A Report on Chuck’s Ministry Trip to Egypt

Dear Friends,

Imagine for a moment that whatever skill it is that you have (leadership, teaching, painting, music, etc.), imagine that that skill was considered one of the most sought after skills by the people in your community, church, school or business. How would that make you feel? No doubt your sense of self worth would go up a bit, am I right?

Now imagine sitting down with your pastor or even bigger, the head of your denomination, and having that person tell you that your skill is one of the most important and viable means available to bring people to Christ in the country. How are you feeling now? Is a certain “wow factor” setting in? Is there a sense of your importance in the big picture? Or perhaps you’re a bit overwhelmed by the responsibility that it implies?

If you can identify with those feelings then you have a tiny glimpse into what I felt while on this recent ministry trip to Egypt! God is doing great things in the Arab world and it was amazing to be a part of what is happening there.

I left on my journey on Feb. 26th. Upon arriving in Cairo I hooked up with the others on the team that would be conducting a three-and-one-half day conference on drama ministry in Upper Egypt. In addition to myself there was Dr. Julisa Rowe, a missionary, and drama specialist serving on the faculty at Daystar University in Nairobi, Kenya; Kimberly Creasman a theater professional who lives in Singapore, and works with Church Resource Ministries; and fellow Oregonian, Mark Eaton, playwright and theater professor at both George Fox University and Warner Pacific College. After a day of orientation with leaders from Arab World Evangelical Ministers Association (AWEMA), we boarded a bus for a four-hour trip across the dessert to our destination in Abu Korkas, a retreat center in the midst of beautiful farmland along the Nile.

There were 120 eager participants waiting for us, mostly university students and young professionals. We launched into an intensive training schedule on acting, directing, and playwriting. The goal was ambitious-to improve the skills of our students in using drama to spread the Gospel throughout Egypt. Most of those attending were already working in teams before we arrived but with very little background and training in theater. I have conducted countless workshops on drama over the years and have rarely met a group that equaled the enthusiasm and sense of purpose I found in these students. They were fast learners and quick to apply the things they were learning.

It was a learning experience for us teachers as well. We had to consider cultural differences-what works in the USA may not work in Egypt. Yet there was more in common than differences as, like so many places in the world, thanks to Hollywood, they understand our culture better than we do theirs and many hope to one day get to the United States. Then there was the language–while many could understand some English, we had to teach through translators. I was fortunate to have a young man named Peter Fahim as my translator. This 18-year-old student was amazing. Mature beyond his years and his English was exceptional. We formed a special bond and “adopted” each other… he calls me Dad and I referred to him as my son! (We have hopes of a visit from him in the not too distant future!)

On one morning I led devotions and performed one of my short character pieces from the drama Encounters. It was a first for me to perform with a translator-a challenge for an actor to have to utilize the “dramatic pause” while your words are repeated. But Peter followed me perfectly and the play was enthusiastically received.

The conference culminated with an evening of performances by the teams, as they showcased original plays they had created during the conference-and applied the things they had learned.

After returning to Cairo we met with the General Director of AWEMA, Maher Fouad, one evening for dinner. This is where he blew our minds. They are so amazed at the response to this conference and convinced of the effectiveness of drama to communicate to the people. They have numerous ideas and plans for expanding this ministry not only in live drama but for producing film, radio and television that will be creative way to communicate truth to the masses. He looks at each of us and asks us what can we do? How can we help? The message from him is clear-this is the method we can use to reach the people. In a country where it is illegal to evangelize, they see drama as an open door to get the job done.

I am challenged and praying about what my role will be in the future of this movement in Egypt. They clearly want me to return and at the very least do another conference next year. I must say that the sentiments Maher expressed are the ones I have longed to hear church leaders in our own country express, because I believe what he is saying is true not only for Egypt but for this country as well. It is so encouraging to see this vision for the arts embraced for the cause of Christ. I must say it gave me a sense of renewed purpose to continue on, even when at times it seems that others “don’t get it”!

We spent a few days being tourists before the long journey home. But even then our conversations were full of “what ifs” and vision casting for this great work here.

Thank you so much for helping to make this trip possible. Your gifts went a long way in encouraging a group of people who are determined to make a difference for Christ. I felt your prayers and am honored to have had the opportunity to be used of God in this great work.

I will keep you posted as plans unfold for next year!

Blessings to you!

Chuck Neighbors

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