Keep your brain active as you grow older: a piece of advice I got from my father many years ago.
Today, as I grow older, I try to do one puzzle and one Sudoku every day. It is both relaxing and fun for me.
Hence, when I decided to fast with millions of Coptic Christians on 10, 11 and 12 February, I fasted from food until lunchtime, from coffee (hard), puzzle (harder) and Sudoku (hardest 🙂
Millions of Coptic Orthodox Christians fast every year two weeks before the Lent Fast (55 days), which precedes Easter. This fast is called Jonah’s Fast or the Nineveh fast.
It commemorates the three days that the people of Nineveh fasted in repentance after Jonah’s call. For Coptic Christians, these three days are a direct parallel of and a prophecy about the three days that Christ spent in the tomb, just like the three days Jonah spent in the belly of the fish. The fast of Nineveh always begins on a Monday, two weeks before the Monday, that marks the beginning of the Easter fast.
“But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet: for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall stand up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, a greater than Jonah is here.” Matthew 12:39-41
This fast is a reminder to the whole church that as we step into Easter, we need to repent collectively as a church.
Unlike the West, celebrations for Easter in the Middle East are tenfold the celebrations for Christmas. All through the Middle East, Christmas is called the Small Feast, and Easter, the Big Feast.
I fasted those three days because I ached to be completely concentrated on God. I desired to be in God’s Presence, 24/7.
During my fast, I begged God to reveal to me all my sin, whether hidden or known, so that I can repent in burlap and ashes, just like the people of Nineveh.
God reminded me of Isaiah,
“The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it, but wounds, and bruises, and fresh stripes: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with oil.” Isaiah 1:5-6
As I supplicated, God also reminded me of the verse that says,
“Who has full knowledge of his errors? Make me clean from secret evil.” Psalm 19:11 (BBE)
Sin can take many shapes and forms; it can take the form of a sin by omission, a sin that creeps in on us or an unintentional sin.
I was reminded again that we serve a Holy God who urges His people to be holy.
We need to repent as a church. Let us shout out and implore God for repentance, not just as individuals, but as whole congregations, as whole churches, as entire nations, as the whole Body of Christ.
We read how Nehemiah repented for his own personal sin, as well as the sins of his people.
We, too, need to repent for the sins of our nations, repent of sins that may have happened in former generations, thus breaking the curse and seeking God with all our hearts.
Just like the people of Nineveh, who were set for destruction in forty days, just like they sought God in burlap and repentance, let us seek God too.
Let us pray that God will have mercy on us and forgive us, just like he did to the people of Nineveh.
A Sudanese Refugee in Egypt
A Student of 4G3 Discipleship Institute
I am Sorour from South Sudan. I was a nominal Christian by heritage. I grew up in a home where my parents took me to church. I never understood much about Jesus despite going every week.
In 2011, a friend of mine invited me to summer camp. The preacher was addressing holiness and the role of the Holy Spirit. He went on to explain how impossible it was to have eternal life without Jesus. I thought to myself, “I have attended church every single Sunday, yet no one ever told me that I had to accept Jesus as my Savior.” I had a few questions before accepting Jesus. My friend answered all my questions, and I gave my life to Jesus.
From that day, Jesus and the Bible became my life.
My ministry is mainly evangelism through drama and prison ministry.
I fled Sudan from the persecution and landed in Egypt as a refugee. I started prison ministry to Sudanese convicts in Egyptian prisons.
Prison ministry is quite a tedious ministry but so rewarding when you see people living in hopelessness come to the Hope of all creatures: Jesus.
I learned about the 4G3 Discipleship Institute through elder Ayad. I initially attended a session on leadership and loved the way they delivered the material and the different styles that make grasping the content accessible. I loved how involved the students are.
I completed eight courses out of ten. Through the classes, I realized that life with Jesus does not end at accepting Him as Savior. We have to make sacrifices along the way.
I love soccer and the theatre more than anything else. I can spend my whole day watching just those two or being part of a play. But life is not merely about soccer and drama.
I had to let go of a lot of the time I spent in drama and soccer to make a place for Jesus and ministry.
Fleeing Sudan because of persecution and living in Egypt is not comfortable. I encounter tough financial obligations and have unmet emotional needs. I feel homesick. On occasions, I have to limit my ministry time to work more to support myself and have enough to eat.
The Discipleship Insitute helped me use different styles of evangelism: my body language, my voice, and other tools for the glory of God.
I wish I had attended this institute earlier in my life; I would have avoided countless mistakes in my walk with God.
The institute also helped me become accountable; I need to be walking the talk so I can connect the gospel faithfully to prisoners.
I realize I am still a work in progress; I was not very faithful in my daily quiet time and my prayer life before attending the institute.
The course that touched me most is The Invisible War.
Learning strategies for spiritual warfare, how to fight Satan and win were an eye-opener.
I learned nine promises of God that assure me that I am victorious. I need not live like a victim but must live like a victor, and bloom wherever God plants me.
My prayer is that God will embolden me and use me mightily in the prison ministry, even if it is just through encouraging prisoners that Jesus loves them.
I dream of having 4G3 courses and discipleship institutes in prisons.
Attending 4G3 Institute focuses our beliefs; it decreases the chance of apostacy since we become so grounded in God’s Word and truth. The institute prepares us to live our lives with the Bible as our standard.