THE recent war in the Middle East has gripped the world's heart with tragic fear. Charges and countercharges relative to who is at fault have been hurled back and forth. Regardless of who won, if there is a winner, one thing is certain, a recent victory in Egypt has caused rejoicing in heaven's courts and among the ranks of the Middle East Advent believers.
Early this year Egypt borrowed Pastor C. D. Brooks, ministerial association secretary of the Columbia Union Conference, for an evangelistic crusade in Cairo. Approximately a dozen young men united with him in forming an evangelistic team. Two ordained men, Pastors Fakhry Naguib and Nassif Boutros, left families and churches to join the team and remain in the field for follow-up work. Pastor Brooks credits the entire staff for the success of the effort.
"Differences" in evangelistic procedures were quickly overcome by capitalizing on the history of past Egyptian campaigns, plus using the acquired knowledge of American crusades conducted by Evangelist Brooks. The church congregations rallied to the challenge of the preparatory sermons which preceded the opening night. "Around the clock" prayer vigils were conducted. Members got out of bed during the dark watches of the night to pray. Christian stalwarts from the Heliopolis church, Nile Union Academy, and those housed at the evangelistic center, supported the meetings with their presence each evening. The center, spared by a divine miracle as all other buildings about it were destroyed to make room for the great Ramses Square, second in importance in all of Egypt and transportation center of the capital city, is where the meetings were held.
The excellent support of administrators, both division and union, were of invaluable service from the first to the last. Pastor F. C. Webster, president of the Middle East Division, and all the members of his staff consistently showed the interest and support necessary to make this spiritual venture a success. Pastor Habib Ghali, president of the Egypt Union Mission, and his wife were present at all services. Pastor Ghali and his staff did everything possible for the success of this crusade.
"Wall to Wall" Listeners
The people of Egypt are tenaciously bound together by the unyielding tethers of Islam. The Christian minority seek jealously to hold their own members. Any public evangelistic crusade poses a threat. The image of many evangelical groups is contorted and confused through misrepresentation. Adventists are no exception and are not generally known as Christians.
With this knowledge in mind Pastor Brooks and his team boldly advertised the opening subject: "Who Is Jesus Christ? Is He the Son of God or Just the Son of Man?" Opening night found the auditorium jammed wall to wall with listeners. Standing room was not available. From the shores of Alexandria to the parched regions of Aswan on the south, people came. At the conclusion of the opening-night message Pastor Brooks was surprised as the audience spontaneously burst into applause. A foretaste of the time when earth's redeemed will indicate their mutual joy by praising Christ as the Son of the living God—the Desire of all ages and the hope, the only hope, of eternal salvation!
From this day forward the meetings met with general approval. Thousands of tracts found their way into the hands of spiritually hungry people. Hundreds of Bibles were given as gifts to those who attended more than thirty meetings. Hundreds of copies of Steps to Christ, The Desire of Ages, and Patriarchs and Prophets were also given away. Many a seed has been planted in Moslem and Christian hearts alike. This seed will spring up and bear fruit. Doctors, college professors, engineers, policemen, and politicians joined farmers and factory workers nightly.
"At Ease Together"
Brother Brooks commented on the excellent service rendered by his translators, Pastors Naguib and Boutros. "The timing was natural and easy," he reports, "and we were at ease together." Only those who have used translators can appreciate the blessing of one who attempts to put fire into the sermon and is willing to duplicate inflections and gestures. These men faithfully copied Pastor Brooks even to the raising of the Bible into the air at just the right moment.
A careful visiting program was organized. Daily the entire staff scoured towns and hamlets, towering apartments and village huts, seeking out the interested ones. At times our evangelist was met at homes by huge welcome signs and even photographers, who displayed the ever-present Arab hospitality. Pictures from the handbills were framed and hung on many a wall. This evidence of the acceptance of those bringing the gospel to them brought joy to the hearts of the team.
Protectors of Troublemakers
Of course, there was opposition. This world is enemy territory and every inch gained by God's servants demands a battle. Certain religious leaders joined in open hostility. Handbills denouncing the crusade and announcing a series of meetings attempting to refute the plain teachings of the Word of God were distributed. Articles appeared grossly misrepresenting our church. Attempts were made to identify Adventists with Jews and Jehovah's Witnesses (Jehovah's Witnesses are officially banned in Egypt) and other unpopular groups. These handbills were passed out as the huge crowds left the center. The command of Christ to love your enemies was obeyed by the evangelistic team as they literally became the protectors of these troublemakers when some of the audience attempted to beat them up and drive them away. Friends of the crusade, both Christian and Moslem, stood ready to defend our men. The result of this attack was that our enemies were summoned by Egypt's FBI and ordered to "find something in that Bible to preach about and leave Mr. Brooks alone!" The one service they did conduct was responsible for sending another record crowd to our evangelistic center to see if the charges were true. Many exclaimed as they left, "These people are not as their opponents said they were! The preacher proved everything by the Bible." The evangelistic team was encouraged over the outcome of this conflict and were convinced that with God on their side nought could stand against them.
Largest Single Baptism
At the conclusion of the effort 38 souls were baptized in the first baptism. It is our understanding that this is the largest single baptism ever in the Middle East Division. More than 110 persons signed the pledge to obey all of God's commandments. Pastor Chafic Srour, dynamic division evangelist, continued the meetings in Cairo with good success.
A large crowd of friends at the airport bade farewell to Pastor and Mrs. Brooks. The reciprocal esteem which they held for one another was manifested at the hour of separation. As the Brookses moved through customs the crowd burst into unrestrained applause several times, making the giant airport ring. Curious bystanders came over and inquired, "Are you folks from the cinema?"
They replied, "Oh, no, we are on business for the King. We are doing a work infinitely more important than the movie stars ever dreamed of. We are engaged in the nicest work in the world."
When earth's shadows are forever lifted the year 1967 will be seen as a tremendous year of victory in Egypt. A light shines brightly—the light of truth over this ancient land. It is a light preparing men for the coming of Christ and the only valid era of peace.