Sunday, July 29, 2007


We're staying with our friends Chris & Rosie, and life has suddenly gone bananas. There is so much to take care of and so many people to see that an entire week has gone by without blogging. We have had appointments morning, afternoon and evening most days this week, and there are still some key things to take care of before we leave on Tuesday.

Today I managed to get some exercise in. My friend Simon took me cycling in the Cheshire countryside. I borrowed a bike from his neighbour, Michael (everyone in his street seems to be a cyclist) and we rode a forty mile round trip from his house in South Liverpool, down to the Runcorn bridge, through Frodsham, up a category four hill (which I walked most of), round some beautiful country lanes, back up that hill from the other side, and then back to Runcorn and home again.

I hadn't realised that forty miles was so far, and the last ten miles killed me, particularly as we were cycling mostly up hill and into the wind, which was pretty strong today. Still, the countryside was fantastic, the views from the hills were stunning, and I spent three hours and twenty minutes with a friend who I only really get to see once a year. That's going to change though as his daughter, Asha is going to come and work for me as an intern this year, starting in late August. Hooray!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

It's all gone soggy

We had a delightful time at my parents' house in Worcestershire, relaxing, being well fed and well watered. We went for a great walk along the river one day, and on Thursday we went out to Hampton Court in Herefordshire with my aunt and my cousin. We worked our way through the maze to the tower in the centre, found the secret underground passageway that comes out in a hidden garden, and had tea in the Orangery. So, still very pastoral and idyllic. Not for long.

On Friday we drove up to Liverpool, and it seems that we escaped with minutes to spare as the whole country was submerged under a torrential deluge. My Dad couldn't get back home after work as all the roads were flooded. It took him two hours this morning to get home! There are pictures in the newpapers of people trapped in their cars and with their houses under several feet of water, and even though my parents live half way up a steep hill, the water running off the fields has come in to the house and flooded them for the second time this month.

All is quiet in Liverpool though.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Our English pastoral idyll continues

It is so bizarre being back in England. Yesterday in a spare hour I took the girls down to the village to see a traction engine rally(!) and on the way up to London to see Felicity's brother and his family we drove past three village green cricket matches. Anything more, and our weekend would turn into some English pastoral cliché.

Today I played in the worship team at Felicity's parents' church and then we went to a pig roast lunch on the lawn of a large house and then to visit Felicity's splendid granny where we had a proper English high tea. She had even made a Victoria sponge cake, and we sat on the edge of our seats and held our bone china tea cups ever so delicately.

Come to think of it, maybe we are living that cliché after all!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A land flowing with beer and money

Wow, you need a lot of money to live in England. I mean, I haven't even been to the shops yet, but just looking around, reading the newspaper, watching tv, wow - stuff is really expensive here.

But, and I am so thankful to my creator for this, the beer is really good. England is the land of Real Ale, and if I didn't have more important places to give my money to, I would be tempted to join CAMRA - well, maybe!

It's nice to be back in a place where the weather is soft and gentle, the colour green is dominant (not yellow/brown, like Cairo) there is ham in my sandwiches and you can step outside the door and plunge in to woods, fields and streams - magic!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The 40 Day Fast - pray for a nation

There are many many needs all around me. I live in a city of between 20 and 25 million people, one quarter of whom live in total poverty. It's a city of massive contrasts.

Porsches and BMWs and Mercedes sweep past the city of the dead - this is the city's cemetery, also home to between 30,000 and one million people who are still alive.

Glittering skyscrapers and five star hotels (Four Seasons, Marriott, Grand Hyatt) are jostling for space with decrepit and crumbling buildings and homes, gradually returning to the dust of the Nile valley from which they were built.

One of the seven wonders of the world (the original ones!) dominates the skyline to the west of the city, and yet some of the most awful stories of suffering and pain originate here.

I work for Maadi Community Church, an international congregation in a suburb in the south of Cairo. Apart from gathering worshippers from fifty different nations and over fifty different denominations every week to meet and worship together in unity, we are trying to do something to bring a redemptive ending to some of those stories.

Cairo is the home to hundreds of thousands of refugees from Sudan, mostly from the Christian/Animist south. They fled from civil war and injustice, from terrible stories of brutalisation and trauma. They came to Cairo seeing it as a gateway to refuge and safety and prosperity in the west, but got trapped here by a mixture of neglect, racism, broken promises and a UN office overwhelmed and demoralised by sheer numbers.

Having planted five churches in these Sudanese communties in the last year, our vision is to raise up Sudanese leaders who love God, and train them up to one day return to South Sudan and become the leaders who rebuild their nation with God at the centre. We think we have a five year window to accomplish this. So we are running vocational programmes to train teachers, nurses, carpenters, plumbers, electricians and pastors in their crafts and callings so that they can be the next generation of leaders in South Sudan.

So on today's 40 Day Fast we are praying and fasting for the nation of South Sudan.

Please pray for us to find a new property that is large enough to house all of this activity on the same campus as our church and the school that we are partners with.

