Friday, January 30, 2009

getting ready to say good bye

As I spend my last day in Egypt and prepare to go back home to the Untied States several things cross my mind. One is how much I am looking forward to a LONG hot bath and a turkey club sandwich, but other more meaningful thoughts are there as well. I have been so blessed to be on this trip, to spend time with the people of Egypt, and with my fellow class mates here. Many people asked me if I was afraid to come to Egypt, or told me to be careful as this is such a troubled part of the world. We often have so much fear of this area, that we fail to open ourselves up to the good that it here. I think that perhaps the most meaningful thing I will be taking back with me is a new understanding for what it means to live in the Middle East, and what it means to be in an Islamic country. I have fallen in love with the Arab people in Egypt, with their sense of hospitality, their love of their culture and history, their deep faith, and their hope for the future. This is a deep and intricate culture which I could spend a life time studying and still not understand, but being here for this short time and and experiencing this small piece of life in Egypt is something I will be forever grateful for.

Megan Crouch

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Yesterday we were pilgrims and not just tourists. We climbed mount Sinai! Some impressions of our time there: I will never again be so judgemental of the children of Israel complaining in the wilderness; I have a new respect for moses climbing that mountain several times; I am amazed that people actually live in this Sinai wilderness of rock and sand and gravel that looks so barren and forsaken; I feel a part of centuries of pilgrimage tradition especially after reading portions of Egeria's writings from the 4th century.

Several of us took the stairway of repentance up the mountain. stairway is a very loose term for what we climbed; strategically placed rocks feels more accurate! We were thankful for our guide, Hossein. He was kind and thoughtful, slowing down for our out of shape conditions. On the return trip, by way of the camel path, it grew dark before we reached the monastery. Traci and I, behind the first group, were very thankful to see Hossein sitting on a rock in the darkness waiting to lead us the rest of the way. as we followed him on the dark, rock strewn path I was reminded of the verse in John that was very special to me when my best friend was diagnosed with cancer. "Jesus said, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life." Hossein didn't have a light but he was our guide, he knows the path and as we followed him single file we could walk where he walked. He didn't walk straight over all the rocks as we had been doing. He walked in the dirt around the rocks because he knew the path and the easiest way to walk.

I was also reminded of the challenge we received a couple of days ago about following Christ. Which Christ are we following, the Christ of christian tradition or the Christ of the Gospels? They aren't necessarily one and the same.

Who is our guide on the path of life? Are we following our guide or are we choosing our own path straight over all the rocks in the way? I want to closely follow the Christ of the Gospels, the light of the world.

Suzanne Spaulding

misunderstanding leads to spiritual experience

Of all the sights and experiences, yesterday's trek up mt. Sinai was one that I will never forget. When we arrived, I wasn't able to keep up with the main part of the group as we walked up the gravel path to the monastery, consequently I missed out on much of the discussion only catching the tail end. After walking around the monastery, I notice that everyone was missing and thought that they had already left to go up the mountain. I wanted to catch up and rented a camel that came with a young boy for a guide and up I went. After about an hour, I realized that I had been mistaken and I found that I was alone on the mountain with only my young guide and my camel. After a few moments of panic, I resolved myself to making this trek on my own.

I found peace in the silence. The only sounds were the breathing and footsteps on the camel and an occasional clicking noise from my guide who walked behind me. The breeze blew my hair and I breathed in deeply. As we rounded a turn, the sun began to peek from behind the clouds and rays of sunshine spread out in the sky. I'd never had such a spiritual feeling. As I looked around, I realized that moses looked as this same view such a long time ago. It truly felt like holy ground.

Once at the plateau, I got off the camel and gazed at the magnificent view that surrounded me. my heart was pounding as I realized that I would have to travel down the mountain the way I came up. I was truly frightened and explained this to the man who worked in the little shop at the plateau. He told my guide to allow me to walk in the steep parts of the path, which he did. I will never forget the boy, Oda, and the gentle kindness that he showed to me, allowing me to hold on to him when I felt unsteady. When we arrived at a more flat place in the path, he helped me up on the camel again and off we went. As we progressed down the hill, I met my group traveling up. When we arrived at the bottom I was sore, but felt a sense of exhilaration. It was like my personal pilgrimage.

