Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Cairo Tweetup with Greg Surratt

Last night Felicity and I headed downtown to meet up with Greg Surratt and his wife Debbie. Greg is the Senior Pastor of Seacoast, a church of about 12,500 people in Charleston, South Carolina, USA. The way they got to Cairo and the way we connected is one of those crazy stories that just has to be told.

Seacoast Church has been running for twenty years and to celebrate this ministry landmark, the congregation sent Greg and Debbie on a special trip - a cruise around the Mediterranean Sea starting in Rome, ending in Greece and visiting Egypt, Israel and Turkey on the way. The main reason they chose this cruise was for the itinerary that takes in most of the Holy Land sites of interest. 

Unfortunately, just as the boat was sailing away from Port Said, next stop Israel, there was a very serious fire in the engine room which the crew risked their lives to try and contain. All the passengers were called to Muster Stations and told to bring warm clothes and essential medications only, with the possibility that they might have to abandon ship and jump in to the lifeboats. For four hours the 700 passengers sat in the dark, in silence, with no power, lighting or air conditioning, listening to the tannoy announcements and not knowing what might happen next.  Eventually the fire was brought under control, and the ship was towed the five miles back to Port Said by a tugboat and the passengers were told that the rest of the cruise would be cancelled and that they would get full refunds and that the cruise line would fly them all home after a night in Cairo.

What gives this already dramatic story an even more interesting twist is that Greg was keeping the whole world abreast of the situation through updates on his Twitter page. In fact, most of the friends and relatives of the cruise passengers were getting more accurate and timely information from Greg's tweets than from the cruise company's PR people.

Here's a few of the messages from Greg's Twitter...

::We have a small fire in engine room. Looks like it is under control. Didn't get dinner. Bummer
::It was a bigger fire than we thought. It's under control. We've been on floor in dark for 4 hrs w 700 close friends. Romantic :-)
::Apparently the fire was bigger than we thought. Looks like we are spending a few days in Egypt Here's USA Today story
::Pictures I took out our window. We are on the 7th floor, smoke is coming out of 10th floor, fire on 1st floor
::Your friendly Egyptian tow truck
::People sleeping on deck last night
::RT @GeoffSurratt: So you were almost to the promised land but now must spend more time in the desert? Sounds very Biblical.
::Princess cruise crew have been incredible. No sleep. No air in quarters. Very gracious. Praying for them.
::Some may be tired of cruise info, but several are now following me for info on families aboard. I will continue to update.
::We have elec, air, sanitation in cabins. We can get off ship. Waiting for report from Princess on state of ship
::Rest of cruise canceled. Damage worse than expected. Putting us off the boat tomorrow. What next??? Stay tuned.
::Standing in line trying to figure out what's next. Some people are a touch annimated :-)
::Princess is offering our money back and flying us back from Cairo tomorrow or Sunday. Still looking at all options.

I discovered the story on Twitter through following a friend of a friend in Nashville, who happened to mention it. I then started following Greg's Twitter feed, and the next day, he followed mine. I sent him a direct message offering help in Egypt if necessary and pretty soon we ended up lounging on the bank of the river Nile, drinking lemon juice, sharing our stories together and praying for each other.

This may be the start of a long and beautiful relationship - definitely a God-thing - who else could have orchestrated this? :-)

Posted via email from Jafferblog

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