Life-Giving Streams in the Desert...
Archdeacon Patrick Bamber (CMSI Trustee) is currently taking part of his planned sabbatical in the Province of Alexandria, and reflects upon his time at Anafora, just outside Cairo:
"It's hard to imagine a thirsty wilderness in lush green Ireland. Yet two nights at Anafora, a Coptic retreat centre in the Egyptian desert was a memorable experience for us.
In the late 90s Bishop Thomas of the Coptic church had the vision for establishing a place of spiritual and emotional refreshment in an arid area off the Cairo to Alexandria road. Since that time a very remarkable place has developed. An organic farm means that the permanent religious community are able to offer generous hospitality to whoever wants to stay, whether they are volunteers or visitors. Twice daily prayer takes place in the colourful church or the beautiful purpose-built amphitheatre. Young boys who have dropped out of education are given a second chance. People with special needs are given meaningful work to do. Aspiring professionals from the the big urban centres find peace and an opportunity to read, rest and reflect. Young adults from the West immerse themselves in its peaceful environment.
The soil looks much like sand peppered with rocks. Yet with an extensive irrigation system all sorts of fruit and vegetables grow in abundance. There's even a long swimming pool and numerous other decorative water features. The water is not drawn from the Nile, which is quite distant, but from a supply 150 metres underground.
Psalm 84 v 5 says:
'Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.'
This vibrant community is an inspiration and example to us all. Whatever arid circumstances we may find ourselves in, by digging deep to the source we may, by God's grace, transform dry ground into a place of springs".