Please pray for a release of funding from the West to enable these programmes to take off and reach the people that God is highlighting.

Please pray for hope and light to dawn in the lives of these broken and damaged people, and that their Saviour will lead them back to rebuild their nation as part of His story of redemption.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

One day to go

This time tomorrow I will be back in Hampshire, it won't be raining, and I will be reunited once more with the people I love the most. Wow, it's been a long twenty four days. In fact, I didn't realise quite how long twenty four days really is. Still, it's nearly over, and I'm almost packed, and I've made it through twenty four days of daily blogging. Sorry about this rubbish entry - I'm really tired!

Tomorrow is also my post for the 40 day fast. Stay tuned to this blog for more information.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Two days left - and a cat's tale

We have two cats. They are five months old, and they are lovely. Ratty and Mole. Yes, I know, naming a cat after a lesser animal in the hierarchy of the mammal kingdom is a bit weird, but they're not named after animals, they are named after characters in one of the greatest books ever written; Wind In The Willows, by Kenneth Grahame.

Their mother, Nadia, came with the house when we moved in four years ago. She was lovely too. She lived in the garden, and as is the way with most Cairo cats, had a litter of kittens almost every six months. We could never get to her in time to fix her up. Anyway, when Ratty and Mole and their brother and sister were three weeks old, Nadia disappeared and never came back. We think she must have been killed by a car, and so we had to become cat parents.

We hand reared them on made up kitten replacement milk formula, feeding them with syringes, giving them baths because they couldn't clean themselves, and giving them plenty of love. We found homes for two, and kept two for ourselves.

About a month ago, Ratty had a swelling on his shoulder so I took him to the vet who told me that another cat had bitten him, that this was a common reaction, and so he ahd a treatment of antibiotics, and within a few days the swelling went down. A couple of days ago I discovered something sharp sticking out of his shoulder so I took him to the vet's this evening. After a minor piece of surgery, the vet removed a sewing needle from Ratty's shoulder, which must have been lying under his skin for about four or five weeks. It had broken into three pieces, and I have it in a little bag to show the kids. So it wasn't a cat bite after all, it was a self inflicted stabbing!

My cat is well hard. You try walking round with a steel rod under the skin of your shoulder for a month and not complaining once. I'm impressed.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Three - don't forget the fast!

So the countdown continues.

I don't know if you've noticed, but my countdown to reunion with my beloved wife and two gorgeous little girls is exactly the same as the countdown to my 40 day fast day. This means, of course, that I won't be able to eat any of the airline food.


Please keep following the fast - we're only asking you to take about five minutes a day to read the blog post for the day and to pray for the cause highlighted. Go on then...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Four and Facebook

So, Facebook. Wow, what an amazing site. So much better than MySpace. I really don't like MySpace - I never really understood it. It just seemed like a race to sign up thousands of random people as your friends - who has room for thousands of random people in their lives anyway? I also didn't like the really crude and ugly look and feel of MySpace, and the way your thousands of random and insincere new friends fill up your page with "Hi, thanks for the add" or "Just stopping by to say you're hot" etc.

Facebook seems so much more natural somehow. For instance, my thousands (not really!) of Facebook friends are actual real people who I have actually met in real life, and have an actual real relationship with, or people who I may not have actually met, but with whom I have been in real actual corespondace via email and blogs.

The site feels nice and relaxed, with logical layout for the pages, and a simple refreshing colour scheme. It allows communication and tasteful customisation, you can share photos and other media, you can set privacy levels, and you can set up groups for people to join. I am a member of several, including "I go out of my way to step on a particularly crunchy leaf", but do you know the most useful feature to me so far? The birthday reminders. I have wished so many people a Happy Birthday because Facebook reminds me - it's great!

So if you're on Facebook, and we haven't made contact yet, look me up. I'm the only Mark Jaffrey there.

Here's a cartoon from Dave about a possible downside of Facebook, but this has been the criticism of the internet since the beginning...

Cartoon by Dave Walker

Saturday, July 07, 2007


For sale, on the streets of Maadi...

The Presidential 1974 Cadillac Fleetwood.

This is the car that transported President Gamal Abdel Nasser around Cairo, and now it can be yours for only 200,000 Egyptian Pounds - about £20,000, or about $35,000.

Wouldn't it be so cool, cruising around Cairo in this beast? It's in perfect condition, with only 31,000 kilometers on the clock - so who's going to take it?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Six - and a story.

Randy's latest post over at Ethos has reminded me of an incident that is worth recording.

On our first wedding anniversary, Steve & Kerry lent us their Austin Metro Vanden Plas (it was the posh one with central locking and bits of wood on the doors - I remember important details like that about cars) and we thrashed it up to the Lake District for a long weekend. Of course it was raining, but it didn't dampen any aspects of the weekend. We stayed in a bed and breakfast on Conniston Water, and it was lovely.

On the Saturday, we decided to climb the Langdales, despite poor weather (it was the end of November) so we did, braving the driving rain and sleet, knowing that a warm fire and some real ale was waiting on our return at the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel.

