So on Sunday Jason and I went to visit Nassif, in Minya-el-qamh (you may remember me writing about a previous visit, in which Sarah and I co-preached at the university-age worship service). This visit was different...we went in the morning and stayed all day. We left to catch an 8.45 train, which didn't even arrive in Cairo for us to get on until 9.30! We were very late getting in--around 10.45 when it should have been just before 10. Nassif was there waiting for us, though!
We boarded a micro bus (a 15 passenger van, really) and headed out to another village nearby. When we got out, we picked up a taxi and went to Tel Basta, the site of an ancient Egyptian temple to Bastet, the god shaped like a cat. This temple has not yet been restored, but rather is an archaeological work in progress. In fact, a German team just left a week ago, so we just missed them. But we still got to wander around the site, look at the pieces and the statues, and imagine what it might have been like. I think it's totally cool to poke around archaeological digs...archaeology is cool. Not cool enough for me to do it as a profession or even a hobby (I don't have the patience for all that minute dusting and whatnot) but cool anyway. So we wandered, we poked, we listened to a woman giving us a tour. Ramses II had his fingerprints (and his statues and his cartouche) all over the place, of course, and there is also one of only two statues of one of his daughters here at Tel Basta. It's pretty cool.
Also cool: Jason and Nassif and I were the only people there. No tourists, no foreigners, nothing! It was wonderful to visit something like this without the crowds of Luxor or Aswan or the Cairo Museum.
After all that archaeology, we headed back (this time only by taxi) to Nassif's flat in Minya-el-qamh. The tourist police of course had to follow us, because we're dangerous (or else Egyptians are dangerous). They went away after a while, but not long after we arrived at Nassif's they were ringing his doorbell! They stayed sitting outside his flat the entire time we were there--all afternoon. So, in case anyone didn't know that there were foreigners in town, there was a wonderful marker in the form of uniformed, armed guards at the front door for all the village to see.
Nassif cooked us a wonderful lunch, and then we were all exhausted and so we each took a nap. We slept a couple of hours, and then it was time to go to church! Once again we walked through the streets, with the tourist police, to the church...which already had a uniformed, heavily armed police officer sitting outside. He'd probably been sitting there all afternoon guarding an empty building. I can just imagine his thoughts when he saw us walk up. "oh, man, you mean they haven't even been here? I could have been drinking tea and smoking sheeshah all this time!" or even better... "oh, crap, I've been at the wrong building for three hours!"
Well, we got into the church and sat a few minutes. one of the congregation members was sent to buy us bottled water. when i got my bottle, it wasn't sealed, which means it was probably tap water in a re-used bottle. I was so thirsty that I decided it didn't matter, and I drank it anyway. (the same thing had happened at Nassif's house....the water was clearly from the tap or the filter, not actually mineral water.) We have been told not to drink tap water outside Cairo, but in this case we didn't have any options so we just went with it! Luckily, there don't seem to have been any side effects, so that's good.
The service started at 6.30 with about half an hour of singing. As before, the songs were all in Arabic and therefore completely beyond me, but people in this church really sing, and they really mean it. I could tell just by being in the room that they were really into the singing, they really know the songs and they were really moved by it all. And that's enough "really"s for a long time. Anyway, after the singing, there was a guest preacher (one of the seminary students). He spoke about Ezekiel 37 (that was all I understood...the rest of this I got from Nassif later) and related the resurrection of the dry bones to the resurrection of Jesus. Apparently it was very good. I am in no way qualified to offer any perspective on that because the only words I understood were "ezekia sabah wi teleteen" (Ezekiel 37). After the service Nassif, Jason, the guest preacher, and I headed immediately to the train station where we just barely made the 8.30 train back to Cairo. And that was the end of our adventure.
I have been thinking about a lot of things, including poverty, the difficulties facing the american protestant church compared to those facing the egyptian protestant church, what it means to be christian in the US and what it means to be christian in Egypt and whether what it means to be Christian is really the same everywhere, David Lamotte, and my mom. I've also been busy naming pictures to get them ready to upload. So there aren't any new photos up yet, but soon! I'll let you know. And sometime soon-ish I'll get around to writing about all those other things too.....