Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Toma's Bar becomes Toma's Cookhouse

(This is my post for the 40 day fast. Team-blogging with Kat)

We first came across Toma when Julia showed Felicity (my wife) the bite marks all over her shoulder and neck that her own husband had given her one night after he had rolled home incoherently and violently drunk from spending the evening at Toma's bar.

Julia and Toma are both Sudanese. Julia has no upper lip. She fled from Sudan during the civil war where she had been tortured and brutalised along with millions more of her people. Many of the refugees from Sudan who escaped war and came here to Egypt are Christians just like Julia and Toma.

Egypt has been a gracious host to them in many ways for allowing them to stay all these years. However, Egypt itself has a huge challenge in dealing with the poverty of its own people (55 million Egyptians qualify for subsidised food) and cannot offer the African refugees any welfare. In the middle of the daily Egyptian struggle for survival, the Africans always come off worse - they pay higher prices, higher rents, are consistently discriminated against and from time to time they are shockingly abused.

(picture taken from

There is no welfare, no employment and most of them are forced by their lack of status to live in slum housing. This is where we come in. Felicity goes up to one of these areas, Arba Wi Nus, every week, visits some Christian families, sits with them, prays with them and distributes food and clothing. A food sack contains enough lentils, flour, beans, oil and milk to last a family for two weeks. Oh, and a bar of soap too.

Anyway, lets get back to the story. One day Felicity went to see Toma at her bar. Toma had heard that we pray for people and wanted us to pray for the return of her lost six-year-old child. He had been gone a month. Toma's bar is just a single tiny, dark, bare concrete room where she distills dates into alcohol and sells it to support her family. Men come and drink all night in the same room where her small children are sleeping. So Felicity walked into a room full of demons and a haze of alcoholic fumes, feeling utterly useless and not knowing how to pray for this child to be found. If it had been our six-year-old, Hannah, there would have been a huge media story, the whole world would know she was missing and thousands of people would be praying. So Felicity did what she could and asked God to help find the child.

He came back within the week.

Toma has six children and no husband. Four of the children (the baby, the four-year-old twins and the twelve-year-old) live with her in that dark stinking cell. the eight-year-old who was lost and is now found has since been taken as a slave by another family and the fourteen-year-old is running with a gang.

Over the last two years as Felicity has spent time with her, bringing her food and talking and praying, Toma has become more and more interested in wanting to clean up her life and get closer to God. She is embracing the hope and peace that Jesus gives her. The only problem is that her date distillery is the only way that she can earn a living. So we raised the $50 needed to set her up in a new business, cooking food and selling it. She is still in the hospitality business, but instead of Toma's Bar, she now has Toma's Cookhouse.

That $50 purchased a stove, some fuel and the first round of basics and ingredients to kick start her enterprise. Felicity's team are helping her with basic book-keeping and the initial business plan was costed down to the last "piaster", including the "Goat Instincts"!

So how can you help?

Pray. There are hundreds of thousands of refugees living in Egypt that have no way of getting resettled in the West and are scared for their lives of returning home, so they are stuck in Egypt living a destitute life with no way out and no hope. Pray that God will hear their desperate prayers and deliver them.

Our church, Maadi Community Church, has planted six daughter churches in these refugee communities in the last two years, between them serving about 3,500 people. Please pray for these churches, that they will be a light in the darkness of those places and that many would be saved through their ministry.

Give. If you would like to send a donation please send your cheques, payable to MCC, to MCC Association, Box 704, 14781 Memorial Drive, Houston, TX 77079. Please designate your gift clearly in the 'memo' field of your cheque to "Embrace The Needy". 100% of this money will go directly to providing food or emergency medical care for our refugee community.

If you are interested in supporting individual projects like Toma's then please email me: mark "at" jaffrey "dot" co "dot" uk

Come. Come and see what God is doing in Cairo. We'll find a home you can stay in and take you around to meet the people and see the projects you are most interested in. You can roll up your sleeves and get involved - it's a great place to see God at work, and there's the added bonus of having the Pyramids, Tutankhamun's tomb, Mount Sinai and the coral reefs of the Red Sea on your doorstep.

Oh yes, and Toma is looking forward to serving you some good hearty goat's instincts.


boxthejack said...

Thanks for posting this. I'll pass it on.

euphrony said...

Mark, thanks for your story. I both provides hope for how people can be saved and gives despair at the situation they live in daily - how cant he two go hand in hand so easily? I'll be praying for you in your fast today, and for the work of MCC.

kat said...

What an inspiring story...
I'll be praying for you today.

kddub said...

I really liked reading this story, and hearing of al you are doing.

Thank you for being a part of the 40 day fast.

nancy said...

This is amazing! Thank you so much for sharing. I hope that your day was one of encouragement and peace.

MaryAnn M said...

just wow.

thanks for writing.

Deana said...

Hi Mark,

I follow your blog daily for about a year now through my feed burner. I don't think I've ever commented, but I truly loved this post. I've passed it on to my friend Sam Radford who leads Mosaic Sheffield, in Sheffield, England.

His blog is

Mark Jaffrey said...

Thanks everyone for your encouraging comments, but particular thanks for your prayers. They are really needed.

Deanna, thanks for de-lurking! I'd love to connect with Sam.

SpottyDog said...

I don't know why I felt compelled to visit jafferblog tonight when I couldn't sleep. I can't find the words to describe what I feel you have re-kindled my prayers for the many people I knew who were/are salt and light back in those slums.

I've passed it on to some friends who work here in the Dubai labour camps - I know they will be tremendously encouraged.

God bless you Mark and your family as you enjoy a well earned holiday.