Debbie Stein

Monday, January 26, 2009

Leaving for the Sinai

We leave for the Sinai tomorrow. We will travel along the pilgrimage trail of the 4th century pilgrim, Egeria to St. Catherine's Monastery. On Wednesday we will visit the monastery, the original home of the Codex Sinaitcus, before climbing Jebel Musa - "the mountain of Moses" where tradition holds Moses received the ten commandments.

We will be back in Cairo Thursday evening - hopefully with lots of good pictures!

Taking it all in. . .

We're here in Egypt to experience the culture, to take it all in, to drink deeply. But as Dr. Grafton has commented, experiencing Egypt, especially here in Cairo, "is like trying to drink from an open fire hydrant." There is just so much to take in, process and understand. Admittedly, I have felt overwhelmed by all that there is to learn and how and in what compartment my mind will store it all. After Dr. Grafton's lecture the previous evening on "Trends in Islamic Identity" our group headed to Islamic Cairo on Sunday morning. This area of the city dates back to the Fatimid period, or the later middle ages. We went stepping back into history, yet flanked by modernity. Wearing long, flowing skirts, shoulders and arms carefully covered, the fourteen women in our group sported our own versions of wrapping the hijab, or head scarf. Respecting Islamic customs, we removed our shoes prior to entering the mosque - the idea of leaving the dirt of the world outside of these walls.

Obviously tourists, our largely female group (along with Gary and Dr. Grafton) attracted the attention and stares of the al-Azhar university students, making use of the quiet and space within the mosque. For me, my female senses became a bit jarred when a young sheikh addressed our group, explaining how the veil worn by Muslim women was viewed as a "crown". Considering we've seen all manner of hijab, from those that are tastefully draped just over the hair, to those that cover the entire face allowing only the eyes to be seen, it was hard for me to accept the hijab as a "crown" which we see as drawing one's attention to beauty and not hiding it.

I did appreciate the individual designations for personal sacred space outlined on the prayer rugs in the mosque. Facing Mecca, designated by the niche in the wall, I observed individual males using a prescribed formula for engaging the body in prayer within each one's sacred space by clasping one's hands and bowing the head, much like we do, and then going into a kneeling position, again not an unfamiliar practice in many Western Christian churches, and finally rocking forward and placing one's forehead on the rough as prayers are recited.

We were given a pictorial lesson on the various styles of minarets that reflect influences from all over the Middle East. I can now successfully distinguish an Ottoman minaret fro that of a Mamluk minaret!

That evening before going to "Felfellas" for dinner, our group attended part of the evening worship at Qasr al-Dubara Evangelical Presbyterian Church. I really did not expect to see and hear what I encountered - a fairly large western, style church replete with two projection screens and a soundboard and audio system that rocked the walls as the praise band and singers in western fashion led praise songs. Men and women sat together in song, prayer and lengthy(!) Bible study.

It's easy to see in this one day how the force of the water fro the fire hydrant knocks out all expectations and even pummels one about as we all try to make some sense out of what it means to be an Arab, an Egyptian - whether Muslim or Christian in 2009!


St. Andrew's and St. John's

After a very long day yesterday, we were all very excited to have the opportunity to sleep in a bit this morning. Some went with Dr. Grafton to the American University book store, while others enjoyed free time.
We met up again at about noon to walk over to St. Andrew's Church, where Dr. Grafton was the pastor, to hear about the ministry that they do there with the refugees. We heard from the directors of the children's program, the adult program and from two members of the staff, who were both refugees. We quickly discovered that the many issues that surround refugees here in Egypt are more complex than what meets the eye. A long and tedious process is involved just to be recognized as an official refugee, and even after that happens (if it does) the rights that it offers are very few. It is clear that the work and ministry that the people at St. Andrew's are doing is so important and needed in the community.
After a wonderful lunch of Egyptian take out, we got to hear about the program that is done with the young refugee men who are part of the gangs here in Cairo. The director of the program, Natalie, sat with us and told us all about the program and how it has grown over the past few years to make an impact on the violence and crime.
We were then lucky to be able to meet with two women from the Mennonite organization here in Cairo. There are not any Mennonite churches here in Egypt, rather they see their job as supporting those churches that are already here. These women shared with us their perspective of what it is like to be a western woman in this culture, something we as a group of mostly women, had been struggling with.
This evening we traveled to St. John's Anglican church to hear the priest there, Paul-Gordon Chandler, speak about a topic which he is clearly passionate about, the relationship between Christians and Muslims. We sat and listened to him for about an hour and a half (and could have listened easily for at least another 2 hours!) as he spoke about Mazhar Mallouhi and how he is a Muslim follower of Christ. Chandler uses Mallouhi in his book, Pilgrims of Christ on the Muslim Road, to give examples of how we are more alike in our faith than we know. An image he used that was particularly helpful for me was that of the Muslim symbol of faith, the crescent. The part of the moon that we see, the crescent, is the things about our faith that are different, but the part of the moon that we can't see, represents all the parts of the two faiths that we hold in common. If we build our relationships based on these shared things, than we can start to look at the parts that are different. He gave us many many things to think about, that I can only begin to scratch the surface now.We leave in the morning to travel to Mt. Sinai and visit St. Catherine's Monastery. Can't wait!
Stina Schaeffer

