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IMB workers see one manís trash is anotherís treasure comment (0)

December 20, 2012

IMB workers see one manís trash is anotherís treasure

A wise man builds his house upon rock, and a foolish man builds his house upon sand. On the outskirts of Cairo, about 300 people have built their houses upon trash.

But amid the stench and squalor of shifting garbage, God is building a church on a firm foundation.

Desperate for shelter on the outskirts of Cairo, residents use whatever they can find — sheets of tin and discarded cardboard — to create makeshift residences within this garbage village.

For more than 20 years, families living here have collected trash from area homes and businesses to make some cash. It is estimated that the 17 million population of greater Cairo throws away 13,000 tons of garbage every day.

Men rise early in the mornings to gather refuse and transport it back to their community in weathered pickup trucks or overflowing carts pulled by horses or donkeys. Some businesses bring the garbage to them.

“Society looks down [on us],” said Joseph, 31, who has lived in this slum for 14 years. “The smell is not good, the environment is not good.” Regardless, he said, he has a message for his fellow residents of one of the poorest areas in Egypt: “You are not garbage.”

Joseph’s family moved to this garbage village from Asyut, Egypt, when he was a teenager. His father was a garbage collector and believed relocating closer to Cairo would offer more job opportunities.

Believing education was key to a better future, Joseph was determined to go to school. His parents sent him back to Asyut to live with his grandmother during the school year until he finished high school.

It was during his teens that Joseph began attending a Bible study. As he read the Word, Joseph felt God transforming his life — in more ways than one. He realized his worth in Christ was greater than his circumstances in the dump. At 18, he became a believer and a mentee of the study group leader. He also began attending a nearby seminary.

It was around this time that a neighborhood girl caught Joseph’s eye. Hiba, who was born and raised in the garbage village, was a Christian when she met Joseph at a home Bible study. The two dated for five years before marrying.

As Joseph studied the Bible, the verses about God choosing the poor of the world to shame the rich resonated with him. Though he and Hiba had dreams of bettering their circumstances, God made it clear He wanted them to serve among their community.

“God put in my heart to build a church here,” Joseph said.

In June 2011, Joseph saw his dream realized. He and several other believers began building a church from discarded cinderblocks and mud. A local Egyptian Baptist church heard about the undertaking and offered leadership and financial support. On Dec. 30, 2011, the church held its first worship service under a partial roof.

Since that first service, three people have prayed to receive Christ. This gives Southern Baptists reason to celebrate.

Southern Baptist workers in North Africa and the Middle East are training Joseph and local pastors in outreach and evangelism and providing them with needed resources to support church plants.

In fact, Joseph’s church is but one of many in a rich history of Baptist ministry in Egypt.

“Southern Baptists were very influential through the Cooperative Program (CP) and Lottie Moon [Christmas Offering],” said Ron Robinson, a Christian worker who served in Egypt for 29 years and witnessed the beginning of Baptist work there. “When we first went [to Egypt], the work was evangelism that resulted in churches. That was our statement.”

The work has led to a vital impact on Egyptian churches, which are answering the call to reach their own people.

“Now we have partners on the ground near cultural believers who are very capable of sharing the gospel and dreaming of reaching their country and communities for the Lord,” Robinson said.

Those partners include Joseph. He has more big dreams for his neighborhood. He hopes to raise enough money to finish the church building, which will take about three months to complete. In addition to bringing water and electricity to the entire village, he wants his slum to be legally recognized as a community by the government in Cairo.

His prayer is to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ to all. “In the middle of all this [garbage], where a person could be psychologically broken and worn out, I know and believe that Jesus loves the people and is looking for them. I have lived this,” he said. “God created us as a church, not to be closed in on ourselves but to serve the society around us. The people here are very precious to our Lord.”

No matter where they build their houses.

Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and through the CP help Southern Baptist workers around the world share the gospel. Give to the offering through your local Southern Baptist church or online at imb.org/offering, where there are resources for church leaders to promote the offering. Download related videos at imb.org/lmcovideo.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Names have been changed for security reasons. (IMB)

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