Wednesday, July 25, 2012

God opened a door of opportunity. By Anne Stevens

Anne Steven's is a teacher, a mother, a wife, a friend... the list goes on and on. She has inspired me from the moment I met her with consitant encouragement and smiles in passing. When thinking about who I wanted to write a guest blog for me Anne was one of my first contacts. She has had an amazing journey following God's path for her family. It encouraged me again to embrace the seasons and remember that Gods plan for our lives is so much greater than anything we could think of.

Anne thank you so much for taking the time for putting this together. I am incredibly thankful for mothers like you to set and example for us who are starting out or in the middle of it all. Blessings as you head into a brand new season as your oldest son gets married this SATURDAY!!! WOOHOOO!!!!! Sooo excited for your family!!!


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God opened a door of opportunity.
By Anne Stevens


In 1998 I was an independent and efficient stay-at-home, homeschooling Mom of 4 young children, ages 9, 7, 5 and 3.  Growing up, I had always dreamed of being a Mom, teacher and missionary (in that order of preference); 2 of those dreams had been realized and I was living a very fulfilled life.  I did not think I was looking for anything further, but God opened a door of opportunity that would change our lives.  A door of opportunity, yes … also, a door of change and challenge; a door that led to a life that seemed to strip me of my strong self confidence and sense of identity for a time. 



My husband, John, applied for a job with an Egyptian company for which he knew he was well qualified.  His initial thoughts were, “Maybe I’ll get an interview in Egypt!”  One thing led to another, and within 3 months he was offered a job in Alexandria, Egypt, and we had a decision to make.  We were actively involved in a vibrant and growing local church; our children had many friends; John and I each had a large extended family living close by (our children have 45 first cousins!); and, we loved our home in the country.  What began initially as curiosity continued to be fed by teaching we were receiving in church regarding business people having opportunities to evangelize in “closed” countries.  After much discussion, prayer, counsel and an exploratory visit to Alexandria, we felt that God was leading us to make this move.



Thus, February 1998 found us boarding a plane in Toronto, bound for Alexandria, via Frankfurt.  What an emotional rollercoaster to that point!  It was difficult to say good-bye.  I cried myself to sleep at night.  How do you begin to reduce all that you own and is precious to 12 suitcases?  Which items were needed? Which items were important?  Actually, there was not much room left for “important” items once we had packed clothing and personal belongings for each one of us.



The first feeling when we stepped into the airport terminal in Alexandria was one of absolute loss of control of our circumstances as we entered a foreign, 2nd-world, Muslim country.  Not only did we not speak the language, but how do you begin to read something that looks like this … ترحيب في الاسكندرية. أرجو منكم تدل على سيطرة ضابط الجوازات. 



In some ways life continued as usual – I schooled the kids and John went to work.  But many things also changed.  Our prayers took on deeper meaning.  Our church family at Alexandria Community Church (comprised of people from 13 different nations and many denominations) was of vital importance to us.  Attending church on Friday (in a Muslim country) was a refreshing break from the attention we attracted on our outings and the constant challenge of trying to communicate and be understood.  Our family, the 6 of us, became even closer than we had already been – 6 days a week with just each other for company.



Almost every day presented new adventures and challenges.  A drive to anywhere involved traffic jams – donkey carts spilling over with produce, trucks filled to overflowing with commuters, goods and camels; motorcycles with up to 6 passengers; so many people … galibayas and head coverings were the norm!  We took vacations that never would have otherwise been possible for our family.  The change in culture and language were difficult and tiring to contend with day after day; however, the greatest challenge came regarding our attitudes.  Would we be thankful, patient and kind?  Would we be quick to become annoyed?  Would we allow ourselves to feel that our rights were being violated?  Would we expect the Egyptians to understand our ways, or would we try to understand their ways?  Would we represent Christ well?  (Not until some of the local people told us, “Now we know what a real Christian is” did we realize how important this was.)



Those who are acquainted with me know that I have an endless number of stories and life lessons to share.  But, I will try to be concise:



-          God is faithful; He provided far more than I ever thought to ask or think

-          being connected to a body of believers is of vital importance

-          we can live with far less than we think (and still be living better than 90% of the world’s population)

-          having a family does not nullify all opportunities for overseas work

-          fear is not from God (besides, my pragmatic Dutch side also says that if 90 million people live in Egypt, how could I think that I would not be able to?!)

-          I try not to ever say, “I need (this or that) …” - the life I lead here in Canada leaves no “needs” in my life



We were in Egypt for almost 3 years, and the adjustment back was more difficult than our departure.  It has been almost 12 years since we came “home”.  Friendships with some from around the world have remained strong.  The impact on our thinking and world view is lasting; it affects how we raised our children and how I teach my students.  There were impressions and life lessons that we hoped we would never forget; they do not remain as strong as at the first, but of these things we remind each other often.




6 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing Anne. I like the part about not really "needing" anything in this country. It really struck me how true that is and how blessed we are. I will try to replace "need" with "I would like" or " I would care for ...." It's certainly an attitude renovation!

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  2. Beautiful Anne!! Enjoy this upcoming weekend because trust me it flies by!!!

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  3. Thanks, Anne - it was so wonderful to read this. We are so grateful to have been a small part of your life during that time and to have formed a friendship that will last forever! We are praying for all of you this week! Love you!!

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  4. I will always remember how loving and gracious your children are ....you raised them well:)

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  5. Wow!! Anne, you did an amazing job of distilling those amazing life experiences into such a concise summary!!! Let me say again that we are so thankful that you and John were faithful to God's call, because our involvement with your family, in turn, influenced the direction of our lives - all by God's grace. :) Many blessings always, and enjoy becoming a mother-in-law this weekend. We're so happy for you. Welcome to a new season of life!

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  6. Thank you very much Ann for sharing this touching testimony of your life in Egypt. I still remember our lovely days and fellowship at Alexandria Community Church. I still remember your delightful, joyful spirit. You, too, were one of the first people to inspire me to Homeschool my kids. Being an Egyptian Christian who lives now in the western world, in Australia, I fully understand all the sacrifices you and your family had to make to go and live in Egypt, then. I would like to encourage you that you and your family had a great impact on our lives. Also, I want to encourage you that your prayers for Egypt and the Egyptian people were not in vain. If the Egyptians needed your prayers then, surely, they need them more now. We miss you and all your family. God bless

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