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Visiting al-Azhar University and Mosque

(LTSP students at al-Azhar)
(Sheikh Muhamad Abdul-Rahman at the al-Azhar library)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Simply Humbled...

We have experienced awe...

These past two days we have been in Alexandria!!! We learned quickly that Alexandria is a city built on a city. We visited a Roman theatre discovered by a donkey. Yes, a donkey! The donkey was roaming around with its owner and slipped into a hole in the ground. After struggling to get out the owner realized they were short of discovering a road during the time on which Origen walked!! The theater has been dug up and an ancient city is emerging. We then visited the Library of Alexandria. Such beauty and intricacy simply left us speechless. This library was built to hold 8 million books, holds 1 million right now and the books are still coming in. The architecture is stunning: wood from the United States, designs from Norway, granite from Zimbabwe... all the world represented in a effort to show how knowledge unites us all. So much we observed, the hours could have passed and they would have not sufficed to grasp its impact.

Today, we had the honor of visiting the Citadel of Qaitbay, in Alexandria as well. This is where the Pentateuch was translated into Greek, namely where the Septuagiant originated: History made, God's Word to God's people made available, God's power confirmed. There were reported to be 70 translators in separate rooms all translating the same text. Upon exiting these rooms and comparing text they found that all texts were translated word-for-word the same. They then knew that this Word was inspired by the Holy Spirit...awe inspiring!

If that were not enough we went to 2 monasteries. Talk about holy... We walked among persons who were dedicated and humbled by God's calling in their lives. Tears welled in my eyes to hear of the miracles they treasure and believe. In particular their understanding of prayer. They pray all night and sleep in the morning. They consider that falling asleep or becoming tired during prayer or worship is an attack of the devil. They desire to be in continuous communion with God and sleep is an interruption. It may sound strange or different but I was truly convicted by their devotion and the true joy they expressed while showing us their home. They suggested we come back and stay with them for 10 days. If only...

Leila Ortiz

(Traci and Megan chanting the Coptic Liturgy with Abuna Shadrack)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tomorrow we leave for Alexandria, the second largest city in Egypt: the site of the ancient Pharos Lighthouse, the Alexandrian Library, the Septuagint, and the Alexandrian School of Theology of Origen and Clement.

We're not sure if we'll have access to a computer, so if not . . . we'll see you back in Cairo in two days!

(Attending the weekly Bible Study of the Coptic Patriarch, Pope Shenouda III, at the Cathedral of St. Mark with about 4,000 people.)

What if I told you that Egypt wasn't an "African" country?

