In the time I spent with my friends in Egypt recently I was humbled by their ability to live for Jesus while under the constant strain of being a minority that is not trusted or appreciated and is always being watched. I am sure that for some the strain of feeling that you are always under scrutiny would be too much to take. Yet it seems that for these followers of Jesus they view it as an opportunity. Instead of being resentful they express the feeling of being blessed. When a vast majority of the people around you are not Christians and probably mistrust Christians you have an amazing ministry opportunity. How you live your life in such an environment will speak volumes. In that situation you are faced either with the temptation to fold under the pressure or to use all you do as a chance to show others that following Jesus is the way to live. These people have decided on that later of the two. As a result they are serving among the poorest of the poor, among outcasts, among the sick and the forgotten. And their lives are being a light for Jesus.
I also learned that there is an important role for others to play in helping them to serve. I was surprised to find out that ministry among much of that poor population is only possible when people from other countries, ESPECIALLY from America, go with them to serve. In an unexpected way the presence of American Christians opens doors that would normally be closed. There are two benefits that result from this. One is that it gives these followers of Jesus the chance to reach others for Jesus. But the second is that it speaks to people, telling them that Americans care about them and begins to build bridges of trust and friendship on an international level. If we want to really change the world it will require us to get outside our comfort zone and be in places where people will be able to see that as followers of Jesus, we really are different. We are different because we are willing to love and serve them no matter what.
After each of the four training sessions that I taught there were many people who wanted to speak with me. I was reminded of another truth in those times of one on one conversations. People are the same no matter the country, or culture, or language. I prayed with people for things as varied as problems with a boss, concern for a pregnant spouse, illness in a family, and problems with church leaders. There was not a single concern that I heard or prayed about that I had not heard before in the USA. The language might be different. The food might seem strange. Some of the customs may vary. But people still have the same basic needs at heart. They want to be loved, accepted and appreciated. They need to connect with the God who made them. They want to know that they are not alone. They want their families and those they love to be safe. Parents worry over the same things and they are overjoyed over the same things. Spouses argue over the same things and are blessed by the same things. Maybe we need to begin to look at others through a different lens. Not through one that notices all the differences first but one that highlights the similarities, what we have in common as we are made in the image of God and need a savior they same as they do.