Previous month:
October 2011
Next month:
December 2011

Posts from November 2011

PassionFest 2012 in New Zealand

Last summer we were at Parachute Festival as well as PassionFest. But this summer our family will only be at PassionFest who have asked me to teach a workshop. I offered to speak at Parachute but they already have their speakers this year and don't need me. [sob sob]

They are very different festivals, as far as Christian festivals in NZ are concerned. Parachute is much larger, better known among the mainstream Christian crowd, and offers a larger program of music. I was impressed to see the PM John Key speaking last year.

PassionFest is much smaller, more intimate, fringier, a little rough around the edges and it attracts a different group of people - artists, justice lovers, "emerging church" types, monastics, those serving God among the poor. It takes place on one of my favourite contemporary monasteries.


So, people, and blog readers, this summer we can hook up at PassionFest, Feb 24-26. Bring a tent and sleeping bag. Should be fun and the barn dance is legendary. My favourite part is the hangi, a Maori feast cooked in the ground.

You will also hear my friend Sam Chapman, Christian Maori leader and New Zealander of the year, who I met in South Africa last year at Lausanne and have quoted before here on tallskinnykiwi. And if you are up for it, I will be teaching a workshop on something. Not sure what just yet. Last year I think I taught "Blogging for Activists"

{added: I will NOT be teaching a workshop at PassionFest this year because I might be in Turkey}

PassionFest describes itself as

"A celebration of Hope and Justice. Workshops music and community in a festival atmoshphere.  Three days of talk, laughter, crafts, sport and food. . . .Expect to be inspired, nourished, and entertained through speakers, workshops, music, drumming circles, fire performance, art space, spoken word, hangi, and much much more."

Related: A few months ago I spoke 3 times at Cornerstone Festival in USA including a mind-altering talk on blogging, nomadic, couch surfing apostles. I might do something similar if there is interest.

Festival talk cornerstone bloggers

Video of Egypt's All Night Prayer Gathering

I was one of the only foreigners at this month's historic all night prayer gathering in Cario's cave church complex. Heres some shaky video that I took. There is some English translation in real time, thanks to my friend Samy who accompanied us. Sound is not great. Just listen harder. I should mention that this is filmed inside one of 7 cave cathedrals and does not show the overflow crowds outside.

In the video you will see prayer for repentance, communal prayer, singing and some serious flag waving. Enjoy. For a better video, go here.

Poor and Poorer

Our time in Cairo has given me a new perspective on poverty.

There are people who are poor. Some people are even poorer. And then there are the poor that are absolutely destitute, robbed of everything and broken almost irreparably in every way.

- We visited 2 garbage cities in Cairo, one with 30,000 inhabitants and the other with 20,000. They recycle rubbish in their little brick shanty apartments for a living. But at least they had work.

Poverty housing

- We drove by the city of the dead, a large community of people who live among the tombs in Cairo's cemetery. These people are poor.

- We had tea with a guy who runs soccer camps for Cairo's streets kids. He told us the kids, some of them as young as 7 years old, have all been abused, beaten, raped. And there are thousands of them.

- Another community we visited was a city of criminals and outcasts,  many running from the law, indebted, unemployable, living in hiding.

But then we met a young guy who goes out to the desert each week, an hour and a half from Cairo, to a community of kids who were rescued from the streets. They are the worst case scenarios. Many were kidnapped as babies and had their bones broken and reset badly to assist them in begging for money. Their arms are lumpy. They limp. They are poor beyond description. Some of our team went out to visit them. They told me the kids were like "scared rabbits." They couldn't bring themselves to take any photos. I dont think I would have either.

And yet in all of these communities are people who have found deep and lasting joy in connecting with their Creator. They are happy. They have riches that are spiritual, and lasting, riches that nobody can take away.

The Skinny on Egypt's Prayer Gathering

"I saw signs of the beginning of revival that I have never seen before!" an Egyptian evangelical leader told us yesterday.

On 11.11.11, Egypt had a historic prayer meeting that we attended. It was amazing and we were so privileged to be there. Egyptian leaders are telling us there has been a significant spiritual "shift" in their country and we are trying to make sense of it all.

