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Cairo Update

Date Written:
  15 April 1999
  Long Time
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OK, OK, AGAIN I've been busy which is why I haven't written for a while!

It was my original intention to send these updates once every couple of weeks, but they're almost becoming monthly. There's been many great things happening here and I find it difficult to decide what to exclude.

I occasionally do computer work here to top up the support that we need for living expenses. Most of the work comes via E-mail from a company in London. I do the work here and send it back again when it's finished. This is a good arrangement because it means that it doesn't matter where I live and it gives me flexibility on which hours to work during the week. Recently I've had a deadline to meet so I had little time to do children's work

In the midst of this I had a phone call from a guy who has translated for me in the past. He is a fairly well-off business man but he also has a great ministry with children. On the phone he said "Jason, I went to an orphanage with about 30 boys a couple of days ago and these kids are really 'hungry'. They have loads of questions and I really want you to go and do a presentation to them". In typical Egyptian style he made it difficult for me to refuse, (not that I wanted to of course). I explained that I was really busy but I'd create a gap in my schedule to fit him in- but it couldn't be long. We agreed to meet at 6pm on Thursday the following week outside McDonalds in the centre of the city. He wasn't sure how to get back to the orphanage so he arranged for one of the boys to meet us there and take us to the place.

When the day came Alison and I were planning a nice quiet evening in the flat, with a take-away meal and a good rental video. Then my friend called at 5pm - "You haven't forgotten have you!" Aaaaaaaaahhhhgg! was my response- I didn't write it on my schedule so I DID forget it completely, being so busy with other things completely pushed it out of my mind. I explained that I DID forget but I would still come. To get to McDonalds would take about an hour, so that left me with 0 minutes to do preparation. Hmmm. I quickly packed the sketchboard along with some blank sheets of paper, and some tricks- then drove off to meet him. To say that I felt unprepared would be a major under-statement.

I managed to arrive at McDonalds at 6pm precisely, but because of lack of parking space I had to stay in the car, double parked in a busy street. By 6.20 neither my friend nor the boy from the orphanage had appeared and a policeman was giving me hassle about blocking up the road so I had to move on. I drove round the block several times, slowing down outside McDonalds each time I went round until 7pm. I thought "Great! I won't have to do it after all! " I don't like being unprepared and there was still time to have that quiet evening in the flat with a takeaway and video . . .

I decided to drive round one more time, then if he still wasn't there I'd go back home again. Unfortunately my plans were dashed again! I saw the back of his head in a crowd outside McDonalds . . . and because he didn't see me I had the thought to pretend that I didn't see him and drive on! Of course I didn't, but I came pretty close to doing it I must admit!

The friend gave his apologies for being late, but went on to explain that because the boy didn't come to show how to get to the place he didn't know exactly where to go to. While he was telling me this I saw him looking out of the window to some street children outside McDonalds. He asked me to wait a while longer while he went out to speak to them. Apparently he already knew these boys from a near-by shelter. They were hard-core street children with literally no place to call home and lived on the streets either begging or stealing for a living. He chatted to them then went in McDonalds and bought them each a burger then came back to the car. This guy has his priorities right, and I guess that the reason why he was late was because he was doing a similar errand earlier.

He asked me what I wanted to do about the orphanage, whether to postpone it to another day or try and find our way there. My thoughts immediately went back to the quiet night in the flat with a takeaway meal and video . . . etc. A second time I relented and explained that I'd be happy to try and find the place by ourselves (OK, I admit that it wasn't easy to say it) . . . all we had to go on was a street name (one that no-one seemed to know) and an area of the city. By 9.30pm we finally arrived at the orphanage. The boys were just finishing off there supper which is fairly typical at that time. We had a couple of hours before they went to bed. My friend assembled them and spoke to them while I set up the sketchboard and started the painting. There was quite a age spread between them- from about 7 to 15. The orphanage is managed by the Orthodox church and all the children are Christian (nominally). For them the next day was Good Friday so I spoke to them about Barabbas. I explained that he was going to die for all of the bad things that he had done, but when given the choice the crowd choose Jesus instead. Jesus died in his place. Barabbas was possibly the first person to look at the cross and see his "redeemer" someone who died for him, although we don't know if Barabbas ever understood the spiritual significance.

In the same way Jesus died for all of us, he took our place on the cross to die for the sin that separated us from God. All of the boys had had bible teaching as part of their time in the orphanage but to all of them this was the first time they really understood the gospel. Unlike other orphanages that I've been to, these kids were perfectly quiet throughout, listening intently to every word I said. Afterwards I gave them the opportunity to respond and half of them immediately put their hands in the air. My friend was right, these kids were 'hungry'.

Afterwards he explained to me that he has a vision to reach out to the hard-core street children around Cairo. I was surprised by the numbers that he quoted from semi-official estimates, about 100,000 of them living on the streets here, WOW. When we left and went our separate ways I asked him to keep me informed about his plans.

I arrived home about 1am. I missed out on the quiet evening with a takeaway and video but I'd like to think that maybe the time was better spent . . .

I have much more to say . . . but it will have to wait!

Our greetings,

Jason, Alison, Hannah and Esther

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It's a Fact!

Facts about Egypt:

  • Egypt's population is 66 Million

  • Egypt is four times the size of the UK

  • Only 3% of the land can be used for arable crops

  • Cairo has 18 million people and is growing by 1 millon each year.

  • Cairo is the Largest city in Africa and the Middle East

  • Official literacy rate is only 45%

  • A total of 11 languages are spoken in Egypt

  • Public Debt per person is $790

  • Average annual income is $630

  • Unemployment is estimated to be 17%

  • Religion: Approx. 85% Muslim and 15% Christian

  • Most Christians are affiliated to the Orthodox Church, less than 1% of the population are Protestant

  • There are an estimated 100,000 street children in Egypt


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