Born into a Christian family in Egypt, Youssry Guirguis After that, Youssry looked forward to was raised as a Coptic Orthodox. At 2 years of age Youss- ry’s parents took him to a monastery to be given a tattoo of a cross on his right wrist, a sign of one’s faith in the Egyptian culture. A Christian without this tattoo is often treated with scorn and contempt and thought of as being too weak to make a public declaration of their faith.
Being a publicly branded Christian was not an easy life, however, especially when attending an Islamic school. Youssry didn’t have the option of attending a Christian elementary school; instead, he was required to attend a government-operated school. Because of his Christian faith, Youssry was alienated by both the institution and his peers. The other children treated him differently and often made fun of him. He walked the halls and streets in constant fear of being beaten or even killed.
At home Youssry’s parents taught him about the God of the Bible, but the public school system taught students about the Qur’an and Islam. Learning about Christianity at home and about Islam at school left Youssry conflicted and confused about life and spirituality.
AN ADVENTIST CONNECTION
Youssry lived in a poor village in the Asyut province. At the young age of 4, he began working in the family construction business building houses. His duties included bricklaying, cement mixing, and general masonry.
On his first day of work Youssry was homesick. The house he was helping to build was for a Seventh-day Adventist family. The father of the family overheard young Youssry say that he wanted to go home, so he offered him some biscuits and something to drink. Youssry was grateful for the love and generosity the father showed him, and felt there was something different about this man. After that, Youssry looked forward to working at the man’s house.
When he was 7, Youssry worked on a house for another Adventist family that were friends with his own family. One of the sons had attended school with Youssry’s brother at the public school, but later transferred to Nile Union Academy, the Adventist elementary and secondary school in Cairo. When Youssry learned that this school taught classes in English, he wanted to attend there also. His dream was to become a tour guide, and he needed to learn English well to accomplish that goal. Youssry’s family, however, could not afford to send him there.
After Youssry finished high school in the government school system, his thoughts again turned toward his dream of becoming a tour guide. Determined to become a proficient English speaker, he decided to attend Nile Union Academy and repeat two years of high school there in an English classroom setting. Youssry had saved up money from his construction work, so he was now able to afford the cost of the tuition without burdening his family.
A few months after moving to the dormitory at the academy, Youssry encountered opposition. A pastor from a church that Youssry’s family sometimes attended learned of his move to the academy and convinced his family that his attending there would negatively influence Youssry spiritually. Youssry regretfully left the school and moved back home.
A year later Youssry was accepted into a hotels and tourism college in Cairo. He also enrolled again at Nile Union Academy and attended their English classes while taking courses at the college.
The academy principal, Mike Munsey, often invited Youssry to attend worship and prayed with him. Munsey also invited Youssry to his home to study and discuss the Bible. The Holy Spirit quietly began to convict Youssry of the existence of a loving God.
A CHANGING LIFE
While growing up, Youssry had been exposed to vegetarian eating because of fasting rituals in the Coptic Church. Then at Nile Union Academy he noticed that the meals they served were vegetarian, and he learned some of the biblical reasons for adopting a healthful diet. Soon he stumbled across the book The Ministry of Healing, by Ellen G. White, which he read four times. Youssry began to believe in the Adventist message. He asked Munsey for additional Bible studies, and nine months later Youssry was baptized.
After another year of studying, Youssry withdrew from the college of tourism because of exams that conflicted with the Sabbath. He then went to the president of the Adventist field in Egypt and told him that he wanted to study theology. It was the first time an Egyptian had expressed such interest. The field president initially got Youssry involved with literature evangelism, and later he worked for three years as an assistant pastor in the Egypt-Sudan Field.
In 2000 Youssry enrolled in the theology program at Middle East University, an Adventist university in Beirut, Lebanon. In 2003 he began studying at Solusi University, an Adventist university in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. A self-supporting student, Youssry worked odd jobs to earn money for tuition. Youssry struggled to pay his tuition, but God always provided some form of work.
While at the university Youssry met his future wife, Joan. The two studied the Bible with a pastor for two years, then they were married. Youssry completed his bachelor’s degree in theology in 2006. In 2007 Joan gave birth to baby Benjamin.
DETERMINED TO SERVE
After graduating, Youssry accepted a call to work as an associate pastor at the Solusi University church and as a lecturer on biblical Hebrew in the Theology Department. He also continued his studies and worked toward a master’s degree in religion, which he completed in 2008. He became a full-time lecturer in the Theology Department, teaching an array of Old Testament courses.
Serving in Zimbabwe was difficult because the country was experiencing a severe famine and exorbitant inflation. Youssry, however, continued to faithfully serve there until 2014, when he moved his family to the Philippines to pursue a doctorate in biblical studies at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies. To pay his tuition and support his family Youssry worked several jobs. He also received the Chan Shun scholarship from the General Conference during his last two years, which covered his tuition and fees. In January 2018, Youssry successfully defended his dissertation. That same month he accepted a call to work as a professor in the Religious Studies Department at Asia-Pacific International University in Muak Lek, Saraburi, Thailand.
LIVING FAITHFULLY FOR JESUS
Youssry encourages students, regardless of their financial circumstances, to trust in God, to study the Bible and pray diligently, and to work hard to attain a Christian education.
“This is practical Christianity,” Youssry says. “Christlike actions, which can be accomplished only by the power and grace of God, are the key to presenting the good news about who God is to a perishing world.”
Second Language (ESL) instructor in Lebanon and copy editor for Adventist publications •
Michael Chesanek, who now lives in Washington State, United States, has served as an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor in Lebanon and as a copy editor
for Adventist publications. He also enjoys building churches and schools with Maranatha.