Egypt prayer 11 11 11

Here's the skinny:

- 71,000 attended the all-night prayer meeting in Cario.

- It was the largest Christian event in Egypt for over a thousand years

- It was held at the cave church on Cairo's largest garbage city, Mokattam. This church is called St Simeon the Tanner Coptic Orthodox Church.

- The gospel was proclaimed during the Prayer event and some people responded to the challenge call to follow Jesus.

- Prayers for healing were made at midnight and some people were healed of physical problems.

- Since the event, one Egyptian Christian leader told us "The heavens are clean! It is easy to pray!" He calls it the beginning of revival.

- Up to a month ago, there was absolutely no promotion for this event. No flyers. In fact, the organizer was still undecided on whether to host it on Friday or Saturday.

- It was an Egyptian event. Buses took people to this event from all over Egypt. Our small group of foreigners were the only foreigners were saw, except for one Welsh girl who recognized me. [That was strange]

- In September 2009, a prayer meeting was held in Egypt where the leaders, including the main organizer of this event, heard God say that President Mubarak would receive "no grace" in 2011. They also heard God tell them that there would be bloodshed, persecution and the burning of churches. But if God's people would come, and hear His voice, and repent, then He would hear their prayers.

Continue reading "The Skinny on Egypt's Prayer Gathering" »

King Tut and his ear plugs

I took my daughters to the Cairo Museum where King Tut's treasures lay on the upper floor. And they made an historic discovery of Indiana Jones proportion:

King tut ear plug

They noticed that King Tut's mask had large holes in his ear lobes and pictures of him confirmed that he did indeed have stretched holes that were worthy of plugs.

The next leg of our excavation was to discover where his ear plugs were hidden. Unlike Indie, we did not have to dig through sand and avoid Nazis in our excavation. We simply walked over to the jewelry display and searched until we found some large, round pieces of jewelry that looked the same width as the holes in his ears.

Which we did. Large round blue earrings with a slight opening, just enough gap to slip over an earlobe.

Obviously we will need to confirm our findings with Egypt's best archeologists. But in the meantime, we are feeling pretty good about our discovery. Initial consultations lead me to believe that young Egyptian boys had earrings but not when they were older. This makes sense because young Tutankhamen died quite young, as a result of malaria, in fact. According to my Egyptologist friend Ibrahim.

My 16 year old daughter has much larger holes in her lobes than King Tut and the plugs are proportionately bigger. In fact they are bigger than my plug which is not small.

A few years ago, when she asked if she could have her nose pierced, I responded with a challenge:

"Tell me the first girl in the BIble with a nose piercing and you can do it."

Less than an hour later she returned with the answer: Rebecca, Genesis 24.

Another passage in the Bible mentions nose piercing when God tells his people how he made them beautiful in his eyes:

"I also put a ring in your nostril, earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head." Ezekiel 16:12

Related: Our Tribal Piercing Ceremony at the Stone Circle, Orkney Islands.

And if this post interests you, you might want to explore whether the Wise Men [Magi] of Christmas fame actually wore mullets or not.

I tell you a story about Egypt

Some stories go viral because they somehow capture the heart of whats going on. This one has been told to me here in Egypt a few times now, by different people. I ask about the revolution and what God might be doing. They reply . .

"I tell you a story."

And tears well up in their eyes and they choke their way through this story. Here's the story.

On January 5, 2011, a woman runs into a church and prays loudly, disturbing all the Orthodox Christians. She falls on the floor and shouts out,

"God I have prayed to you and you have not heard me. But now I pray to you, Jesus. Save my son."

The church responded by calling security. They thought she might have a bomb. The police arrive and take her away for questioning. She tells the police her son, Mohammed, was innocent of a drugs charge but sent to jail. For 25 years he has been in prison. Her prayers for his release have gone unanswered. Now she wants to ask Jesus.

So they let her go. A few weeks later, on January 28th, she has a dream. She sees Jesus standing there saying, "Here is your son!"

