This is a story of a Business as Mission (BAM) practitioner on the field using business as a mechanism for planting the church in areas of the world where you can’t do that with traditional missionary methods. In order to protect the work being done we will not be sharing their names or specific locations for their protection.
We knew our time in Cairo was limited. We were there for one purpose, to learn Arabic. Living in Cairo wasn’t going to be the same as living in Tanzania. There, we had twelve years to learn the language, build relationships, implement ideas and create an environment where by the name of Jesus could be shared authentically.
Here in Cairo, we didn’t have that luxury. Cairo assaults your senses in every way. It’s hot, crowded, dusty and loud. In our first few weeks there, it was difficult to find the beauty of the city let alone a peaceful place to gather your thoughts.
One day however, my wife took a picture of an old, baby blue Chevy Impala that was parked under an ancient palm tree. “There is always something beautiful,” she remarked. It’s true…
If we start from the premise that God has created us in his image, no matter how sin scarred and tattered humanity becomes, the image of God is still present. It allows beauty to shine through and allows us to recognize beauty in all situations.
It was at this point we began to notice that Cairo was filled with old cars. One manufacturer stood out in particular from Italy. The Fiat. They were everywhere. Most were from the late 70’s, sedan style spread across four different models, bearing numbers as names: 127,128, 131 and 132.
For some reason, the people who drove these cars loved them. Some were old and beat up, some were refurbished still others we just plastered with decals and random stickers.
I remember one day, I saw a Fiat 128 that was painted baby blue. It had racing decals on the side, black pin striping and huge batman symbol on the hood. I felt compelled to take a picture, it was just too random not to.
I noticed a few guys sitting on a stoop near the car, all with wide grins, almost like they had expected me to take the picture. “Do you like this car,” one guy asked.
By that time I was only 2 months into my Arabic classes. I could hardly ask where the bathroom was let alone have a conversation. I did however know the words me, like and car. I sure I put those words together in a way that made me sound like a 3 year old, but I go the desired result.
The guys crowded around me and started talking about the Fiat. I’m pretty sure they asked me if I wanted to buy it. I’m not sure if I really convinced them that I didn’t want to. I walked away from the encounter thinking, ‘wow, those guys opened up so quickly about their car….I need to learn more Arabic!”
After that my wife and I started taking pictures of Fiats whenever we saw one.
One day, while looking for a wicker chair for to complete our living room, we took pictures of 20 different fiats within a 3-block radius. Each one we engaged with people, talked as much as we could about the cars and why people loved them.
They are easy to fix, the parts are cheap, the body all metal and can be easily beat back onto shape. It was then that we started an Instagram account to post all of the fiats that we had on our phone.
Along with that account, we began to ask the hard questions: how can we use this as a tool to reach people for Jesus?
The team that we were a part of was constantly challenging us to engage in what they called ‘broad sowing.’ Usually this consisted of general witnessing and handing out literature. I found my connection point while thumbing through a dual translation of Luke that our team had.
Luke 12:22 has a simple caption, “God cares for us.”
The next time I spotted a Fait, I began to speak with the guys gathered around it, asking why they like Fiats so much. As the enthusiastic answers dies down, I took out my little copy of Luke and said, “I guess you really care for your car,” and pointed to the caption, “Like God cares for us.”
Since I had already established that I was learning Arabic, I emphasized using the verb ‘to care for.’ Naturally, curiosity took over and the book was taken from my hand. “You can keep it if you want.”
Living in a city with millions of people is pretty daunting. The task of presenting the gospel to so many can seem overwhelming. It helps though to remember that people are just people. They have desires, likes and interests.
Taking the time to find out what interests people can, provide simple connections points for gospel presentation. The fiat pictures we posted on Instagram became small prayers for the people we interacted with on a daily basis. (Instagram page: @fiat.cairo)
We pray one by one, the city will come to know Jesus.