This letter will be a little different because I want to take the whole letter to talk about my trip to Egypt in July. I took the trip with a group of men and one lady from our church. We went there to help with a Leadership Conference. Normally, I travel alone (or once in a while with my wife) on my trips overseas. This trip was different because my pastor was asked to be a part of this conference, and then he asked me to come along when he decided to make it into a missions trip for our church people. Our flights took us through Paris, and since we had a long layover, we went into the city for about three hours to see a little of it. We arrived in Egypt late at night, and by the time we made it through customs and security, it was well past midnight. We then traveled by bus to our final destination, so it was close to 5:00 in the morning by the time we arrived. To say we were bushed would be an understatement.
The conference went from Wednesday through Sunday, with attendees from Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, North Sudan, and America. I had the privilege of preaching the first message of the conference, and our whole group provided a choir (that is what they called us) for the whole conference. Steve and Bonita Epley also provided special music. I cannot describe to you fully what this trip to a Muslim-controlled country did for me, but it was not just being in the country that challenged me. It was being around the men of God who have suffered so much for the cause of Christ that really spoke to my heart about my own dedication. Let me just share a few testimonies with you. For their safety, I will withhold their names and not post any pictures.
I met an Iraqi pastor who lives in a town that was completely destroyed by Isis. Once Isis was driven out, he was warned by the Catholic leaders of the town not to open his church again. They wanted him to sign papers stating he would never have a Baptist church in his own town. Another pastor, along with his son, spent about a week in jail because the Catholic authorities spread lies about him and his family. We met an Egyptian pastor who was raised in a Christian home because his father was a Baptist pastor. His father was deliberately run over by a vehicle, while he himself was stabbed for the cause of Christ. He was at his father’s bedside in the hospital when his father died of the wounds from that vehicle. Instead of getting bitter at God, he surrendered to be the pastor of his father’s church. Another pastor from Northern Sudan was saved because his father had gotten saved years before. His family was the only Christian family in his town. He is now a pastor, and his church wanted him to be ordained officially during the conference. As you can see, these men, and their families by extension, were a great challenge to me. May God find me as faithful as these men have been faithful.
Missionary Evangelist James Belisle