Good News in Egypt

Good News in Egypt

Sean Amato serves with the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS), Egypt.

Just a few weeks ago, I started my Master of Divinity (MDiv) program at Chicago Theological Seminary – an institution closely linked to my spiritual home within the United Church of Christ. Like many attending classes with CTS, I bring my life experiences to that academic world: social service experience, engagement with my local church, and time as a Global Service Worker (previously known as Long-Term Volunteer) with Global Ministries.

I spent the better half of 2020 in Egypt working with the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS). My time in Cairo gave me an eye into how a major non-American metropolis dealt with the first stages of COVID-19 – and how, despite a raging pandemic, those people who do good works must continue to do those good works.

The ‘Evangelical’ staff of CEOSS went door-to-door in urban and rural locales, providing up-to-date documentation and information regarding the status of the virus; instructional seminars regarding viral hygiene and prevention were provided to members of the public, and the agency’s main office – the location where I worked – generated their own ‘best practices in enforcing a socially distanced, regularly-sanitized office. Like many, I worked on assigned administrative and literature-based tasks remotely in my apartment. Although I was often alone, I received immense support: co-workers regularly reached out to inquire about my well-being and went out of their way to drop off food – a welcome gesture, considering supply shortages and local store closures.

View from my apartment

I was confused by the ‘Coptic Evangelical’ label at first. How and why would a Christian be ‘evangelical’ in Egypt, a country where Christian evangelism is strictly banned? Over the course of my work with CEOSS, it was gently explained to me: through transparent actions in support of their fellow citizens, the Copts of CEOSS hoped to live out the “good news” through a commitment to good works while remaining sensitive to the dominant Egyptian culture. Evangelism and the conversion was not the focus and were not sought; instead, CEOSS aimed to live out Christ’s truth as a necessary extension of their faith. In improving a lot of their Muslim and Christian cousins, Coptic Evangelicals saw themselves as “building up the Kingdom” – contributing to a blessed world, or perhaps a commonwealth, in which Christian values would bolster even the lives of non-Christians. A rising tide lifts all boats, or so goes the idiom; a nation on the rise, then, would Egypt.

Over a year later, I spend much of my time immersed in the academics of Chicago Theological Seminary. I have quickly realized that my theology studies are not intended to be theoretical: for them to be worthwhile and serve the Gospel mission, they must be activated. It occurred to me that, in contrast to much of the Christianity I’ve come to know, the Christianity put forth by Coptic Evangelicals rings so true: collectively, groups like CEOSS have shown an intense commitment to a real and measurable form of “good news.” For all the academic rigor I’ll be enduring for the sake of education, Egypt’s Coptic Evangelicals are already a shining, guiding light of theological honesty – one that, if it were not for Global Ministries, I could not have known to seek. I’d like to end my piece in a short, non-traditional prayer. Thank you for reading.

Guide our hands and our hearts,
Our church and our communities,
To complete our holy tasks:
Our good works, those to which you assigned us,
Those that make us Christians, Oh God.
With your Spirit, let us show ours –
Help us meet the needs of our kin,
Our family and friends, those we have never met
And those who we may never meet:
May we serve them, righteously and dutifully.
Let us do so in your name, God,
And for their sake, as children of God.
Let us learn and change, meet new needs,
Reinforce the good and break down the bad.
We will build up your righteous assembly, Oh God –
Working in your Spirit, we have only just begun.

Sean Amato serves with the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS), Egypt. His appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.

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