We entered the Hiker's Bar to find a ruddy faced guy holding forth in the middle of the floor. After we'd grabbed a pint and some crisps we realised he was reasonably well past it on a very rough cider, but he was reading aloud from a book, and trying to engage the others in the bar in debate and conversation.

Somehow he caught our eye, and he persuaded Felicity to come and stand up with him in the middle of the room, and read aloud from this book. The book was "Style" by Walter Raleigh, and it goes without saying that Felicity was magnificent.

After the performance we sat down to talk to this guy and discovered that he was a sculptor. Ex-Navy, he was now working as an apprentice to Josephine Banner, also known as Josefina de Vasconcellos, a world famous sculptor. We agreed to meet up the next day and he would show us around the gardens at Rydal Hall where we would have a look at the project he was working on.

To be continued...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

a week to go

If all goes according to plan, this time next week I will be blasting off from Cairo airport in an Alitalia jet bound for Milan, where I will change planes for London Heathrow and reunion with my family - hooray! It actually looks as though the rain will stop in England this weekend, until Monday at least, so they might not be in such a bad way when I get there next Thursday.

Tonight is the first of our weekend services, and here's the setlist. It's a communion weekend, and Larry is finishing off our series on the book of Romans with a grand finale.

Holy is the Lord (Chris Tomlin)
I've come to wash my soul (Graham Kendrick)
Your Name (Paul Baloche, Glenn Packiam)
On the Third Day (Matt Maher, Marc Byrd)
The Power of the Cross (Stuart Townend, Keith Getty)
The Potter's Hand (Darlene Zschech)

Then I'm heading over to Dom's house to play Settlers for the rest of the night.

PS that's a Caterham Seven in the picture, but then you knew that, right?


Another cracking good post on the 40 Day Fast. Please have a look at Steven's post. Now don't forget the idea of this 40 Day Fast is to read each blogger's post every day, and pray for the cause that they outline. It will only take you five minutes or so, and we all need to stop every now and then and look around us at what is going on. You can treat it as a spiritual discipline - I know the internet isn't mentioned in the Bible, but I think it still counts.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

this one's late

Sorry. Late night last night, and I didn't get to post this before sleep overcame me. Well, I was at yet another leaving party, feasting on hamburgers and hot dogs, and sampling an impressive supply of different German beers. The thing is, this leaving party was for the people whose leaving party I went to on Sunday. I think that's playing the system, myself, but I did enjoy the beer.

I will really miss Richard and Rachel and our lives will be much poorer without them, but they weren't the only people this party was for. Doug and Evelyn are heading back to Canadia, and they too will leave an unfillable hole in our church community.

Doug played guitar and bass in my worship teams, and is one of the most encouraging people I know. Sometimes people have the gift of encouragement, and they make you feel good by complimenting you, but you know that they don't fully understand exactly what has been achieved, but they appreciate it, and let you know. That is a good thing. Doug though is a talented and experienced musician, and he fully understands everything that goes in to the worship ministry here, so when he encourages or complements, it's because he genuinely appreciates what has been accomplished, and it's from a complete understanding of what it took to get there. And when you recieve that kind of pat on the back, it sinks deep.

I'm going to miss them.

Monday, July 02, 2007


Ok, a cryptic one today, but easy for those who know their grunge rock history. Ten days to go! Felicity tells me it's rained non-stop for the last two weeks, and the forecast is rain till Wednesday, one clear day on Thursday, and then the rain starts again. Maybe the Egyptian summer isn't so bad after all. It seems like all of England is under flood warnings and dire threats of more rain, and that the whole country is going to drown. Or be blown up. My parents' house got flooded and they're hundreds of feet up on a hillside! What is going on?

Mad Church Disease

My friend Anne is doing some really interesting research into the issue of burnout and fatigue affecting pastors, church staff and volunteers that seems to be becoming quite a problem. She is working on a book about the subject provisionally titled "Mad Church Disease" and she needs YOUR help!

Take the survey!
So, if you are on staff at a church of any denomination, or you are family of church staff, or you are a volunteer at a church in any capacity, please would you head over to Mad Church Disease and take the survey. It should only take about five minutes.

The surveys are totally anonymous, confidential and secure. Neither Anne nor her team will ever see your name associated with the personal data you reveal, so you can go ahead and spill all your secrets - treat it like a confessional if you like!

Spread the word
The surveys are going to run from now until the 3rd August, and it goes without saying that the more people take part, the better the quality of the research. Please take the time to repost this info on your own blog (further resources can be found here), or email friends and family you know so that they can take the survey too.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


Can't remember what I was doing, but I was driving out near the pyramids a few weeks ago, and snapped this snazzy Lancer as I overtook him. Now. Can you spot the after-market add-on?

Obviously, that enormous wing on the boot makes the car go much faster than the maker intended, and creates masses of rear downforce too, ensuring that lift-off oversteer when manouvering past the Sphinx at speed is nothing but an unpleasant memory.

This guy had the same idea...

How cool is that?