Every Christian Egyptian woman lives with double trauma: she is both female and a Christian. This places her near the bottom of the unspoken, but widely acknowledged, hierarchy of Egyptian society. Muslim men hold the highest place having both the dominant faith and gender. Muslim women, although female, hold the second place because of their adherence to Islam. Third comes Christian men; though disadvantaged because of their faith, their gender secures a higher place than Christian women. Christian women find themselves last in the social order.
Sadly, this demeaning view of women in Egyptian society has even penetrated the church. Many limits and controls are imposed upon Christian women, not only by the outside community, but also by the men in their own families. Though their situation is somewhat easier in large cities where they can blend in, there is little relief in villages and small towns.
In view of this reality, the “Mary & Elisabeth” women’s empowerment ministry has arisen to support Egypt’s Christian women by helping them to cope with their difficult situation and, in some cases, helping them to try to change it. If the heart of this ministry could be summarized in one sentence, it would be: “You are precious, valuable, created uniquely by God, loved and crucial for the advancement of the Kingdom of God in Egypt.”
The “Mary & Elisabeth” ministry was established in 2007 by a group of committed and influential women leaders from different evangelical churches in Egypt. The core concept is simple: “Building women-to-women partnerships between women of different generations, wherever they live, and no matter their social or economic situation.” Each woman leader is asked to form a group of five other women for whom she cares, prays, teaches, counsels, and invests time in until they in turn are able to take responsibility for five other women. This simple growth by multiplication model aims to impacting the lives of 10,000 women.
Every year the organization hosts conferences and events designed to empower Christian women to impact their communities for Jesus. The vision is to help women maintain a strong relationship with God, in reconciliation with themselves and their surrounding society. The ministry also seeks to activate the important role of women in their local churches and testify to non-Christians by offering love in creative ways.
Last month, 100 women leaders from different Upper Egyptian cities, towns, and villages were invited to come together for a three-day seminar where they were able to spend time together being refreshed, strengthened, and equipped to go back home and start ministry groups for other Christian women.
During the seminar, women leaders rotated through five different workshops:
- Apologetics workshop where they learned how to defend the Christian faith and answer those with genuine questions.
- Vocational training workshop in hairdressing, a valuable tool to help women generate income for their families.
- Prayer groups workshop, where they learned how to successfully run and lead a prayer group.
- Abuse support workshop where they were trained to help women who had been abused by strangers or family members to receive healing for inner wounds caused by these abuses.
- Persecution workshop where women learned how to face persecution by trusting the Lord and living a joyful life based on His promises.
According to the leader/founder of the “Mary & Elisabeth” ministry, these seminars have impacted thousands of Egyptian Christian women over the last six years. One participant shared, “Since I joined this ministry, I have been praying for my husband every day so he may come to Christ. The Lord answered my prayers and he came to the Lord a few months ago! I never thought that I may one day have the ability to help anybody to change, and specifically my husband!”
A visitor from South Africa who attended the conference shares; “These ladies are passionate about Jesus. This love for Him is the basis for their willingness to spread His fragrance even among their Muslim neighbors and colleagues. Their willingness to forgive was so inspiring. This is the only way to prevent a root of bitterness to grow. These women have not given up. God is preparing His Egyptian bride. He is continuously wooing them to keep walking, to keep running the race. He is releasing a special grace upon them, to spread His fragrance and be relevant in such a time as this.”
In March 2014, a large national women leaders’ conference is planned for the “Mary & Elisabeth” ministry in the north of Egypt. About 300 – 400 women leaders are expected to come from all over the country to spend three days together to focus on the vital role women play in the church, in ministry, and in building His kingdom.
Father, in Your kingdom, all of us, Your sons and daughters, are valuable. Our hearts break when we consider the plight of women living in countries where they are considered as property, valued only for ways they can serve their husbands or men in their families. Thank You for the Mary & Elisabeth ministry that is releasing women from their cultural oppression to their know the ways in which You cherish them. Expand their hearts and minds to see the ways they can serve Your magnificent kingdom in their daily comings and goings. Heal them from the abuse they have received and protect them now. Fill them with Your presence that they might reflect the radiance of Your glory to those around them. In the name of Jesus who loves us with an everlasting, incomprehensible love, Amen.