The Journey

A Journey in Cairo
By Rachel Lynn

Erik Brucker ,'01, can almost see the Nile River and the Pyramids from his sixth floor flat in the Maadi section of Cairo.

On an average day, Brucker mentors high school students in his church, meets with peers who work with refugees from conflict zones in neighboring countries, drinks tea with men on his street who make less than $80 a month, and even tutors the grandson of the President.

Three years ago, Brucker left his job as the assistant director of Whitworth's Admissions Office to work in vocational ministry.

"It wasn't like I was sending out resumes in the Middle East," Brucker said. "Things just kept rolling along, the timing seemed to be right, and it got to a point where I truly felt God was calling me to take this leap."

In Egypt, Brucker is the youth leader for junior high and high school students and also coaches cross-country and girls' volleyball at Cairo College, an international high school.

Brucker's first trip to Cairo was to visit his friend Ben Robinson, who was doing ministry work there. After Brucker returned to the U.S., he began receiving e-mails from people in Egypt inviting him to move there to do youth ministry, teach and coach. "I was a bit shocked," Brucker said. "I had never seriously considered true vocational ministry as a real option."

Cairo has brought significant perspective and a unique sense of community to Brucker's life. From taking a holiday to the Red Sea with friends and meeting up with professors from Whitworth, to planning the Christmas pageant with mothers, every day brings something new to his experience.

"Many times during these 'normal' days, even after three years, I am reminded of God's amazing provision and sense of humor in bringing us all together," Brucker said.

Brucker leads his youth group in Bible studies and volunteers for programs such as a service project for the Sudanese Refugee School. He hosts weekly Bible studies for junior high and high school students each Friday and often invites them to his flat. His involvement in the youth group entails planning weekly events for them. Throughout his day, Brucker meets with the pastor of his church and prepares activities and events for the high school and middle school groups.

Brucker was also asked to coach the girls' volleyball team, cross-country, and track at Cairo American College. The students are approximately 40 percent American, 30 percent Egyptian, and the rest a combination of nationalities. Brucker's volleyball team included 12 girls from nine different countries.

The school week in Cairo runs Sunday to Thursday, and Brucker coordinates church and school activities and lessons for the middle school classes. In the afternoons, Brucker spends his time coaching the sports teams; he participates in all-church flag football games on Friday morning once a month.

"In the midst of a ridiculously crowded urban area of 20 million people, somehow community still thrives, and I have been able to make so many close and powerful friendships with students, families, co-workers and everyday people here," Brucker said.

The dynamic community of Cairo has inspired Brucker. His sense of community and conviction toward the people he meets plays a large part in how Brucker views his role in Cairo.

"Without sounding too idealistic or out there, I see my role here as aiding in building bridges, bridges between East and West, Christian and Muslim, poor and plenty, parents and kids, and hopefully in and around all of this with God's grace, between Christ and us," Brucker said.

Brucker has met with students whose parents are international diplomats or oil field geologists, and peers working in the State Department or non-profit NGOs immersed in the situations of surrounding countries. These interactions have given him the ability to have a deep perspective on not only Cairo but world events.

"One thing I love so much is having such a deep and broad community network of friends," Brucker said.

Brucker's proximity to Gaza and Sudan has allowed him to see both the positive changes and horrors - things we would normally see on television - up close.

"The stories I hear or read on the news become just a little more real when I hear about them firsthand from those who have been there or know people on the ground," Brucker said.

In being in Cairo, which Brucker says is a "crazy combination of first and third world," he has not faced a large range of persecution of religion or nationality.

"People here do a phenomenal job separating out people from government, and Egyptians have a great sense of humor, so that goes a long way," Brucker said.

Brucker's experience in Whitworth's Prejudice Across America Study Program his senior year taught him about the responsibilities of individuals and the possibilities for community living in harmony with one another. The lessons he learned has helped him live out these perspectives in Cairo.

"I've tried to do my best to meet people where they are, while also helping increase their opportunities to experience faith, culture, and God's love in meaningful and deep-rooted ways," Brucker said.

Brucker gives credit to Whitworth and the roles he had there in helping him prepare for the journey and succeed in Cairo.

"There is no way I would have been ready or qualified for this huge calling if I hadn't had the roles I did at Whitworth, and now my experiences here in Cairo have molded me," Brucker said.