This week, my favorite Christian writer, Holley Gerth, is asking readers to link up blog posts about someone whose perseverance is inspiring.
For me, one woman immediately came to mind: Mama Maggie Gobran.
She was raised in a wealthy family in Egypt, worked in marketing and as a college professor, dressed well, and had what most people would consider to be a beautiful, successful life. This accomplished, educated, happily married woman was already admired — yet, in her thirties, she felt a pull to bring hope to the poor people who collected garbage and sorted it for survival in the slums of Cairo.
She gave up everything. Sold her jewels. Left her job.
She started Montessori-style preschools so that the children, who had little access to education and little knowledge of their own heritage as Coptic Christians, could begin to dream. Without education, these children could not dare to think beyond their current situations of sexual abuse, hunger, pain, and illiteracy. She made sure families had food to eat as well.
She gave of herself to both Muslims, the majority, and Coptic Christians, the minority. She ministered to the whole person – body, mind, and spirit.
To me, it is fascinating and beautiful to picture someone whose love and calling goes so deep that she would be willing to leave her comfortable life and to give herself completely to others. Christ spoke of his heart for the poor, and Mama Maggie’s life is such an example of the service, love, and hope that Christians are called to bring the world.
I am a mom in a small house, by United States standards — far away, and yet, so deeply inspired. I am giving of myself to those I love in smaller ways, but I think of Mama Maggie often as I go about my day.
She had to persevere because the government hurdles did not make helping the poor and starting schools easy. She had to persevere as others looked at her like she was crazy. She even had to persevere when a motorcyclist tried to steal her briefcase holding the architectural plans for one of her projects. She held on tightly to the briefcase and ended up hospitalized for a short time –- but the vision went forward.
She was criticized for giving up her jewels and starting to dress all in white –- a white head covering, skirt, and t-shirt. The sentiment was: who do you think you are? People thought she was dressing too much like a nun even though she was not one. She wanted to detract attention from herself as she represented the poor. No matter what you do –- even the most beautiful, selfless actions –- will still draw criticism. Mama Maggie just kept doing what she was called to do.
In Egyptian society, where it is not uncommon to eat supper and socialize at 11 p.m., Mama Maggie started standing out because she went to bed early so that she could wake up and pray at 3 a.m.
Today, she is in her sixties and still doing her ministry through Stephen’s Children, the organization that she founded. She’s the picture of perseverance.
I first learned about Mama Maggie when I had the opportunity to review a book about her: Mama Maggie: The Untold Story of One Woman’s Mission to Love the Forgotten Children of Egypt’s Garbage Slums by Marty Makary and Ellen Vaughn. All of the information from my blog post was learned while reading this book for Book Look Bloggers.
This book gives a detailed portrait of Egyptian society and its complexities that I had never heard before. When I first saw the book cover, I was immediately drawn to the woman in white — a white head covering and t-shirt. I decided to read the book because I was hoping to learn more about a female Christian role model I had never heard about before, and I definitely was touched and inspired by her life.
Have a wonderful week!