Saturday, 26 May 2007

Sleepless In Barcelona

And there you have it, I'm in Barcelona.
I arrived yesturday morning at 4:30AM, the airport was quiet and the sun still hidden.
I hunkerd down in the airport, waiting for the world to wake. I didn't have a hostel for the night, and there was no point in venturing into the city at that ridiculous hour. So there I waited, trying to catch so valuable hours, if not minutes of sleep...but sleep never came.
The airport slowly began to come alive around 7:30,
I had decided I was going to tent it on the beach, the Mediterranian waves crashing, stars shining. Besides it was only for one night, I had a hostel booked for the next few nights. However after a few long exhausting hours in an airport, camping under the stars doesn't sound so appealing, and I still had the rest of the day to look forward to. I quickly hopped on the internet and began the frantic search for a hostel in the downtown area...they were all booked.
Perhaps a hotel then, slightly more expensive but it would be worth it for a hot shower and a comfy bed.
I had to pick up the girls at the train station downtown so I found a hotel near there, grabbed a few euros at an exchange hut, jumped in a taxi and away I went.
The hotel was a literal 50metres from the train station and they just so happened to have a relatively cheap, (in comparison to other hotels) room ready for me.
The hotel was beautiful, The Torre Catalunya Gran Hotel, The room came equiped with a two showers, a bath tub, two double beds, a television and view of half of Barcelona city. It wasn't too bad ;).
After settling in I began to explore the rest of the hotel, it was then thatI discovered the resturant on the top floor.
Situated on the top floor, the entire outside wall consists of windows, providing an amazing view of the entire city and surrounding area. And it just so happened to be serving an all you can eat breakfast, equiped with every breakfast to brunch food you could possibly imagine.
Everything from hashbrowns, to freshly cut deli meats, to chocolate covered pastries, to fresh fruit lay before my greedy little eyes and hungry stomach.
Needless to say I got my moneys worth.
I retired to my room catching a valuable hour of sleep before my requested wake-up call did just that.
It was time to venture over to the train station and find a meeting spot.
After much work (I vastly regret not taking Spanish in highschool) I finally found the train platform and it wasn't long before Kristin and her friend Kerry appeared.
After a short greeting we found our way to the underground system and went on our way to their hostel.
The underground ride was quiet as sleep remained a distant dream for all of us.
We soon found their hostel, they got settled and we decided on a night of exploring this forgien city.
We walked and talked, trading stories, getting increasing lost in the streets of Barcelona and enjoying each others company.
After much aimless walking we found a Starbucks, (a much needed stop) as well as a Subway. We decided dinner was much needed and grabbed a couple subs.
We continued our walk after dinner and spotted some spotlights in the sky, instictively we decided to head towards them, and after much walking, we discovered the source. A fantastic parliment like building with a large fountain in front of it.
The fountain had drawn quite a crowd as it threw water about in step with classic music which was being belted out from the center of it. It was quite amazing.
After the show we decided it was time for bed, so we hopped on the metro system, I dropped off the girls and I headed back to my hotel.
I checked out the next morning and made my way over to the downtown core, grabbed a bite to eat at a cafe and waited for the girls before checking into my new home for 4 nights.
That day we continued to explore, hopping on a tourist bus and seeing some of the "must see" sights of Barcelona.
This place is a very beautiful city. (Pictures to come).
That night we ate at the Hard Rock Cafe just off the main strip and enjoyed a very "Americana" meal after which it was time for sleep.
I have enjoyed sleeping in Barcelona, I didn't sleep much in Egypt, so I seem to be making up for it here.
Yesturday was beach day, we hopped on a train for 45mins to a place called Sitges, where the beaches are beautiful and the Medditerainian waves pound the shore.
I spent most of the day frying myself to a deep red colour, both on the beach and in the ocean.
I paying for it today.
After several hours out in the lovely town of Sitges, we came back to Barcelona for dinner, a couple drinks and more sleep.
And today here I sit, my final full day in Barcelona.
The ladies travel tomorrow bright and early and my goal is to bump up my flight to Egypt.
I am suppose to fly out of Madrid on the 1st of June, spend 24 hours in Cairo again and finally hop on another flight down to Entebbe.
If possible though, I would love to fly out either tomorrow night or on the 31st, spend a couple extra days in Egypt and then head down to Uganda.
We'll see what my travel agent has to say however.
Alright, this is it for now.
Grace, Peace and Blessings,

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

So here I stand, bags packed, friends behind me, ready to board a plane again.

