Reflections on Egypt December ’12 trip

Dear Friends and Supporters,

With some time post the Christmas celebrations, as promised I write a short report on the recent Micah68 trip to Egypt, taken with Laura Smyth. In many ways I am still recovering from this trip, now 10 days since we returned. It certainly was stretching on the emotions!

It was great to return to Alexandria, and to Fairhaven, where I last visited in February ’12 to present the 2011 monies which Micah68 Supporters had raised for the Greenhouse project. In 2012 the target was £1,000 for the Gym project. It was good to be able to hand over the achieved target, and hear about the Gym re-opening day which had been a great success, with the new Micah68 gym equipment in use. Even better was to be able to report that through the gift of Laura and Alastair’s wedding day, we had been able to actually achieve £3,000 as a gift, which Mrs Linda (Headteacher) was very excited about! The extra money is to be put against a new building – a sales outlet for the items that the young people make in the vocational centre. Whilst we were there, bricks arrived, and the building recommenced.

Whilst in Alexandria, we also spent sometime with our friend Sherin, who makes great handmade jewellery (lots of which I now have for sale!). It is good to be able to support her and her lovely family, who invited us to their house for a meal. We responded by taking her out for coffee and tuna pasta on the promenade!

Time was too short in Alexandria, but we had to return to Cairo to meet up with friends at the Cathedral, to share in Helbees birthday (now a ritual of mine), and to visit the 2nd project – the Kanater Prison. This was an important, but sobering day visit. In the morning a minibus met us, 2 pastors and a few other guests at the Cathedral, and we then headed off to the prison – approx 1 hour away. On the way we dropped into a small supermarket to buy food for the prisoners, and loaded up some bags of rice, oil, salt, cheese. Prisoners have to supplement the poor prison food with their own food, which they can buy at the ‘tuck shop’. This is expensive, but also impossible if you have no family in the country, and are a refugee or prisoner from outside Egypt. Through the various checks, we eventaully met 4 prisoners for an hour in an open room – a Nigerian, Sudanese and 2 Russians. It was challenging to hear their stories, and of the living conditions in the prison (16-17 men to a room, no real bedding, no privacy). But also inspiring to hear the testimony of one prisoner who had been in the prison for 14 years for drug smuggling, but 10 years ago had come to Christ. He does not believe that he will ever leave the prison, but talked about the freedom he had found. Stepping back outside the prison to my ‘freedom’ felt strange, but I am so glad to have adopted this project, and for Micah68 Supporters to have raised £1,000 towards this work.

The prison visit really moved me, as the trip to the Fairhaven school had affected Laura especially. But I guess what really felt exhausting, and so became I believe the core reason for me being in Egypt this December, was the political backdrop and the growing violence in the country. Everyone we spoke to was concerned for their country, and Christians especially concerned about the hold that militant Islam was beginning to exercise through the influence of The Brotherhood and President Morsi. Since I have returned the 2 days of voting on the Constitution have seen a ‘Yes’ vote for some radical changes to life in Egypt. The future looks more unstable than ever, and many are talking about a deeply divided country and a future civil war. Day after day this was being discussed, and was constantly on the news. During our time there 7 people died in Tahrir Square, and 150 injured on one of the nights of violence between pro and anti Morsi supporters. It was awful to think this was happening less than 2 miles away. Even though I have travelled the Middle East for 15 years, and seen much of the Israel / Palestine tragedy first hand, I don’t think I have ever felt so concerned for a country, a people and my friends there. It certainly led me to prayer whilst with those Egyptian friends.

Of course these are only the headlines. Much else happened on a daily basis, and I had the privilege of many conversations and opportunities for witness and prayer. I now begin the process of planning my next trip to Jordan in March, and of course updating the website with the 2013 project targets. Much to do, and the work is so important. As always thanks for your support, thoughts, prayers and gifts. Please consider ways of further giving if you are able – see my last message about the drive for more standing orders in 2013. This would really help release the Micah68 work.

