This Christmas we are rejoicing for the birth of Gabriel the newborn of our son Joel and his wife Carla.
Since they live in California the best we can do is visit with them on Skype.
Even though my grandfather “Atallah” had four sons, it so happens that Gabriel is his only male descendent of that generation who will carry on his name!
It all began in 1900 when Atallah – who was a teacher at the Anglican Mission School in Cairo – married Nabiha, the daughter of Naoum Moghabghab, the Lebanese Principal of the School.
The car pictured here is that of Naoum driving some family members from Beirut (then in Syria) to Cairo to attend the wedding.
That romance and eventual wedding united two families whose patriarchs were among the first Protestants in the Middle East. Nabiha’s grandfather, Khalil Moghabghab, was the first ordained Presbyterian pastor in the Middle East. Atallah’s father, Athanasious, was the first elder of the first Presbyterian Church in Assiut in southern Egypt (one of the oldest Presbyterian churches in Egypt). In the Athanasious family picture you see him holding a Bible in his hand. And in the Moghabghab family picture you see Naoum holding a Bible in his hand. Not too many family pictures today have people holding Bibles. It may not be a coincidence, therefore, that the Bible Society of Egypt is the main publisher of that Bible today.
I wonder if Gabriel will ever appreciate this heritage. I certainly had no idea of it as a child, teenager and young adult. My self-identity until my mid-thirties was that I was the grandson and only male heir of my mother’s father, Joseph Kfoury, who was one of the wealthiest businessmen in Egypt. His many businesses and properties were confiscated by the socialist Nasser regime in Egypt in the late fifties. This caused us to escape Egypt as a family never expecting to return.
When I came to a living faith in Christ, early in my time in Canada, I felt called to go back to Egypt to share the Gospel with my people. At that time, and until much later, I had no idea of the rich Evangelical heritage I had through my father’s family. I found out about my spiritual heritage mainly by reading books and articles on the history of the Presbyterian Church in Egypt and the Middle East.
I hope that Joel and I can share with Gabriel early on the story of his rich spiritual heritage so that he won’t have to read up about this good news in history books like I did.