So, as an African American, the thought of coming to Egypt not only excited me for obvious reasons (the land of the Pharoahs, the Pyramids, the Holy Family) but also got me thinking about the connection that I had ethnically to this great history. I have travelled to Africa two other times (Kenya and Ethiopia) and the warm welcome and sense of home I experienced were overwhelming. Upon arriving here, however, I have been introduced to this very complex culture of Egypt that, among other things, does not consider itself to be African. Yes, you read that correctly...Egyptians do not consider themselves to be African. I don't know if indignation would be your reaction to this stance (it was mine) but everywhere we have gone and all of the lectures we have heard have never mentioned the continent of Africa in relation to identity, geography, politics or ethnicity. In fact, we hear over and over again that Egyptians are Arab and Egypt is in the Middle East. These two statements are realities that have been explained to me but I still had trouble accepting it. You see, as an African American who has black skin, Egypt and its rich history connected me to a greatness that was stripped with the horrors of slavery and segregation in the United States. Egypt represented what MY culture could do, could be, could have. Egypt represented the God given gifts of God's creation. The stripping away of humanity and the struggle for equality (in my mind) was overshadowed by what was and what could be again. By not claiming an African identity, Egypt became a quagmire - a complex, confusing, undefinable country that, at the end of the day, doesn't want to be associated with being "black." Now one might say that this is a western orientation, to throw race in the mix. But for me, it comes back to race. As a leading political science lecturer explained to us last night, Egypt is one of 22 (+3) Arab nations. All of these countries (with the exception of 2, Somalia and Sudan--and this I can't figure out) are comprised of people who are not black. To further my conspiracy theory, I have not only read, but been told, that Egyptians do not like black people. We met a manager of a rug store who was from Upper Egypt (which is southern Egypt) who was black who said he would not have had the job he holds now ten years ago because of the color of his skin. This comment, along with conversations I have had with both native Egyptians and current missionaries enlightened me about the issues of race that are still very much alive in this region.

However, another reality has to be thrown into the mix. Today at lunch, Dr. Grafton mentioned that you would not lump a Syrian and a Korean person together, ethnically or geographically. As Americans, we know that both coutries are located on the continent of Asia. This example, just raised today, has begun to shift my thinking about how Egpytians view themselves. As an American and as a black woman, I want Egypt to be a part of the whole continent of Africa in a way that makes sense to me and helps me more fully connect to a lost history and identity. This is not Egypt's fault. It has been my own education and socialization. As I take all of this into account, the I can begin to see that northern Egypt Africa (Egypt, Morrocco, Algeria, Mauritania, Libya and Tunisia) are not the Africa I learned about or the Africa I will find my identity in. Much like Syria and Korea, the countries of northern Africa are located on the same continent as the countries of sub-Saharan Africa but they are vastly different lands with a different understanding of their cultural identity. This is not a bad thing, I've decided, but it does push me in my own reasoning and gives me a different lens at which to look at the world.

The final thing I have to offer tonight is that, in the midst of not claiming an "African" identity, the issue of identity is very complex and confusing for most Egyptians. Are they truly Arab? Are they Egpytian or Middle Eastern? What implications do these titles have for a country that is Christian and Muslim (though largely Muslim)? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I must admit that I have had a fascinating time thus far being introduced to a land that produced ancient wonders of this world, key leaders in the Christian faith, serves as the intellectual basin of Islam and continues to endure in its struggle to regain an identity that they can call their own.

Peace to you all,
Rozella Poston

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pilgrim, Tourist, or ?

Reflecting on his recent trip to Israel in his Christmas Eve sermon, my pastor raised the question who each of us are. The question was whether or not we were pilgrims or tourists not only in our faith, but in our everyday lives. The distinction between the two was tourists tend to see things (life?) from the surface while pilgrims can past the external to see the internal struggles and stresses of daily life.

Here in Egypt, it is easy to be tourist. Pyramids. . . camels. . . mummies. . . sphinxes. . . artifacts all are easy to see. Trinkets and souvenirs beckon at every turn. Traffic can be tuned out. The call to prayer lingers in the background.

To be a pilgrim, however, is a different journey. It is different because it challenges one's identity, and one's understanding of history, faith, and the Bible. Being a pilgrim challenges one's own understanding of self.

We've been learning alot about identity over the past couple of days: cultural, historical, religious, political, and social. We spent time with Father Sarabamon of the Egyptian Coptic Church who elaborated on the history of the Coptic Church. We heard from Dr. Hoda Ragheb about the political identity of the Middle East. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around these multiple co-existing identities (but not personalities!).

Cultural and political identity came into play tonight for us as well. Through the graciousness of Rev. Clifford Lewis (the ELCA pastor of St. Andrew's United Churchof Cairo), we were able to watch the 44th Presidential Inauguration of President Obama. Pita and pizza, tears and cheers, accompanied the fellowship as we watched a moment in American history overseas. In this moment, we claimed our identity as Americans.