I've fallen in love with the work I have been doing here in Egypt, with the friends that I have made here and now I'm boarding another plane and leaving.

Was three weeks enough time here?

Not by any stretch of the imagination, it was just long enough to get a small taste of what Egypt has in store.
There are so many flavours here, only God could have dreamt up such a place as this...and now I'm leaving.

They say you should never look back because you never know what lies ahead, but it's impossible not to, just as it was impossible not to when leaving home.

Am I excited to keep traveling?

Yes of course. I know I have so many more adventures ahead of me, so many more chances to grow within myself and within my relationship with God. I want to continue traveling, exploring the world and walking the path that God has set before me but I also want to return to Egypt.

I have applied for an internship here within the Outreach and Development department at Maddi Community Church, and I have been praying that God will give me the chance to fulfill that role, it's just a waiting game now. Waiting and praying.

As I stand again at the edge of comfort I can take knowledge in the fact that God will never lead me astray, He has His hand in my life and as long as I chose to go where He leads I will be Blessed.

Please continue to pray for me as I embark on my next journey.

Grace, Peace and Blessings,

Friday, 18 May 2007

Lost In The Moment

It seems a lot of my posts have been rather serious lately,
I'm not going to apologize about that, however, I think it is time to lighten the mood for a moment.

I can't say it enough, Egypt is continuing to grow me and shape me and I'm beginning to love it here. I know God is doing some amazing things here at Maadi Community Church and I very much want to see that.

I've been indulging in many adventurous activities here as well, it's not all fact, there has been a very healthy balance of play as well.
I've taken dinner cruises down the Nile river,

I have sailed on a couple Faluccas down the river,

I've been to the Giza pyramids 5 times including once on camel back.

I;ve crept into the heart of these monsterous structures and seen people of all cultures conversing in which once was someones overgrown tomb.

I;ve ventured through tombs, seen mummies, and seen their life stories written out in hyrogiphs.

I've driven through cities of garbage, and cities of crypts.

I've seen churches carved into the walls of a canyon.

I;ve ridden horses through the desert, at night. Watched the pyramid light show from the sand dunes, on horse back.

(Pictures to come)

I've wined and dinned with the who's who at the British Embassy.
I've dodged Egyptian traffic, biked my way through a maze of streets and cars.

I;ve climbed my way up and elevator shaft to the top of my building just to take photos.

I've eaten at more resturants then I can count, eaten the Egyptain staple foods, and the delicousies, including bird tounge soup.

I've made friends with ex-hit men, diamond smugglers, Marines, military, security officials and taxi drivers.

I've enjoyed everything I've seen and done here in Egypt but it seems as if you would need a full life time to see and do it all. I've hardly ventured outside of Maadi and Cairo and I still haven't see it all here.
Mount Sinai is here, the valley of the Kings and Queens, Luxor dam, all recommended, however it's just too far and I;m too busy to get down there.

The history in the place is amazing, the people in the place are awesome and God is doing some amazing things.

Please pray for Egypt,

Grace, Peace and Blessings,

Friday, 11 May 2007

The Uphill Fight

I have been challenged in my faith many times over the course of my life,
I have stumbled, I have questioned, and I have grown through it all.

God has remained faith to me even when I haven't been.

I was in a discussion today with a man about sin.
We had differening opinions and what was and what wasn't a sin, without going into too much detail, I took a little more conservative approach while he went for more of a liberal standpoint.

He is a very intelligent man, well read and very quick and he brought up many reasonable questions, to which I had some replies, some opinions and some stock answers. All of which I trusted, few of which had been tried by fire.

He came then to the "7 Deadly Sins" and pointed to the fact that they are not addressed in the Bible.
Now I'll be the first to admit, though I am ashamed of it, I have not read my Bible cover to cover.
I trust in it, it's the Word of God.

That said, I couldn't tell you if they are or not.
However, he assured me they are not, we pressed on and he challenged me to explain how some of them were practical.

Practicality, it's a pretty broad term really. What is practical?
Is Pratical just another way to say easy.

We don't seem to like to do unpractical things, because it isn't normal, it takes us out of our comfort zone.