God Bless, and thanks for reading! Ian

Egypt itinerary

Hi Supporters

This just gives you a little bit more information about my next Micah68 trip, this time to Egypt. I will be travelling with Laura Smyth, who will be the first of the Micah Supporters to have travelled with me on a trip – she has been on mission with me before in Highway Projects days, and so will be visiting some old friends when we go up to Alexandria.

Travelling from Birmingham late afternoon next Tuesday (4th), we arrive at some ridiculous time in the dead of night in Cairo. But no problems, as we will be greeted by friends from my agency over there – and anyway, Cairo never sleeps. I hope to for at least a few hours once arriving at the Cathedral Guesthouse in Zamalek, Cairo.

Later that day (ugh!) we are heading by train to Alexandria – to spend a few days visiting the Micah68 Fairhaven project (see project details under Egypt tab), and staying in the school with the residents. Laura will be handing over a significant gift to the Alexandria Fairhaven gym project, which was gathered as part of her wedding celebrations with Alastair this, and Micah68 is topping up the amount. More of this later! We also hope to spend time with Sherin Boulos and her family. I personally support Sherin in her jewellry business.

We return to Cairo to spend time with friends at the Cathedral, and visit the 2nd Micah68 project – Kanater Prison. I am sure this will be a challenging day for us both. I also hope to visit friends in Rubbish City, Cairo during my time – a hugely sobering place to go, which puts most of our daily life in context. I also do some personal support of the Sudanese Refugee project that the Anglican Cathedral host on their site, and I guess I will be coming back with more goods to support their work. 

In between these appointments is free time. Who knows what will happen, and who we will meet? I just pray that I will be open to God’s Spirit as he guides me. Also that we will be protected at a volatile time in the country. 

As always donations for any of the Micah Projects in Israel/Palestine, Jordan or Egypt are very welcome. Maybe you would want to make a special one-off Christmas gift? I am really grateful to those of you who have taken out standing orders to support me personally in this work. Currently this is raising £1,500 per year, which is brilliant. In 2013 I am targetting doubling that SO income, which would really help in covering the costs of 3 trips a year, publicity & promotion, general admin, UK travel etc. Would you consider taking out a monthly standing order? I know things are tight generally, but consistent money would really help us to plan ahead with the organisation.

If you want to drop in on the Egypt journey, I will be blogging the trip every 2-3 days whilst over there (, and updating the FB page Micah68. Please ‘like’, respond, support, etc. as you want and are able. 

Could I ask you especially to think of us, and pray for this mission trip? 24 hours after booking the flights and accommodation things over there got rather volatile, with clashes in the streets of both Cairo and Alexandria following some unhelpful pronouncements by President Morsi in relation to his role and authority. The situation is getting rather worse, with huge crowds in Tahrir Square, and rioting in Alexandria. Yesterday Laura and I heard the news that the Fairhaven school was going to stay closed today (Saturday). Let’s hope it can re-open later this week. We are really praying that we can get to Alexandria midweek, and spend time in the school with friends there – especially as this is the focus of Laura’s trip.

So, an interesting time to be going to both cities….but even more necessary I believe to show support at these times. Many thanks for your thoughts and prayers.  God Bless, Ian

Micah News – Israel/Palestine & Jordan – the July 2012 trip

Although some time back now, the Micah68 July trip was another excellent and encouraging mission trip. I left for the region rather wiped out from a hard year of work at Cliff, and so not in the best of shape, needing a rest to be honest. But at least I was heading for sunshine!

Days in Jerusalem allowed me some space to reorientate, and visit friends across the Old City from old Highway Projects days. It was great to visit the Micah Project at The Princess Basma Centre, and talk with Betty Majaj (now only a few months away from retirement) about the new developments there. I was able to assure her that the Micah target of £1,000 for musical equipment was going to be achieved by the efforts of a Micah Supporter from Sheffield, Ruth Mason, who was swimming a mile for her centre. I was able to see the new sensory room – which even I found fun and had a play in (see touchy feely wall!).