In the journey of life, our answer to the question of who we are depends upon our perspective and understanding. Pilgrim? Tourist? I'll take pilgrim who is a Child of God.

Blessings and grace,
Traci Glover

Monday, January 19, 2009

You're Going to Meet Jesus!

In December, I was talking with my friend's two young children and I told them that I was going to Egypt in January. My friend's 4 year old daughter immediately said, with excitement in her voice, "You're going to meet Jesus!" I was momentarily taken aback, but replied "Well, yes, I'm going to the place where Jesus' mommy and daddy took him after he was born." She said again to me, "Yes! You're going to meet Jesus!" To her, there was no question about who I was going to meet and what the purpose of my trip was.

I've kept those words with me since Decemeber. And I've thought about them often as we've traveled around Cairo these past two days. I've wondered what does it mean to meet Jesus at Giza--where we, with countless other tourists, are taken through the pyramids, temples, and other ancient sacred spaces in a way that allows us enough time to take pictures and hear a little history, and then get on a bus to the next place. I've pondered what it means to meet Jesus in the overwhelming, chaotic traffic of Cairo, where traffic laws are mere suggestions and cars, buses and bikes move in a frenzied pace on their way to their various destinations (prayer has become a part of my daily bus ride). And today, I reflected on what it means to meet Jesus in Old Cairo, in our visit to a medieval Coptic Church and our meeting with some of the faculty of Evangelical Seminary where we are staying.

And so far, I've come up with this. I've met Jesus in the wonderful hospitality of our hosts here in Egypt, with our delightful tour guide who has a wealth of knowledge about ancient and modern Egypt, and the people here at the seminary. I've met Jesus at the ancient pharonic sites, knowing that I am walking on the same land and seeing some of the same sites that our Biblical ancestors saw--and having a new appreciation for the sacredness of footwashing. And I've met Jesus in my fellow travellers, in the way we have started to get to know one another and learn from each other.

I know that I will continue to ponder and reflect about all that we are experiencing here in Egypt. But I know that when I return to Philadelphia, I will be able to tell my young friend that I did indeed meet Jesus, in all his various apperances.

Sarah Clausen

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Pyramids and Life

Day 3: Pyramids

...and what a day it was! While it is our third day together as a group, it was a our first active day in the land of Egypt. We touredthe pyramids at Saqqara, Giza, and the capital ruins of Memphis. It'san amazing thing to see these sights first hand - places and picturesI learned about in elementary school, seen in National Geographic, and watched documentaries on from time to time. To be standing in front ofsuch structures is to witness history, culture, life and death.

Today also happens to be my birthday, and one naturally thinks about the gift on life on such a day. But standing in front of these massive structures of style, technique, and craftmenship - it made methink about life, and death. To imagine a people so (assumedly) committed to their king, that they spent hours upon hours and years upon years building such masterpieces for their leaders' burial grounds is a mind-blowing thought. Indeed, their death and their life-after mattered just as much, if not more, than their life on earth. What a concept, what a thought. Maybe familiar.

And so we end this first full day low on energy, very well fed, but more than ready for another day!
Taryn Mongtomery
(Stina House on a camel at Giza)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

We Are Here ! ! ! ! ! ! !

So we are finally here, The picture here is the first one taken of the whole group, before nearly 24 hours of travel and a seven hour time shift.
Please understand that we don't look nearly this good now, we are all beyond tired, but we are all in good health and very excited to be here.
My first impressions of Egypt are sort of disjointed right now as we are all running on very limited sleep, but here's what I've noticed so far. When we flew over the dessert and landed in Cario the first thought I had was that even the sky seemed different here: that the clouds and even the air seemed to have the faintest red and yellow tints to it. I keep thinking that the clouds looked like they were made from the sand. The weather is amazing, warm and a little windy.
We have been warmly welcomed by Osama Iskander, our guide, who gave all the women in the group a rose when we landed. (Note that he only gave them to the women, not to Dr. Grafton or Gary.)
In the short ride from the airport I counted no less then five Islamic mosques and we heard the call to prayer tonight, which I find very beautiful. Egypt so far is wonderful. Tomorrow we are going to see the Giza pyramids and other ancient sites. I can't believe I'm going to stand before something that has been here since before Christ was born. I can't help but be moved by how big this world is and how much wonder there is in it. I'm so honored to be here and see this. I'm so excited for tomorrow, it's a good thing I'm so tired or else I might not sleep. This is a great group of people and I truely believe that we are at the begining of a wonderful expriance together and I can't wait share it with all of you back home. Stay tuned for more wonderful and exciting insights from Egypt from people whose thoughts will hopefully be more organized then this after we will have rested.