But is the call to act "Christ-like" an easy thing to pick up and run with?

We're called to set ourselves beyond reproach, not to be of this world, only in it.

Sin is of this world, it causes us to faulter. It causes us guilt and shame.
Guilt is a useless emotion, it's a tool for Satan and his minions.

We lose sight of God when we fall into sin, we turn a blind eye to the green pastures He offers us.

But The Lord is gracious and compassionate, He's slow to anger and rich in love and He constantly calls for us.

No man or woman is above sin, we all fall short, we all deal in sin, it is all around us, we sin constantly.

Yet does that give us an excuse not to fight?

Did Jesus ever say it was too hard?

We're called to be "Christ-like" people, it's not an easy call.

It's time to get off our high horses and crawl to the foot of the cross.

He will be waiting with open arms and a wash of forgiveness.

Grace, Peace and Blessings,


Darkness Festers...And Fails

What does it mean to wrestle with your demons?
Is it just a phrase or does it have a deeper, more literal meaning?

I've been in Egypt a week now, and met some great people, some new friends and formed bonds I know will last for many years to come.
Through my encounters with new people I've learned more and more about myself and God is showing me my stregthens and weaknesses.

I've met a man who has wrestled with his demons in a very literal way, he's not only wrestled with them but he's walked with them. He used to call them, use them and abuse their powers. He was a dark man and he lived in the darkness.

But it seems that no matter how dark the room is, no matter how tightly the door is closed, God's light finds a way in.

He told me once, "I used to fight Jesus off with a stick, a stick with a nail in the end of it. I used to yell at Him to stay back, but He just kept coming. I kept swinging, but He just kept coming and finally He grabbed me and wrapped His arms around me."

He's never been the same since. He'll live with what he's done for the rest of his life, but he can take comfort in the fact that when he finally did ask for forgiveness of his sins, it was given to him.

He still sees the demons, but he doesn't bow.

In another conversation with me he turned to me and said, "It's very easy for me to believe in God because I've seen, I've seen both sides, I've been in the darkness, and yet God still found me, I don't have to believe, I know!"

So what does it look like to truely know God?

Many of us walk through life believing in God, trusting in Him, reading His word, seeing all that He created and living in the flesh that he knit together, but still many of us never hear the voice of God, we never see his angels, we live our lifes through faith.

We can take comfort in His word, we can take comfort in the historical facts that Jesus lived, but it takes more then that to walk through life.

It takes faith.

We can't even begin to understand the will of God, we can't begin to phathom is being and if we were to stand in His presense we would tremble and fall to our knees.

Yet what we do know is that God loves us, He loves us so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins. He bore the wait of all our sins, past, present and future on His shoulders.

With that understanding, with that comfort, we can come to the cross, bow, acknowledge, pleed and find forgiveness.

Even a man so deeply rooted in sin that we walked and talked with demons and find salvation through the Son.

There is a war going on, we don't all see it, we can't all feel it, but it's there. It's a fight for our salvations, it's a fight for our lives. It goes on all around us and there are many casualities.

We need to pick up our arms and fight.

In the end God will win, there is no doubt about that.

However, where will you be when the dust settles?

The war is being fought for you, it rages on constantly.

We need to pick up our arms and fight for God.

Grace, Peace and Blessings,

Egypt...Where Worlds Collide

I'm staying in an area of Egypt, Maadi, largely populated by Europeans, Americans, Canadians, Aussies and Kiwis.
Some are here to make a buck, some are here to help. Some of them resist the local culture, some of them dive head first into it.

There are places here strictly devoted to certain groups of people, you have to 'be someone' or know someone to get in.
They are walled, they are guarded and they are exclusively, exclusive.
Yet down the street from all this money, refugees from Sudan, Nigeria, and everywhere else in Africa fight to get the basics.
Food, water, education does not come easy if you do not have money, if you do not have white skin.

The church here in Maadi is working for change, it's working for equality.

My time here has been largely spent in the schools for refugees.
These schools are dark buildings, where the water drips from the taps and the walls struggle to stay upright.
The books are old, tattered and outdated and the standard level of education is low.
The children struggle to learn, but the world seems to over power them.

You can't teach hungry children.

Maadi Community Church has recogized these problems and is fighting for and with these schools to bring them up and over the National bar.

