I left Cincinnati with all types of mixed emotions. My heart was very heavy after having lived there for eight years. This was the longest time that George and I had lived in one particular city since we got married. When we first arrived in 2009, we came on a student visa knowing that would only allow us to stay there temporarily. That was not a big deal for us because we lived previously as missionaries in five different countries with the mentality that our stay in each country would be relatively short, to the point that I felt that I was destined to live this way throughout my life, even though that was not my desire.
In Cincinnati, God blessed us beyond what we could ask or even imagine. He opened many doors for us and enriched our lives in all respects. He gave us favor in people’s eyes, with those who have become lifelong friends, mentors, supporters and even people who treated us like their own children whom we literally call mom and dad.
In Cincinnati our dreams were not just fulfilled, but also gave birth to new dreams. We first came with specific hopes and desires. However, God called us to be more courageous to ask, seek and knock in order to receive and enjoy His promises, because His promises are real for those who believe in Him. He opened our eyes and hearts to understand His grace. Through grace, we learned and are still learning more of who He is and what it means to get closer to Him. Knowing Him deeply is the only path we want to walk in. Being in His presence is what we really need in order to hear His voice and to be used by Him so we can glorify His name as we cry out to be like Him.
In Cincinnati, we had six going away parties for different groups of people. Each one of these parties assured us how much God loves us by surrounding us with the great love of many people who accepted us as we are and believed in our ministry. We were emotionally overwhelmed by the love and kindness of so many friends. I am so thankful for the advanced technology we have in these days because it makes it possible to stay in touch with people and not have to say goodbye but rather “see you later.” We were sent off with a lot of love and prayers to Cairo, Egypt, as we closed this chapter of our lives and started a new endeavor.
Now, it has been four weeks since we landed in Cairo. In a blink of an eye, everything was different. The weather, the language, food, the scenery, neighbors, friends and even our plans have changed. Our initial plan was to spend 90% of our time in preparing for our first annual conference. This included recruiting a number of individuals to receive our training on how to use media and how to serve in youth ministry. That plan was dramatically changed, not by our own desires or decision but by the One who sees from above. We found ourselves more involved with being peacemakers to resolve some old issues with old friends and brethren. We had to wear our counseling hats most of the time.
As much as we love to help and counsel people dear to our hearts, we felt what was happening was slowing us down and distracting us from our ultimate purpose in being in Cairo. Reading the Celebration of Discipline was and still is very helpful in helping me to trust in Him to give me peace of mind and heart in the process of trying to understand His purposes behind focusing on peacemaking and counseling others. God’s words in Rom 8:28 that all things work together for those who love God and are called by Him, is very true in everything that has happened and will happen in our life. Whether we see it clear from the beginning or see it after struggling or debating with God about the timing and the details, He wants us to experience in the process. God is still in control, However, our brains want to remember this verse as “all things work together for good now” in the way we see it fit the situation.
As we chose to live in a nice and “quiet” area, it did not take us much time to discover that living in a quiet neighborhood was only a myth. At least this is what we are experiencing right now. Noise and crowds are the main ingredients in the recipe of “life with the absence of peace and calmness.”
The first type of discipline I am exploring is the discipline of meditation. Although I consider myself as someone who already practices that, I found it very hard to meditate on God’s word since I arrived in Cairo. This city of 22 million in population, with high buildings and narrow streets. Is not conducive to peace and quiet. In most places, the first floor of the buildings are usually owned by small business owners, in which there are many different kind of businesses represented. Almost everywhere in the minor and major streets, a lot of private cars and cabs and very loud motorcycles add to the general noise level. The motorists constantly blow their horns for seemingly no reason at all. Although sometimes they are trying to avoid hitting children who usually play football in the streets. On top of all that, I just heard an upset donkey passing through while I was writing this blog. Believe me that is not a joke.
Despite all the distractions I faced in the beginning, I see God’s hand in changing my perspective about the need for quietness and calm. Reaching quietness and calmness comes from within and that is a work He only can do. Yes, it is hard not to get distracted by all the noise around me; however, it is sweeter to me to learn how to hear His voice in the midst of all that noise. I can say now that what I previously knew about contemplation is just the starting point.