30 September 2018 – 8 October 2018
By Shirley Swannack
Firstly, a very big thank you to everyone who prayed and fasted into this trip for us, you certainly laid a solid foundation for the Lord to build on.
On our first day we arrived at 1.20am and after getting our luggage, packed ourselves into our bus with our luggage on the roof and headed to our host family, and caught a few hours’ sleep followed by an Egyptian Breakfast spread that was very welcome.
We then visited Ambassador Vusi at the South African Embassy where we sang to him and his Zimbabwean receptionist in their home languages, prayed for them and we even stopped time! The clock at the embassy stopped as the last of us signed in on our arrival, we believe God re-set time prophetically for South Africa and Egypt.
We paid a visit to The Garbage City where 50,000 Coptic Christians live in appalling conditions; having been unable to find accommodation in Cairo. They exist completely from collecting garbage, including clothing and feeding themselves and where possible recycling the garbage from which they eke out a living. In the midst of the Garbage City is the Cave Church, a Coptic church which seats up to 19,000 people and to this day miracles still happen there.
In 979AD a Muslim Caliph asked the Christians if they really believed in their scriptures which they said they did and he insisted in asking if they believed in every word. He then asked them if they believed faith could move a mountain as per their scriptures, again they said they did. The Caliph then challenged them to either, move a particular mountain, convert to Islam or be killed. The Christians prayed and fasted and the mountain that the Cave Church is held, physically moved 3km. The Caliph saw daylight between the ground and the mountain and was so impressed by the phenomena and at their faith, he converted to Christianity and the Cave Church came into being. The Cut Mountain (in Arabic) has been geologically confirmed to be of the same soil type as ground 3 km away.
Apostle Natasha ministered to us out of 1 Samuel 2:1-11 (Hannah’s prayer) but what moved us in particular was verse 8: He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap, to set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory. “Ash Heap” can be translated as garbage heap. This led us to pray for the people of the Garbage City, that the Father would raise them up and it was agreed that a First Fruits from Ariel Gate will be sown in the form of a book translated into Arabic to be sown into the Garbage City people.
That evening we sailed in a gentle breeze on the Nile in a traditional Feluca and prayed for the people of Egypt. The cool of the evening was a welcome end to a hot day followed by a delicious sea food dinner at a restaurant.
Day 2 saw us driving through the City of the Dead. Two million Egyptians live here, the original families were unable to find accommodation in Cairo so they moved into the existing cemetery either into family mausoleums or built their houses around the existing grave stones. When a family member of an existing mausoleum needs to be buried the squatter family moves out, the family member is buried in the ground and after a couple of days the squatter family move back into their mausoleum-home. It is a place with little electricity, water or a sewerage system so conditions are dismal.
After passing through the City of the Dead we visited a Coptic church, called the Cavern Church, or Hanging Church (Al Muallaqa in Arabic) dedicated to the Virgin Mary, where the Holy Family took refuge at the time of the murder of all boys two years and under by Herod. The church becaume the seat of the Coptic patriarch for several decades until the 14th century. This was a stunning church built on two pillars of a Roman Fortress built in 98AD. The churches foundations on the pillars consist of palm tree lots and layers of stone, and it had beautiful lattice work walls of ebony and ivory inlays and a pulpit built on 15 beautifully sculptured columns of marble erected in the 11th century and a baptismal font dating back to the 5th century. We went into a side room to look through a floor viewing glass to the Roman columns below, and quietly began to sing to the Lord in Zulu. Just into our Zulu praise, a Muslim guide and a young Zulu couple on honeymoon entered; the guide was so moved that we should be “coincidentally” singing in Zulu to the Lord at the very time he brought his Zulu tourists into the side room that he openly wept! After the Zulu couple agreed we could pray for them and their marriage, we left the room and church with the guide and couple in tears! God moves in mysterious ways!
A quick visit to an Egyptian Coffee house at the Khan Kalili Souk (main Cairo market) where we enjoyed delicious coffees, Egyptian delicacies and ice cream. Whilst waiting for our bus to arrive and collect us home, Magdy our host tried to marry Maki to an Egyptian Secret Police Officer much to our amusement. We arrived home to pack for our trip into the Desert for the next couple of days.
Day 3 and 4 took us north towards Alexandria and west of the Nile to a Centre that sleeps 1,100 people with all the necessary facilities to feed, lecture and host their guests including a swimming pool. During the Revolution 2011-2013 the local Bedouin protected the centre from revolutionists who wanted to destroy it. The first evening we attended David Damien’s praise and worship conference in the desert. Day 4 we toured the centre and prayed for Magdy and Annelis. We met a monk of St Bishoyi and his Muslim guest at the Centre and that evening prayed for an Egyptian couple recently returned from the USA – they were astonished at the insight the Lord gave us when praying for them and sent another married couple to get prayer from us!
