Pastoral Perspectives

Set Apart

During my recent trip to the Worship Symposium, I met many wonderful people whose testimonies and sharing will continue to have a huge impact on my spiritual journey. Once such person was Dr Anne Emile Zaki. She was one of the plenary speakers during the Symposium.

Dr Anne teaches practical theology which means courses on preaching, spiritual formation, worship and psychology at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, Egypt. She is also a Global Worship Resource Specialist at Calvin Institute of Worship.

Coming to the Symposium from a comfortable place like Singapore provided the perfect scenario for me to hear from someone who has come from a place of turmoil and unrest. Yet it was her faith, her conviction and her vision for the Lord that surpassed all the sympathies that I would have for her and her nation. In the end, I was the one who needed to hear this message.

An excerpt on an article written about her reads*  In March 2011, two months after the Egyptian revolution, Anne Zaki  and her husband, Naji Umran, traveled to Cairo to see how loved ones were faring in the dangerous and unsettled country. Zaki was born and raised there.

“There was death and there was destruction and damage; there were unanswered questions and chaos,” Zaki said. “We couldn’t just stand and watch. So we prayed—lots. We were afraid for Egypt, afraid for our friends and family, for what the country is going to become.”

One of the things they witnessed was that many Christians were leaving the country and some were key church leaders.

Obviously, there were good reasons for that—for safety, for opportunity, for more certainty of the future.

“We thought to ourselves, ‘Who is going to shepherd these people, who is going to comfort my people, as it says in scripture?’ We’re not everybody’s answered prayer but we can be someone’s answered prayer,” she said.

Zaki and her husband sensed that nothing would bring them greater joy than to come into the gap being left in the church there and to raise the next generation of Egyptian Christians.

Approximately 100,000 Christians left Egypt in 2011, many of them for the sake of their children. Zaki and her husband and their four boys were doing the reverse. They’ve been in Cairo ever since.

Of course, they worried about what might befall their family, their sons, as they discerned that God was calling them from safety and certainty to an unsettled situation.

But they have seen God’s grace grow every family member.

“There is something to resistance that makes our vision clearer, that declutters life,” she said.  (

Her background shed light to what she was going through and is doing for the sake of the gospel. Today, I want to share what I learned from this woman.

During one of the plenary sessions at the Symposium, the question presented was, ‘What does it mean for Christian Worship Services to be an act of public witness in your context?”

Dr Anne said that coming from a place where Christians do not enjoy religious freedom and hence the absence of an identity as a Christian gave her freedom to choose. To be a faithful witness with limited facilities, she said that she can still be a witness through the following ways. 1. Services: Service to the people through hospitals and schools

She concluded that we can live so differently (set apart) that when others see the difference and ask us about our faith, we can witness to them – “This is the best witness we can have.”

If we look at the Bible, God did distinguish the Israelites by setting them apart as his own nation (Lev 20:24-26), yet his reason for doing so was not to play favorites, but to benefit everyone (Gen 18:18, 22:18). The Israelites were intended to be an example to others, so that everyone would hear about God and be saved. When other nations witnessed or heard about Israel’s history – that is, their relationship with God and God’s actions on their behalf – those nations would hear about God and have reason to believe in him. God performed the miracles in Egypt and during the Exodus for this reason (Ex 9:16, Josh 4:23-24), and they did cause people in other nations to revere God (Josh 2:8-11).

Singapore is a very comfortable and peaceful place where we hardly face any persecution for our faith. So when we think of witnessing, we often think of mission trips to a foreign land. I must say that someone has to take the gospel out there but since not everyone is called to go, we can be a witness wherever we are if we are willing to live so differently (set apart) as the Bible says in Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Yes, we often sing the much loved song “Shine, Jesus Shine” and I love the song very much. After we have sung the song, the implication for us then is to shine for the Lord because Jesus has already shone His light. We are His image bearers, set apart to do His will wherever we are. Are we willing to allow God to shine through us, in us and around us?

May those who see us, our relationship with the Lord and our actions find a reason to believe in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May our prayer be like that of the song   Refiner’s Fire* My heart’s one desire Is to be holy Set apart for You Lord I choose to be holy Set apart for You my Master Ready to do Your will  *CCLI Song # 426298 Brian Doerksen © 1990 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing (Admin. by K I Publishing) Vineyard Songs Canada (Admin. by K I Publishing)

Ms Loliro Sani

February 19, 2017