Blessings and Peace
Megan Crouch

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

As I sort clothes to pack for the trip I wonder how I will fit all that I might need into the suitcases! Packing is part of the anticipation building before traveling, I love it.
Having lived in South America and Asia I look forward to getting to experience yet another great city. I love the new sights, sounds and smells, the cacophony of a different language, meeting people from another culture...
The people, that's what travel is all about for me. Getting to know, even in a small way or for a brief time, the people of a different land, language, culture and/or religion.
It won't be long now!

Suzanne Spaulding
Two of the places that we will be visiting during our trip to Egypt will be the offices of the Bible Society of Egypt, and the weekly public Bible Study of Pope Shenouda III, Patriarch of the Church of Alexandria, held in the Cathedral of St. Mark. I just received this email message from the Director of the Bible Society, Ramez Attallah (notice the Arabized Egyptian name "Ramsees"). I thought you all might enjoy this.

Dr. Grafton

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, 2008 had a very special focus for us, as we celebrated 125 years of Bible Society Work in Egypt. Culminating this year was a historic occasion which was far above and beyond what anyone had dared to dream or hope for.

Held in the Coptic Cathedral on December 3, the three official representatives of Christianity in Egypt - Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant - presided over this significant gathering. The purpose was to thank God, to thank the Church for its efforts and partnership, and to secure the respect and role of the Bible in this country, and the Arab world, for the future.

It was a landmark event, as Pope Shenouda allowed the Catholic Patriarch and the leader of the Protestants to speak from his pulpit for the first time in history. The meeting took place on a Wednesday evening during the set time for the Pope’s weekly Bible study. No other plans would have provided a better location, with over 6,000 people in attendance!

No better timing or arrangements could have been made, as a ‘captive audience’ of millions religiously watches television at this time for the live broadcast of this extremely popular Bible study. The three Egyptian Christian satellite channels, which are sometimes in competition with each other, shared cameras and broadcast the event simultaneously together, with people all over the world watching. The Bible Society promotional film, shown that evening, has never before had such widespread viewing!

We are all ‘flying high’ and people who came or saw it on television cannot believe it really happened. Praise the Lord! As with the other 125th anniversary events held throughout this year, the Bible seems to be the one common uniting ground, the only thing to bring the Churches together.

This momentous and unique event has again confirmed to the Bible Society the incredible love and complete endorsement of all the Churches. It has also provided a platform and opportunity to challenge the Christians of Egypt to do more together and to embrace the shared ground of God’s Word, looking forward to what we can do together for the future.

And we thank you, for your partnership with us, for your faithful prayers for the Bible Work here in Egypt. We appreciate you, and we wish you a wonderful new year in 2009!

Ramez Attallah
General Director
The Bible Society of Egypt

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Let the Countdown begin

It's Saturday afternoon where I'm at. One week from now, I will be in Egypt, probably exhausted from the flights we will have taken, wanting to explore, yet tired from sitting (does that make sense??)

Less than one week from now, the adventure begins. . .YIPPEE!!!

Traci Glover

Friday, January 9, 2009

Don't Eat the Mummies.

While “Don’t Eat the Mummies” may seem simply like practical words of advice for anyone travelling to Egypt, this is, in fact, the title of the hit song from the movie Sesame Street Goes to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The song is being sung to Cookie Monster to remind him not to eat the Mummies and other various works of art in the Museum. I’ve been fascinated with Ancient Egyptian culture and Egyptology since my childhood. My first experiences with Egypt came when our family would visit the Field Museum in Chicago—where, at first, the half unwrapped mummies scared me so badly that I couldn’t sleep (I quickly got over that). I also remember watching the Sesame Street movie and being fascinated by the art of Egypt that was shown. As a sixth grader, I did a report on the art of mummification—complete with the re-creation of the way the brain was pulled out of the body (through the nasal cavity) using a pumpkin head pail, oatmeal, and a dental pick. I wanted to be an Egyptologist—even taking archaeology classes at the local college during high school.

