‘You’ll Feel Yourself Being Molded by God’s Hands’ — Crestin Andrews Unveils New Serve to Learn Medical Initiative

IMG_3977
Building relationships with the kids in Serve to Learn, “Your heart will be flooded with a joy it has never known before”.

Dear Friend,

If you’ve never read one of our guest blog posts before, I urge you to read this one. A few months ago, one of our returning Serve to Learn volunteers from Indianapolis, Crestin Andrews, came to talk to me. She wanted to use her passion for science and medicine to serve Egypt’s kids —and what came out of that conversation may change lives in Egypt for the better. I’ll let Crestin explain the initiative that now involves the creativity of many people and our valued partner, CMANA, and how she came to want to give everything she has to serve the people of Egypt.

—Nermien

After my Serve to Learn experience last summer in Mattay, I didn’t want to come back.

I stayed up many sleepless nights on the balcony of the apartment we called home, gazing out at the hidden beauty I couldn’t bear to leave. God Bless my incredible teammates for their patience in consoling me. We would make tea and sit around talking and joking until the tears of sadness quickly turned into tears of laughter. At one point, I came awfully close to canceling my plane ticket back.

My family and friends all thought I was nuts. “It’s just because it was a new experience for you,” they would tell me. But they didn’t understand. They didn’t understand what had captivated me about the shy smiles and curious eyes of the people I met in Mattay. And I don’t blame them, because I could hardly explain it myself.

It took me a long time to make sense of it all after returning. I felt like I had discovered an entirely new part of myself and was so afraid it would die out with the monotonous routine of my selfish everyday life. I had discovered a passion for service that I never knew existed within me. I mean REAL service. Anyone can say they love service, but the true test is what you are willing to sacrifice for it. When you leave behind all luxuries and commodities, drop yourself in an unfamiliar place outside of your comfort zone, and spend your every waking breath working to enrich someone else’s life for such a period of time, it changes you. The real challenge is how to hold onto it.

I wanted to find a way to merge this newfound love of service with my lifelong commitment to science and medicine. A friend and I were talking, when by chance he mentioned CMANA, the Coptic Medical Association of North America. I learned that CMANA organizes many medical mission trips and provides opportunities for health professionals to use their expertise in service overseas.

Soon after, another friend expressed interest in talking to Coptic Orphans about starting an initiative to educate children about basic health topics. Naturally, the partnership of CMANA’s health expertise and Coptic Orphans’ focus on education seemed like a match made in heaven.

And so was planted the seed of the upcoming June 18-July 9 Serve to Learn: Medical Education initiative. Our vision is simple. It’s essentially the same as the established Serve to Learn trip, which for over a decade has brought volunteers to Egypt from all over the globe. At several sites in villages along the Nile, these volunteers spend three weeks hosted by the local bishop, teaching Coptic kids basic English skills and a lifelong love of learning through fun activities.

For the new initiative, instead of teaching basic English skills, volunteers at this year’s special site for medical education will be providing instruction in basic health topics such as nutrition and hygiene. This targeted education can potentially have an immeasurable positive impact on the children’s lives, because poverty is on the rise in Egypt, pushing health awareness to an all-time low.

I strongly encourage anyone with an interest in medical education to consider this trip and help pioneer this new initiative! Applications are available here; they’re due by March 15 (April 1 to take part in the regular English-teaching trip)!

Going into this trip, your primary goal will be to give — give your time, give your knowledge, and give your energy. But what you will end up taking home is more than you could ever provide. You won’t be able to explain it, as words will surely fall short when you try. You’ll feel yourself being molded by God’s hands, which are so clearly evident in these people’s lives. Your heart will be flooded with a joy it has never known before, and you will begin the lifelong process of uncovering the heart of service God has placed in you.

You will become part of a group strengthened by camaraderie, and part of an even larger community of people who will inspire you with their extraordinary dedication to their service. Your teammates will undoubtedly become your family. Turns out that laughing at each other’s broken Arabic for three weeks makes for some pretty strong bonding.

And I promise you that when you sip from your cup of tea every morning at home, you’ll be transported back to those special times as if you were still there, discovering the depth of God’s miraculous creations.

Slots for this trip are limited, and the deadlines are fast approaching, so apply today! Applications are available here; they’re due by March 15 (April 1 to take part in the regular English-teaching trip)!

Interested in learning more about Serve to Learn? Check out our page and our new video, which gives a snapshot of the program! Any questions you’d like to ask a real human being? Call or email Mira Fouad, who runs Serve to Learn, at 703-641-8910 or at mfouad@copticorphans.org

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.