Shukran (Thank you), Egypt: We will see you next year!

Wow, it is with mixed emotions that I write this last blog post for RRM goes to Egypt 2015.  It feels good to be home and to reflect on all that we saw and did on this Egypt adventure.  However, my heart is both full and sad that this time we planned and prayed so long and hard for has both come and gone.  I’m so thankful that God has opened the door for us to go year after year.  May God keep that door open wide as we are already preparing and planning for next year.

As I share stories with family and friends about our time spent in Egypt, it truly brings a smile to my face.  I wish all of you that read these words could experience the sights, sounds, and smells of that great country, and I wish you could engage with and linger alongside the people we meet.  Those of us that go are indeed impacted in significant ways.  I truly hope the blog posts were able to give you a glimpse of what we lived these last 15 days.

While it is impossible to sum up this trip or truly capture it in a few words, I want to at least give you some highlights that stand out for me.  This is my seventh trip to Egypt, and God continues to show up and do amazing things both in and through this team.  Please know that those that prayed for us and those that provided funding for us to go were just as vital as those that boarded that plane and served.  Thank you for being a part of this team!

Highlights for Egypt 2015…

* One of my first highlights came when we were on our first leg of the trip (a nearly 15 hour flight from DFW to Dubai).  As I looked around, next to me sat my 15 year-old daughter and in front of me was my 18 year-old son.  They had heard my stories of this trip year after year and had both longed to go many times.  I had an almost overwhelming sense of joy and thankfulness that Hayden and Grace were now experiencing this trip with me.  Both were so excited, and yet both were also so nervous.  I wrote in my journal that day….”Lord, thank you for allowing me to serve with my kids in your name!  What a gift!”  This highlight got even better when on the car ride home from Dallas to Austin, they both said, “Dad, we now get why you love this Egypt trip so much!  We want to go back!”  Lord, Thank you!

* A highlight for me every year is seeing a team that begins this trip not knowing each other come together and do so much more than a group of individuals could ever do.  It is so fun to watch friendships and bonds grow as this group gives and serves.  To see them laugh, sweat, work, dance, pray, listen, encourage, challenge, and coach is truly something else.  We also learned deep and meaningful realities about each other as we shared our stories with each other each night.  I loved seeing how vulnerable and genuine this team was with each other as they trusted one another with what God is up to in their lives.  We not only shared highlights of our day together, we shared how God got us to Egypt and what He was was doing.  It is a great reminder that we should share our story with others.  You never know who may need to hear what God is up to with you!

* Another highlight for me was when the pastor of one of the largest evangelical churches in the Middle East came and sought me out to say “thank you.”  He wanted to thank our team for making the trip and let us know how significant it was that we came to serve.  With other American teams backing out or simply not coming any more, he told us thank you for accepting God’s call and sticking with it.  He said thank you on behalf of his entire church as we served and touched many lives and families.  He said thank you on behalf of the camp staff that was given a much needed break by our service to the camp.  He said thank you on behalf of his family that has grown to love and depend on us year after year.  The fact that he traveled out of his way and sought me out to say thank you really touched me and this team.  Thank you, Pastor Sameh for having us serve with you.

* One highlight for me was the safety and protection I sensed and felt during the entire trip.  I realize there is uncertainty when you travel to the places we went on this trip.  I realize that parents and families and friends get concerned when those they love go to foreign places.  However, God truly gave me a sense of peace to go once again….and He upheld His promise.  In Isaiah 8, He reminds us to fear only Him and nothing else.  As we traveled, I truly felt God’s peace and presence.  Thank you, Lord for once again showing me how to trust you!

* Another highlight for me was seeing the amazing creativity and passion the Egyptian leadership and staff poured into camp.  From the detailed and exciting games they created to the passion and energy they displayed, the team and I loved every minute of camp.  The theme this year was “All In.”  That could be a theme every year as they truly bring it when it comes to showing campers a blast and giving it their all.  Well done, Wadi Sports Camp!

* A continual theme and highlight of this trip each year is seeing how certain things cross cultural lines.  Camp is camp all over the world.  Kids are kids all over the world.  Sports are sports all over the world.  Love is love all over the world.  God is God all over the world.  While cultures vary, languages change, customs and trends alter…..God uses sports, camps, love, and service to touch people in significant ways no matter where you live.  God gave us a platform to speak truth into the lives of high school kids through the avenue of coaching because we showed up.  I’m beyond thankful that a team of individuals would give up part of their summer to show up!  Through doing this, I saw God’s Kingdom expand and the world shrink.  That was some highlight!

* A final highlight came when past campers and staff made the effort to meet us when we left camp and were traveling around the country.  One even went with us when we toured Alexandria and spent time with us when we went to process and reflect on camp.  A few others showed up at the mall in Cairo just to say hi and to spend a little time with us.  This truly has been a relational ministry as we have seen junior high students turn into high school students to college students to young professionals.  Seeing campers become staff then leadership is not only fun to watch but humbling as God allows us to walk beside them.  These are not just individuals we did camp with but are now truly family!  I truly love seeing boys and girls grow to be young men and women impacted not only other campers and young people but also impacting another city and another country.  God is indeed kind!

My prayer for the team this year was Romans 15:5-6.  May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God answered this prayer!

Until next year, Fee sihetak (Cheers!)