By Jayna Richardson
Sixteen years ago, an American couple, Warren and Ann Abrameit, relocated to the Middle East to serve as medical missionaries. While in Qatar, they used FamilyLife materials (translated into Arabic) to also conduct marriage and family ministry, but the work was difficult and discouraging. When they returned home to the US a few years later, they wondered if they had made any difference at all.
Ten years later, they discovered that one of the couples they had ministered to, Sameh and Mona, had kept the ministry going by leading multiple small groups in Qatar and later in Kuwait. The seeds that the Abrameits had planted were still alive and healthy! However, Sameh and Mona were desperate for new Arabic resources and training, both of which FamilyLife and the Abrameits were able to provide in 2018 and again in 2020 in Kuwait just before the COVID pandemic hit.
After the successful 2020 training and launch of new Arabic resources in Kuwait, Sameh and Mona felt strongly that their native country, Egypt, greatly needed this ministry. They encouraged FamilyLife to travel there next.
Divorce rates in Egypt have exploded in recent years. In 2017, Egypt had the highest divorce rate of any country in the entire world. Sameh and Mona not only had a burden to help their fellow Egyptians, but they also had connections with local believers and churches that were eager to grow in their own marriages and help others do the same. They coordinated efforts with two FamilyLife Global representatives from the US, Jim and Judy Burrows and Greg and Janet Westbrook, who traveled to Egypt in March 2022 to launch a new FamilyLife ministry.
Over several days, the Burrows and Westbrooks demonstrated marriage talks and small groups using the Weekend to Remember®, Art of Marriage®, Art of Parenting®, Like Arrows®, and HomeBuilders® studies for several groups, including Sameh and Mona’s home church in Cairo (a 100-year-old church with over 1,000 members) and Cru staff in Alexandria.
The newly trained leaders have a tough road ahead of them. Culturally, many Egyptians won’t seek help or counseling for their marriages. And prioritizing family over work is a struggle, even for the believers. Very few of those who were trained were able to say they have a couple in their lives whose marriage they respect and look up to as a positive example.
Even knowing these challenges, the participants were teachable and enthusiastic, eager to grasp and put into practice the marriage principles for themselves so that they can go on to influence others.
At least eight churches in two cities were touched by this FamilyLife training, and four small groups are starting as a result with more likely to follow. Egyptian Cru staff are already making plans to print 1,000 copies of Art of Marriage and 1,000 copies of Art of Parenting to distribute from their bookstore in Alexandria. In addition, FamilyLife is launching a new website, www.arabfamilylife.com, which has several Arabic resources available for free download.
“We see the website as an important way to reach areas in the Middle East that we can’t reach,” says Judy Burrows. “Even places like Iraq or the Gulf region. The site can go places we can’t.”
The Abrameits never could have predicted that their ministry efforts sixteen years ago in Qatar would produce new growth years later in Kuwait and Egypt. The launch of FamilyLife in Egypt is an important step in reaching couples in that country with the good news of the gospel—and it just might be a catalyst for reaching the rest of the Middle East as well.