May. 25, 2017
When sisters Kylie and Keaton Tyndall went to Cairo, Egypt, earlier this year to fulfill their internship requirement as intercultural studies majors, they knew it was going to be an adventure. But they had no idea that their time in the country would be cut short when, during this summer’s tumultuous protests, uprising and eventual ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, their sponsoring mission organization decided to evacuate them from the country.
Now back at home in the United States, Kylie agreed to share a bit about the siblings’ experiences in Egypt at a time of such unrest in the country.
What first brought you to Egypt? What sorts of things were you doing there?
The Lord most definitely brought me to Egypt. I was looking into various internships to fulfill my internship requirement and the Lord kept directing me to Egypt. I knew I wanted to serve in a place that was very unreached and so naturally, I was directed to the 10/40 window. I also have a huge heart for women’s ministry and found the idea of ministering to Muslim women a challenge and exciting opportunity. Egypt is also considered a gateway to most of the Middle East, so many missions organizations are focusing their efforts on mobilizing the Egyptian church to reach its neighboring countries. I loved the idea that I could serve both as one who is sent and as a mobilizer in one place!
My team served in various capacities. One of the main ways we desired to assist was to support the missionaries that we are already serving there. We were in contact with five families that were there and helped them in any way they needed — from childcare so they could have date nights to helping them move and cooking them dinner. We wanted to be a blessing and strived hard to always have servants hearts.
Additionally, we also collaborated with one of the missionary’s business. He runs a website that allows people questioning their faith to do it in a safe way. The website also enables them to set up a meeting with a Christian in their area over coffee (this relationship can turn into a discipleship relationship if they so desire). In order to keep running the website, they have an advertising platform, and we helped them create a website for a women’s clothing company in Egypt.
My favorite avenue that we served was teaching. Keaton and I taught a theology class at a Bible Institute for Sudanese refugees. They allowed us to teach an accredited class on the Old Testament and how it foreshadows the coming of Christ. Most of our students were ex-child soldiers who had the most amazing testimonies of how God brought them to have a knowledge of him. All of them were BMB’s (believers with a Muslim background) and were in Egypt to become pastors to bring the gospel back to their cities and villages. It was a humbling honor to teach our 11 students.
When did you know things were getting volatile in Egypt? Were you worried for your safety?
Our first day! We arrived late Friday night and woke up to a security-training seminar for all the missionaries in the area. We were invited to join and participate on what to do in a hostage situation, evacuation plans, and how to increase our security in technology (e-mails, Skype, phones, etc.). However, I don’t think it became a reality until the Friday before June 30, when our Egyptian friends all told us to go get extra supplies (canned food, water, money, etc.) because we may not be able to leave the house due to safety concerns. We were on house arrest for approximately one week — from June 28 until July 5 — the day we were evacuated. We would walk to our neighbor’s homes, but nothing beyond that and especially not at night. We did have one exception. On July 1 we ventured outside to ride a felucca on the Nile (a sailboat of sorts) with our host family. On our way back we were stopped by tanks and questioned and our car was checked for bombs. I think this was the first time when evacuation crossed my mind because tanks had settled less than a mile from our house.
I don’t think I was ever worried for my safety because the Lord provided such peace. I knew he would call us out when we needed to be called out. I also was with an incredible team who made the best of our house arrest situation. We prayed a lot, cooked and baked a lot, read books together, watched Star Wars to drown out the gunshots and laughed a lot. It was a unique opportunity of prayer and solitude and I will always treasure it.
How did the evacuation transpire? What events led to that?
We had to do a lot of waiting. The news reported that June 30 would be anything from a minor interruption of daily life to a massive civil war. Once the 30th passed, we knew we had to wait for President Morsi to make a statement or the military to take over in order to know more. When we knew the military was prepared to make a statement, we had to wait to hear what would transpire to see if the country was going to stabilize or the condition was going to worsen. We also followed the U.S. Embassy’s statements. But I think the biggest “event” was the alarming increase of violence against women (and being a team of five women and one man, this directly affected us). This violence led to Egypt being declared a state of emergency. Wednesday night we had a long discussion as a team with the host missionary family. We were told that the decision to stay or to go was ultimately in our own hands but later we were called at 2 a.m. that our missions organization had made the decision for us, and we were booked for a plane out early Friday morning.
What were your impressions of Egypt? Are there interactions, images or experiences that particularly impacted you?
What a beautiful country. There is an organized chaos that I will always miss. From the call to prayer, to the Metro, to the sook (think the farmer’s market), there is a pulsing rhythm that gives the noisy streets a liveliness that is simply delightful.
Egyptians are also extremely hospitable and I will never forget their willingness to let us practice Arabic and to hear their stories. Because of the recent chaos of their country, a lot of young people are questioning Islam. Because Morsi was a president running the country with Muslim beliefs (however extreme they may be), people are questioning their faith and their values. I think this is an exciting time for Christians in Egypt, because I know the Lord will be faithful in revealing himself to those who are seeking.
As far as memorable interactions, I left one of my best buddies behind. He is a 3-year-old little firecracker who loves pi-wates (pirates), showing me how he can do “fwips” off the couch, and thinks I am as beautiful as the poweece-men (clearly a high compliment). I had the joy of being his best “fwiend” for the summer and got the pleasure of carrying his sleeping frame up many flights of stairs as well as being puked on by him on one of our many chaotic Cairo-style car rides.
An interaction I will treasure forever was one of my students named Mohammed (name changed to protect his identity). He was a man in his late 20s who came from the Nuba mountains in Sudan. He received a vision from the Lord after asking God to reveal himself a couple years prior. The Lord told him if he wanted to know who he truly was, he was to meet a missionary in the neighboring village. Mohammed went to the neighboring village where the missionary gave him a Bible. That night Mohammed read the entire New Testament and knew that the Bible was the truth. Filled with the joy of the Lord, he went to his mother and told her what he had learned. Upon hearing Mohammed’s testimony, his mother began to sob and explained that when she was in labor, light filled the room and an angel told her that her son would show her the way to God. I was so moved by his testimony. He revealed this testimony when we finished covering Deuteronomy in one of the classes that Keaton and I were teaching. Mohammed concluded his testimony saying, in the same way God has been faithful by bringing your sister and you to Cairo to teach his word and more about him in this class. He continued to explain that he never understood the need for a Savior until he took this class. I was speechless. It is always incredible to see how the Lord uses us to reveal the truth of his gospel.
What are your plans now? Will you go back to Egypt?
My plans right now are to finish my last year at Biola! As far as Egypt, that country will always hold a piece of my heart and I would love to go back. We will have to see what the Lord has in store.
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