Then she wakes up and her son walks in to her room. It's really him. The revolution has broken out and the prison was burned, the prisoners walked out and so he came home. The mother is so overjoyed she goes to where the revolution is taking place and joins the "mosh", shouting to everyone, "Jesus is God! Jesus is God!"

As for her son's court case to determine if he should return to jail or not, well . .  the court burned down and all the papers were destroyed. There is no record of her son. He is free. He is free indeed.

A school in the garbage city.

Cairo, Egypt. We went over to Ezbet El Nakhl, the second largest garbage city in Cairo, with 20,000 people who live there. It's smaller than the main one but the needs are just as great. Perhaps greater.

Garbage city

There is a great ministry at this garbage city with a school for kids. The Mahaba (Agape) School has has shifts during the day and evening so about 2,600 students are learning to read and write. I visited the school with two of my daughters and some friends.

Classroom and abi

Of course Mahaba can't accept all the students which is really sad. It's weird how we in the West complain about going to school and here the kids cry when they cannot attend. It's their only chance at a normal life. Students come to school for free but there is a need for sponsorship - about US$330 a year covers tuition for one student.


We also visited a class of older girls who are learning skills in sewing and crafts. Many of them never went to school and cannot read or write. I think my daughters were realizing what a privileged life they have enjoyed.

This ministry, called The Daughters of St Mary Convent, also runs the Salam Hospital which treats over 200 patients a day. Dr Adel showed us around the various operating rooms. But the greatest need, says Dr Adel and Sister Maria [below], is a new school.

Cairo ministry

Enjoying Egypt

I am still in Egypt. Having a great time. Yesterday our group went out to see the pyramids and ride a camel into the Sahara. I don't usually do the tourist thing but this one made sense. The pyramids are fantastic.

Camel sahara

Here's our tour group on camels.


As for tourism in Egypt, now is a great time to come. The tourism industry is down 90% at the moment, mainly because of the revolution, which means there is plenty of space and it's not as crowded. And its pretty safe, as long as you keep away from the main square on Fridays.

We had a fantastic tour of both the pyramids and the Cairo museum by Ibrahmim Morgan, an egyptologist and historian.

Ibrahim tourist guide cairo egyptologist

This is Ibrahim getting passionate about the stone blocks that were put there approximately 4,700 years ago. Ibrahim can be contacted for tours, airport pick-ups etc,. email him at: morgan_eg at yahoo dot com He speaks English and German very well. I highly recommend him.

Largest Christian Gathering in Egypt in a Thousand Years

A thousand years is a long time. As far as we can tell, the prayer meeting last night that I attended in the cave church of St Simon, which they said had 70,000 [update: official count was 71,000] by the time I was leaving, was by far the largest Christian gathering in Egypt in over a thousand years.

Day of prayer egypt 11 11 11

This photo is taken in the overflow area outside the cave church. Photo by Wolfgang.

Another interesting observation: Apart from our group of friends that attended, I only saw one other foreigner there, a girl who walks up and asks me if I am TallSkinnyKiwi. Which I was. Small world.

Prayer egypt day

Photo of main sanctuary found here.

Coptic Cross Tattoo

My Coptic cross tattoo was quite a spontaneous decision, a spur of the moment thing, but it made sense.

Tattoo coptic cario

The Coptic cross, tattooed on the right wrist, is an ancient tradition here in Egypt. The first and only question the tattoo artist asked us was "Are you are Christian?" The cross tattoo is not a decorative fashion statement, its a sign of commitment to God.

"To these Copts of both the past and present, cross tattoos have not been a sign of teenage rebellion or fashion forwardness. Instead, they have been enduring reminders of their Christian faith—showing the Copts' dedication to the One who bore the everlasting scars of mercy, grace, and truth." Jennifer Johnson, Tattoos of the Cross

OK . . .   it's also pretty cool. And Wolf was getting one so I didn't want to be the wimp. So we both jumped into the tattoo booth that is located at the Cave Church and got it done. Now we have something else in common with Coptic Christians everywhere.

.Coptic cross tattoo