However, I ended up going to a university that didn’t have an anthropology department, and along the way, changed my major, gained some experience in another field, and ended up at seminary. While I know this is where I am being called, the little Egyptology nerd inside of me is jumping up and down at the opportunity to travel to the land that I have dreamed about visiting for over 20 years. I’m not sure what to expect going into this trip—how I will feel once we arrive. I know that I am excited for the possibility of connecting my past—the Egyptologist, with my future—a church leader, in a country that is at once so ancient but at the same time very modern. I’m looking forward to seeing what this trip will bring. And I’ll be sure not to eat the mummies.

-Sarah Clausen

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

It's warm and sunny

I've been curious over the past couple of days about many things. Excitment mixed with anxiety can be a good combination, especially in preparing for a trip to a place where it seems the more I read, the more I'm intrigued. Yet as I have worked on preparations, I have been surprised how many people have admitted their envy (perhaps jealousy) of my going to Egypt. It seems my list of stow-aways grows longer by the conversations I have!

Anyway, one of my curiosities has been the Egyptian perspective of the conflict between Hamas and Israel. I found a Cairo newspaper in English on line ( which has been interesting to read. Tonight, I was curious about the weather. Cairo's high today was 69F(!!). Last week, while in New York visiting family, the temperature got to 10 (I had forgotten how cold that is). This week, sleet and freezing rain here in Central PA - cold, wet, and at times soaking.

Oh yes, a warm place in January. I'm ready.

Traci Glover

Monday, January 5, 2009

Fear of the Unknown

I received a call from my father today asking if this trip was still going to happen. My mother continually calls and tells me (doesn't ask) that I won't be able to go to Egypt in a week. Their fear is linked to what's happening in Gaza at this very moment. When I first heard their comments, I laughed and told them, "You do realize that I am going to Egypt and not Israel, right?" After time passed and I thought more about what they have been saying and asking, I realize that they are truly concerned for my well-being and don't really care that Egypt isn't Israel. Rather, when they look at a map and see the close proximity of the Gaza strip to Egypt, the alarm bells start ringing. As I put aside my own "traveler's superiority" (you know, the attitude that many of us can acquire after being fortunate enough to travel internationally) I realize that their fear is not unwarranted. As Americans, we are surrounded by "stable" countries. For many of us, 9/11 was our first encounter with massive tragedy on our home turf. When we watch the news and see the violence and poverty present in the world, we are disconnected for what the reality is for our brothers and sisters on the ground in various countries. My parents are tapping into a fear and concern because of a direct connection with the region they perceive to be dangerous. Now that someone close to them, someone whom they are in relationship with, is traveling to an unknown land, fear has taken hold of them.

However, this fear is not irrational. I too fear the unknown. I have travelled to countries in sub-saharan Africa and I am wondering how I, as a Black female, will be received in a country that very rarely identifies itself as African. I wonder about the perception of black americans in Egypt and the perception of Black Africans. I also wonder about the identity of Egyptians as Arabs and what that means for those who are Coptic and those who are Muslim. While I am at times overwhelmed with a fear of the unknown, I am reminded of one of the most repeated phrases in our holy writ, "Be not afraid." This refrain has been repeated to me and I have repeated it to my parents. I pray daily for the peace that surpasses all understanding. I also am coming to understand that living life abundantly means casting all fear aside and experiencing the fullness of life.

Rozella Poston

Sunday, January 4, 2009

It's almost time!!!!

I can't believe that we are so close to going to Egypt. I keep trying to look stuff up and prepare myself for what to expect, but I'm afraid that it will be very much like going to India, there is nothing at all that you can read or re-search that comes close to what being there is like. I can't wait. To think that we are going to get a chance to see places that hold have endured so much for so long, there is something very humbling about that. About knowing what history you will stand before, and that you have only your small time and place in it. I wonder what I will think as I walk through these ancient streets? I am eager to find out. See you all in less then two weeks

Megan Crouch