A day in Bethelehem gave me time to catch up with Suzan and Lana at the Micah Project of Bethelehem Fair Trade Artisans. Again all very challenging to see the security wall surrounding Bethelehem, and realise the social and economic restrictions that this brings on ordinary life there.

The usual God moments and conversations happened during the whole trip. It really is amazing what happens when you are open to God’s leading, and allow conversations to happen. Dancing with Jewish men at the Wesdtern Wall, have a few meals with Muslim friends, and then meeting some pilgrims whilst staying in Ecce Homo in the Old City. Great. I really love this part of the Micah68 ministry and mission – a good opportunity to share something of the joy of the Christian life.

Heading north I met up with Rev Fuad, and the Micah Project work at St. Paul’s Sheferam. He really is one of the most positive priests I have ever worked with – and he was planning his summer camps as I was there. Again I was able to tell him that my own church (Greenhill Methodist) had made a £500.00 donation to his youth work. Great ice-cream was eaten! Staying with the wonderful Mazzawi family in Nazareth was a privilege before I headed across the border (thank you Israeli security for nothing) to Jordan, and to view the new work being built to support those with disabilities in Kremieh, as well as visit old friends in Jofeh – one of the Micah Projects. A highlight has got to be the Mansaf meal served by my favourite ladies – Amal & Wa’ed.

A day off in Amman, relaxing at a modern souk, and then back across the border to Israel, where I headed for Ibillin, and to stay witrh my old friend Sohil Haj and his family. This time I took part in the cooking, and wasn’t just served it! really good to be with them, and meet up with many of the young people who I worked with nearly 15 years ago on the village summer camp. Blimey – how they have grown up! 

So, there we are in summary. 17 day trip and far too much to write, and too many meetings and conversations to write up. I guess there were three things I learnt as a result of the trip, aside from meeting all these great people across the region.

1. It was interesting to be able to record some of my thinking via the Micah Blog ( on this trip for the first time. I hadn’t blogged before – and I won’t be making it a daily habit – but it really helped me to reflect on what was happening around me, and look at both the sublime and the ridiculous. It also gave me a better connection with folks back home in the UK, which I recognise I really needed during a solo trip. I’ll do more of that in the future. Look out for the Blog.

2. Another thing about the July trip was the realisation that after four Micah68 trips on my own, I am looking forward to travelling with others in the future, and so the next stage is to really develop the Micah Advocates idea – and get people travelling with me across the region. What about coming out with me?

3. Travelling for 17 days on your own, and trying to cover Israel, Palestine and Jordan all at once was too much. Rather than two longer trips each year, I will look to take three shorter trips to Egypt (Winter – 8 days), Jordan (Spring – 6 days) ,and Israel/Palestine (Summer – 12 days). This will make it easier for me, and also for future Micah Advocates.

As always, I value all your love, prayer and support, wherever you are across the globe. May God bless you, as you support me and the work of Micah68. Love & God Bless, Ian

Micah News in brand new format!

Welcome to Micah News – now in a brand new format for you very special Micah Supporters. Rather than emailing information and newsletters, which may have some upload problems, I will now be directing you to here – the Supporters portal, which is a secret part of the Micah68 website (thanks to Pete Everitt’s clever work!). I’ll be sharing news about key fundraising, when my Micah trips to the Middle East are taking place – and also posting up reports and pictures of meetings with partners across the region.

On the sidebar (over there on the right underneath the stuff about me) you will be able to look back through the Micah News Archive, as well download Fundraising ideas, the Standing Order, and also open up the Micah Prayer should you need some pointers.

Lastly, whilst you are on the website, do check out my latest Middle East musings on the Blog page, or just pause to look through the Gallery, and be inspired by people and places that you are supporting through your thoughts, prayers and gifts.

With much love and thanks as always. Ian