My time has been spent catologing books as so we know which textbooks, work books and story books each school has.
But most importantly, a large amount of my time has been spent profiling children, assessing there level of comprehension, and the care that they receive.

Many of the children enter the schools and are thrust into a grade level that best suits their age grouping, not their education level, therefore these children begin a needless fight to stay a float in a curriculum that is already over there heads.

There is no thought of the long term effects these children will have on the world once they have grown and matured.
With the proper education these kids will thrive and accel in the world of tomorrow.
They will be able to support families of their own, hold jobs in a competitive market and advance in life.
Without this education, they will be thrust into the world, blind, alone and scared.

I have met seasoned teachers who have come to Cairo to help and found it overwhelming.
I have met members of relief organizations who don't know where to start.

In my opinion, it starts with the children and yes, it is overwhelming. But we can't leave it like we found it. It's our job to fight on behalf of those who can not fight for themselves.

Sometimes when you venture behind the walls of the clubs, these refugees become a topic of conversation, sometimes they are forgotten about.
Yet you walk not even 10 minutes down the road and you bump into the schools, the children, the struggle and you can't help but wonder why.

Cairo is an interesting place and I know God is showing me much through my time here.

Grace, Peace and Blessings,

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

A Reflection From Egypt...

So I've been here for over a week now,
I've seen a lot of the sights, I've been exposed to the culture, there's been excitment, drama and action...
I could write a book, but a blog will have to do for now.
I've meet some great people here in Egypt, and they've kept me pretty busy in my down time...and that's a good thing. I like to stay busy, and social.
The other night we went to the bizzare downtown Cairo. Narrow streets, clogged with people and dust, with shop vendors every 5 meters.
There are a lot of things to see, and even if you're not into that kind of thing, it's an experiance.
The night consisted on myself and friends here (who happened to be women) walking, exploring and buying all sorts of loot.
It's a different culture here. Every store we past it was either, "I have what you looking for? What do you need?" or "Come here and I make very special price for you." To which we tended to have sarcastic replies.
They were in your face and they were physical, however, when I had had enough all I had to do is growl the word "Shokran" (Thanks but no thanks) and wave my hand and the men would back of with a "Sorry, sir."
The girls on the other hand had no such luck, no matter how forceful, no matter how frustrated they were, the sales men were relentless...I think this is why they brought me along.
After a short while, I would growl "Shokran" and every and anyone who approached us trying to sell something, at which point they backed off, it was then that the girls would decide if they wanted anything or not.
I must say it was kind of fun playing my authority roll but it got old quick.
The other part of going out with a bunch of women, is the fact that the men stare...
The metro (their equivilant to the skytrain/subway) ride there were men who sat down right next to the girls, uncomfortably close, and in the bizzare the men offered me camels to marry the women "I give you 200 camels for that one!" They would yell.
How is that right anywhere?
Cultures clash, and there seems to be little room to work inbetween...
Egypt has thus far been an amazing, eye-opening and testing experiance.
Only God could prepare me for what is happening here.
He is working here in Egypt, (He is working everywhere) it's strong here, you can feel it.
I look forward to the things the Father continues to teach me, and how He continues to mold me.
I hope all is well back home, I apologize for the lack of communication.
I'll work on staying on top of that from now on. It's daunting when I'm behind a couple days, so much happens in a day here.
I'll work on it.
Grace, Peace and Blessings,

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Pyramid, Camels And Mummies...A Typical Day In Egypt

So I've been here in Egypt a couple days now. Jetleg has worn off, I'm quickly getting used to the heat (it's 38 degrees here today...and it's going to get warmer over the next few days,) and I'm "finding" my way around town (there has been a lot of trail and error. The streets run in every direction in no particular order.)
I decided when I got here that I would do all the touristy stuff before I dug into my work here at Maadi church, so today was the day I ventured out to the pyramids.
The tour guide picked me up outside my apartment at 8 this morning. He was recommended by a women in the church here and he turned out to be a very nice man. His name was Ramone, and it turned out he had been working as a guide for 7 years. He knew his stuff.
After about a 45 minute drive, the tops of the pyramids became to show themselves above the skyline on Cairo.

