A bus ticket I have remembered for over 50 years!

Montreal Skyline

I was a lonely 16 year old foreign student in Montreal, Canada when I first attended a youth meeting at Rosemount Bible Church (my grandfather had just died and my grandmother had gone back to her family in Lebanon leaving me all alone in that big city).

Many of the young people welcomed me warmly and went out of their way to be helpful.  Even though I was the first Egyptian any of them had ever met (there were hardly any Egyptians in Montreal in those days), they made me feel very much at home in their youth group.  One of them upon learning that I was trying to teach myself to type told me she’d bring me a book on typing to help me out. After the meeting a young man walked with me to my bus stop and explained to me how if I changed buses on the same trip I should ask for a “transfer” ticket which I could use on the next bus without having to use a new ticket.  That certainly helped me save money as I was using a new ticket on every bus I rode.

This summer Rebecca and I were visiting this church and reminisced with several of those who first welcomed me there about that life-changing summer for me in 1962!  They told me that when they first welcomed me they determined to make me welcome and went out of their way to be helpful.

It was through that church that I first understood the real meaning of the Gospel and decided to commit my life to Christ.  But I what most remember after 50 years is not the teaching I heard but the small acts of kindness which impacted me deeply.

Don’t underestimate the simple cup of water you give in Jesus’ name to seemingly insignificant people.

But they are our friends!

Garbage Village Cathedral

More than 20 years ago, when we moved to our present apartment, the Garbage Collectors among whom my wife has been ministering offered their services to move us. Since they daily collected Cairo’s garbage, they had the muscles and the experience for moving heavy things.

But when they came to use the elevators in our new building the janitor stopped them (the building has a rule that hired workmen carry stuff up the stairs and don’t use the elevators). “But they are our friends” my wife Rebecca exclaimed. “Your friends?” said the surprised janitor. “Yes, they are from my church and are volunteering to move us just because they want to help”, she added. The janitor was amazed and let the men use the elevators. The young church leader who coordinated the move was himself carrying heavy boxes on his shoulders along with all the others.

On Saturday we attended the wedding of that man’s son. I wished our janitor could have been with us! It was lovely, in one of the most beautiful Churches in Egypt. Many leading Coptic Orthodox priests and bishops were in attendance and the many who attended from the Garbage Village were all dressed in their Sunday best!

Little could we have imagined on that moving day many years ago that this young man would become one of the Priests at the Garbage Village and that God would use him to bless thousands with his gracious and wise ministry.

When Rebecca told the janitor that he was our friend, it gave him prestige in the janitor’s eyes and made him feel proud that we considered him our friend.  But at the wedding the tables were reversed, we were the ones who were proud that this successful and well known pastor would consider us his friends!

looking through the eyes of a child

Last week my five year old grandson Alex was diving off the diving board on the deep end of an Olympic size pool.  His grandmother was anxiously swimming close by.  On one of his dives he spent time looking downward through his goggles into the very deep bottom of the pool.  “Grandma” he excitedly exclaimed, “I can’t touch the bottom of the pool on this end and neither can you!”  This was an amazing discovery because whenever he was swimming with us he knew that though he could not touch the bottom, we could, and that made him feel secure. As he reflected on his new discovery he suddenly exclaimed “But Jesus can!”

O for the faith of a small child who suddenly discovers his and his grandmother’s limitations but trusts that Jesus can do what we cannot do….

In the present turmoil in Egypt we all need more of this trust and faith rather than the panic which so many seem to be caught up in which makes them act irrationally and as though their faith in Jesus was not “good enough” for the challenges at hand.

Thank you, Alex, for reminding me to trust Jesus even when I cannot touch bottom!

Hello world!

You’ll have to be patient with me as I enter the strange world of bloggers!

As a Christian living in Egypt I have found that people have many misconceptions of what life is like in this ancient land which has gone through much unrest and social upheavel during the past year and a half since the January 25th Revolution.

While from time to time I may reflect on the political situation the focus of this blog will be much more personal reflecting on my life in Cairo.

Ramez Atallah