Today’s guest post comes from Simon Fahmy, a fellow who attended The 21 in June of 2022. We asked Simon to write about his time in Egypt and share the parts of his experience that stood out the most to him. In today’s post, Simon shares a lesson on the importance and joy of gratitude revealed to him during The 21.
I must preface by stating that this trip changed my life. Spending time with the kids and teaching (or at least trying to) them English has taught me a plethora of virtues. Although these fatherless youth have dealt with unspeakable trauma, their smiles always stretched from ear to ear. They are so incredibly resilient despite the daily struggles and poverty, and they have taught me to thank God for everything, allowing the joy of gratitude to overcome any hardship. Yet very often these kids challenged my patience and would yell and scream in my face, but I thank God for the opportunity to practice patience. I also could not help but revere the faith that the families had, and their commitment to the Coptic faith. Every moment of free time was spent in the church either in hymns, Bible study, or fellowship for kids and parents alike. Even the youngest of kids knew many hymns and Bible verses by heart, since their life rotated around their home, the Church. I was placed in a village in Minya called Barsha, and I felt surrounded and supported by the love and hospitality of its people. Although I went to Egypt to give to the poor, I quickly learned that I traveled to heaven and was greeted by the saints of Barsha.
Aside from the saints, I want to thank Coptic Orphans for facilitating and organizing many experiences with martyrs and ancient Coptic history. I felt so proud and so thankful when we greeted the families of the 21 Martyrs of Libya, knowing that there are people in my modern Church who are still willing to give up their lives for God. Hearing the stories of the Botroseya church bombing also made martyrdom very real, allowing me to finally comprehend the extent to which the martyrs loved God. His love and mercy are so great that I have the opportunity to call martyrs and saints my siblings in Christ. How amazing is it to be able to call myself a member of the Coptic Orthodox Church! No amount of prayer and thanks can express my gratitude towards God for allowing me to encounter the real and faithful Coptic people, and to share in our Church’s unity and ancient history. What a gift it is to be able to pray the exact same liturgy with people from the other side of the world, knowing that the saints from centuries ago prayed and are praying that exact same liturgy with me. May God bless and protect the Coptic Church, and may he continue to guide the services of Coptic Orphans.