It wasn't long before we hit the outskits of citylimits and were in the desert, the only thing standing between me and miles of sand and khamseens (sandstorms) were three rather large pyramids and a cat-like man.

Ramone told me all about the history of the pyramids, then before letting me go and take pictures he warned me about the local "business men" that preyed on tourists.
Almost as soon as he turned back to the car a several men came up to me, "Shokran," I said many times (meaning thank you but no thank you) and they slowly realized that I wasn;t wanting any of their trinkets.
I took out my camera and took a few photos, then another man came up to me with a smile, I knew he wanted my money.
"You should be in photo," he said, "I take your picture, you be with pyramid."
I chuckled and responded, "Ah, but you want money for it."
"No no no, I just take your picture," he said and reached for my camera.
I withdrew for a second. He was an older man, it's not like he could take it and run from me, besides military and "tourist police" were standing guard almost everywhere.
"Alright," I said handing him the camera, "but I have no money for you."
"No no money," he said and began to size up the shot. He knelt down and got up almost immedately, "You too close, not see pyramid. Come over to side, you get whole pyramid in picture." He began to walk away, my camera in hand.
I liked the idea of being in a picture with the pyramids, however I knew this man had something up his sleeve.
As we walked, another man came up to me, "Ah sir, you get picture taken?" It was his back up. "You with group?"
"Yes," I lied, "I should stay close stay close."
"Ah yes, you just be over here," he insisted. The other man still had my camera and he charged ahead.
We reached the edge of the pyramid and there were a couple camels standing there. Once again, I knew where this was going.
The man with my camera kept walking past the pyramid, right up to the camel riders, "Ah yes, you get picture here." The other man slapped a flase head garb on me. The man knelt down once again stood up, "You need camel, camel and pyramid for picture."
"No no no," I insisted but the camel was brought over and knelt down.
"Cheese!" the man said and the flash went off... 4 times!

"Now, you give me gift!" Stated the man with the camel, at which I refused. "I give you gift you give me gift!"
"If you give me that camel I will give you a big hug and that will be my gift to you," my humour was lost on him.
"You give me gift, English money."
To be quite honest, I was rather sick of the two men and reached into my wallet to see what I had. It was either a toonie and a 5 or British pounds...I opted for the Canadian. It which they looked at me disgustedly, yet reluctantly relinquished my camera.
I was out of there, the story and the photo only cost me $7CAN...It was almost a steal, plus I kept the head garb which they seemingly forgot about.
I snapped a couple more shots and headed back towards the car.

We drove to the next, slightly smaller pyramid, which I decided to venture inside for the mear price of 50 Egyptian Pounds (about $10 CAN).
It's a rather colstrophobic decent into the middle of the pyramid, at which I was crouching all the way down 35m into the based, which opened out into a cavernous room where the king (read mummy) was kept.
It was amazing, the sheer idea of the calculations, brute force and over all skill it took to build such an amazing stucture. Each stone is exactly the same size, tightly packed together. Thousands of years ago....Blows your mind.
As I snuck out of the pyramid into fresh air, (the air in the pyramid is hot and dry to preserve the mummy,) I reached the surface to find Ramone waiting eagerly with a camel and rider.
I hopped on for 40 pounds and rode a camel for about 15mins. It's a crazy little experiance, do it if you get a chance.

The sphinx was the next stop on our little tour, and again I could go on for awhile, but I'll spare you the details and show you the pictures instead,

So what else is there to see in Egypt you ask, how about the way ancient Egyptians made paper?
Papyrus paper is strong, woven and interlaid. It can be used as paper but is more often used as canvus. It's quite facinating. I bought a couple beautiful pieces.
And then the final sight, The Egyptian National Musuem, no cameras inside sorry, but there are some amazing sights. The Royal Mummies have two rooms. It's crazy to stare at their faces and think they were once living, breathing people who had talked, had thoughts, and in most cases ruled over Egypt.
Caught a train home, walked the half an hour walk home and then off to the church for an African service. The refugees in the area have bible study every Tuesday and Wednesday and start the study with an hour of pure cardio wroship, it amazing.
Finally, after all that, we had youth here tonight which I helped set up for. Quite an awesome youth group, not as good as home, but very good.
Now it's time for bed, off to the schools tomorrow to help out there for wee bit.
Thanks everyone and we'll talk to you soon.
Grace, Peace and Blessings,