Day 5, Monastery of St Bishoyi in our vehicle and through our first Egyptian roadblock (protection for the monastery against militants) where they wanted to see our passports which not everyone was carrying, fortunately, they were so fascinated with a Zimbabwean passport held by a white woman they weren’t interested in anyone else’s. Our host was soon behind us in another vehicle and all was well and we were allowed through.
The Monastery of St Bishoyi was established when the desert fathers fled Roman occupation and oppression approx. 300-400AD and a Coptic Christian monastery where the un-decayed remains of St Bishoyi remain was established. Like most orthodox monastery’s (Greek, Russian or Coptic) they are based around miracles and saints and have wonderful stories to tell. St Bishoyi apparently tied his hair to a rope suspended from a beam so that if he fell asleep while praying the pull on his hair would awaken him and he would continue to pray. He had many encounters face to face with the Lord and the other monks begged him to take them with him to the next encounter. The story goes, that it was agreed that the Lord would appear to them on a mountain on a specific day. On the day of the Lords visitation an old disabled man was at the entrance of the monastery begging for someone to carry him to the mountain where visitation would occur. All the young monks refused and went on to the mountain; however St Bishoyi agreed to carry the old, disabled man on his shoulders. The further St Bishoyi went, the greater the weight of the old man became and St Bishoyi struggled all the way to the mountain, where it was revealed to him alone that it was in fact the Lord that he had carried all the way. As a result of his faithfulness to an old, disabled man the Lord promised him that on his death his body would never decay. To this day a casket of the body of St Bishoyi remains. Whilst it appears that it is a place of religiosity, we owe these desert fathers a gratitude of thanks, that for 1600 years they have preserved our scriptures, faced incredibly difficult conditions in the middle of a desert, persecution etc. In the VIP room a dear monk came and sat with us. He wanted to know all our names and occupations and questioned Apostle Natasha at length about her beliefs and Ariel Gate. Due to the wonderful rapport he and Apostle built up in a short time he asked us to pray for him – something unheard of! Apostle asked him if he was sure he wanted us to do that? As Apostle prayed for him and the seers described what they were seeing, he began to weep as every vision was a confirmation to him, from seeing Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, to his tears being written like poetry in a book for the Father (he was also a poet). We were all moved in such an incredible way, that I am still in awe and wonder at how the Lord used Apostle Natasha to show this man that Protestants, Pentecostals and Charismatics can live in the world and not be “of the world”. We have no idea the future impact our hour and a half had on this man, butt we were all visibly moved. It was an absolute high-light of our trip, despite our resistance to visit this “religious” Monastery.
After the monastery we returned home to Cairo via and Egyptian lunch on the road opposite the Pyramids to pack for our trip to Aswan the next day.
Day 6 took us on a flight and our main prayer mission south from Cairo domestic terminal (where we saw a beautiful Egyptian bride), to Aswan. Later that afternoon when it had cooled down from 42ºC we caught a water taxi across to Elephantine Island and the Movenpick Hotel. We went to the top floor to overlook the Nile in every direction, ordered flavoursome juices to drink, and then called Cheryl, Lisa and Anton and began to pray (under cover as the waiters kept trying to see what we were doing) who gave us spiritual insight as to our mission in Aswan which came out of history, (see Wikipedia – Elephantine Papyri for full information) where recorded on papyrus scrolls a Jewish man bought an Egyptian wife and children out of slavery on Elephantine Island, so we began to pray that Hagar the Egyptian maidservant (see Gen 16) will marry Jesus and that the whole of Egypt will come to know Yahweh-Elohim as their Lord and Saviour. This mission was short, sweet and to-the-point and accomplished at sunset at the close of the Sabbath.
Day 7 we returned to Cairo from Aswan by 6am in the morning, packed and rested up before our long trek home via Addis Abba. Apostle Natasha, after being “hunted down” by Nader and his wife Nancy whom she last saw in New Zealand in 2011. Nader and Nancy have been working the Repentance Book she gave him in New Zealand ever since, teaching it in Egypt and are now assisting with translating it into Arabic. Again we had the opportunity to pray into their lives as well as to do Magdy and Annelise’s bloodline’s in the afternoon and watch an incredible video made by their son on the Revolution and how it affected and threatened their lives.
Overall, it is too difficult to explain the hand of God on this trip. I know for me the ease of preparing for this trip at such short notice, let alone getting a visa when the embassy is in another town, the finances, and the timing could have only been God. How each Egyptian who needed prayer were “brought” by divine providence to Apostle Natasha, how each encounter glorified God and left us once again in awe of His greatness. Thank you to everyone who held us up in prayer, your reward awaits you in heaven.