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What Happened Before the Holy Land Tour Bus Headed to Egypt

December 14, 2011

Our friend Katie took the trip of a lifetime last month, visiting the Holy Land with a tour group. This was the pastor’s eighth tour group, and every year after seeing all the familiar sights in Israel, they all take a bus across the border to Egypt. This year, 50 Christians went with the pastor and they all had a good time. Except that at the end of the Israel part of the trip, only three Christians wanted to go on to Egypt.

Egypt this year, you can imagine, has not attracted many tourists. Not that it attracted many tourists before the Arab Spring of 2011, for that matter.

Though it has the 17 million more people than France (the number one tourist destination in the world) and though it has fabulous beaches and unrivaled ancient sites, most tourists know better to go there. One tourist (not Katie), wrote this on the BBC travel website in November[1]:

Quiet at an Egyptian Resort

This year's Arab Spring was just a marker along the road of the hopelessness that Muslim countries of the region suffer as the result of lacking the true hope and peace brought through acceptance of the ministry of Jesus Christ.

When cocktail hour comes round in the Egyptian Mediterranean resort of al-Masr these days, there are no tourists to watch the soft darkness snuff out the iridescent turquoise of the sea. Slinky music echoes a little eerily along deserted terraces; this is twilight in the twilight zone. We were a party of three—the only guests in a 550-bedroom hotel.

Only three hotel guests! When I read this I nearly spilled my coffee (except I don’t drink coffee, so I nearly spilled my ice water). The BBC writer continued:

Mohammad Hassin, one of the managers in the al-Masr hotel, supervised the 45-man team that made our breakfast. Staff have been laid off and salaries cut. He admits that it’s not a happy time in the Egyptian travel industry – but he hopes for better times to come when the political situation stabilizes again.

This lament sounds familiar; six years ago Egypt’s Minister of Tourism said that tourists were avoiding Egypt “during these troubled times.” Well, the troubled times in Egypt have been going on for a long time, haven’t they? But it’s not the times that are troubled; it is the Arabs who are troubled by their own hopelessness. The Arab Spring is an uprising against corruption, against hopelessness, against police brutality.

The Arab Spring, in other words, is a desperate struggle to join the Free World. And how shall Arabs become free? Jesus Christ said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32); and “It was for freedom that Christ set us free” (Galatians 5:1). The best thing you can do for Egyptians is to send a church planting team, because planting churches is the New Testament model for spreading the kingdom of God. If you have read this far, perhaps you are the rare Christian who will not get off the tour bus before it heads south to Egypt. Cool. I would like to hear from you; you are not alone.

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