a year.

Even though I have kept these generalized aspects of Egyptian life in mind, it has been hard to get by the negative experiences. So last night at the end of our bible study, I asked for prayers of a new perspective. If I can focus on the bits of positive instead of the overwhelming negative, and keep in mind what is going on here in Egypt, then perhaps I can have a more meaningful time here, and get back to being on God’s path.

Today I went to work and felt rather motivated for the first time in a while. I photographed three old books from the late forties and mid-fifties, and converted them to a digital format, which is one more than I usually I complete in a day. I took the Metro on the way home and was pleasantly surprised when an Egyptian man ushered me to the front of the mob that serves as a ticket line. At first I refused and told him to go ahead of me. He insisted and I could see in his eyes that he genuinely wanted to help me. He wasn’t looking for money and didn’t ask me where I am from. He just wanted to be nice. That was really refreshing and I treasure that small bit of generosity more than he realizes.

Hopefully that means I’m on my way back to living amongst Egyptians, not in spite of them, and closer to what God called me here to do.

Please keep me in your prayers.

Yours in Christ,

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Many thanks to Church of the New Covenant

I have posted new photographs of my adventures with my family during their recent trip to Egypt. Darren (my brother), Martha (my mother), Teri (my girlfriend), David (Teri's dad), Scott (Teri's brother) and I toured Egypt from bottom to top. We travelled to Abu Simbel in the south and saw the colossal statues of Ramses II, which was a mere 40 miles from Sudan, to the beautiful Mediterranean city of Alexandria in the north. And we pretty much saw everything in between.

Thank you very much to Church of the New Covenant, my home church, which collectively raised a substantial financial going-away gift for my mother, who left after 26 years of service as organist and choir director. The gift enabled her to travel to Egypt and experience what it is like to live here, to experience first-hand what my year of service is about, and even do a great deal of touriing around the country.

The church gave a gift not only to my mother, but to me because I got to enjoy her presence here (along with my brother and Teri's family who all managed to be here at the same time). To my friends at CNC, I can't thank you enough for the amazing support you have given her over the years. Check out the photos and you will be able to see the awe on her face and see exactly what you provided for my dear mother. Words cannot express the gratitude I feel for the amazing once-in-a-lifeime opportunity you gave her. Thank you!

Yours in Christ,