Do You Know About This Tremendous Opportunity?

Service trips to Egypt like Serve to Learn connect young people to their Coptic roots through personal experiences.
Service trips connect young people to their Coptic roots through personal experiences.

I’m writing because at this moment, a huge opportunity lies before the Coptic community — one that each of us can have a role in seizing.

What, exactly, is this opportunity? Service trips to Egypt. They’re one of the most positive experiences the Coptic community can offer young people, and they represent a powerful means of connecting our families with the Church and Coptic traditions.

We know that some 530,000 Copts are living in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. With natural growth, as well as geopolitical and social events that have increased pressure on Copts in Egypt, this number is growing.

With all that change, many of us are grappling with this issue: First-generation Coptic immigrants are much more likely to maintain their affinity and connections to Egypt, yet the same cannot be said for their children and grandchildren.

Let’s face it: For many young people, their new country begins to take on a greater influence in their formation. As a consequence, their commitment to their local congregation and the Church in Egypt may be weakened. This could mean that their support to the homeland may be reduced significantly.

That’s ironic, because at this very moment,  more skills and talents are developing both in Egypt and abroad. The potential benefits of sharing these abilities make it in all of our interests to strengthen ties of mutual support that will improve the lives of Copts, bolster the Church, and benefit all Egyptians.

With so much at stake, how do we ensure that young diaspora Copts’ roots become stronger, tying more young people even more tightly to the Church and Egypt?

Here’s how I see it. Organizing trips for young diaspora Copts to serve in Egypt has proved hugely beneficial in terms of connecting them to the Church, Egypt, and the Coptic community. Such trips allow them to experience life in Egypt, learn about Egyptian culture, understand the roots of their faith, and gain new respect and appreciation for the sacrifices being made by our brothers and sisters in Egypt.

A related opportunity exists: promoting June 1 as a special cause for yearly celebration in the diaspora community, so that young people understand the rich significance, for Christians, of walking in the Holy Family’s footprints. This annual commemoration offers potentially powerful parallels between our Savior’s life and the life choices of each young person in the Church. Through June 1, the appeal to “come serve in Egypt” can become particularly resonant and connected to Jesus Christ’s own experiences.

In fact, the movement of young Copts serving in Egypt is gathering speed. If you spend any time on this blog, you’re probably familiar with Coptic Orphans’ Serve to Learn program.

Through Serve to Learn, to date, 188 volunteers have traveled to Egypt, conducting activities in English with more than 5,800 Egyptian children and visiting their families. This year’s team was even blessed to meet with His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, and to receive a spiritual orientation from Abouna Dawood Lamey. The volunteers report that the trips have ignited their love for Egypt, stirred their spirit of service, and deepened their dedication to their cultural roots.

So a huge opportunity awaits us in the form of service trips to Egypt. Are we going to seize it with both hands?

Here’s how we’re trying to do our part, here at Coptic Orphans. In 2015, we’re expanding Serve to Learn to two sessions, one Jan. 16-Feb. 7, and one July 3-25. If you’re interested in learning more, please write info@copticorphans.org or visit the Serve to Learn page for details.

Thanks for taking the time to read. I hope you and your family will be part of this growing movement. It’s an opportunity that’s too great to let slip by!

PS By the grace of God, we’re celebrating our 25th anniversary with the honored presence of His Holiness Pope Tawadros II! We’re also growing and hiring — please share our job postings with all the skilled, passionate professionals you know! 

About Nermien Riad

Nermien Riad founded Coptic Orphans in 1988 after volunteering for an orphanage in Cairo. When she saw that most of the children had living widowed mothers who simply couldn't afford to feed them, she gathered family and friends to sponsor children in Egypt. Today Coptic Orphans works through a network of 400+ church-based volunteers in Egypt, who visit fatherless families in their homes and make sure they get everything they need to unlock their full potential. That way, they don't have to get married off as child brides, work as 10-year old family breadwinners, or go to live at an institutional orphanage.