Sonia was just a child when both of her parents were killed in an accident. “I lived in my older brother’s house. I was his domestic helper after our parents died,” she says. At age 14, Sonia was an illiterate orphan in a remote village in southern Egypt; she had no hope for a better life. “I used to get up by sunrise every day and look out my small window and wonder if a miracle might ever happen and if there would be any hope of change to somehow sweeten my hard, bitter days, which I spent cleaning the house and caring for people and cows.”
One day, her ‘miracle’ finally arrived. “A young woman from a Christian literacy ministry came to open a new literacy class in our small church. She wanted to teach women and girls basic reading, writing and maths skills. I had heard about this class and hope sparked in my mind. This was something new that I thought might change my life.”
But Sonia’s sister-in-law was afraid she would lose the cheap help, and objected. “She considered it a waste of time that would take me away from the house chores. I pleaded and cried for a full month, and finally, my brother agreed to let me go. I had to promise to work harder and longer to catch up with the house duties of course.”
Sonia was not the brightest student, but she was one of the most determined, and her persistence paid off. She looked forward to the literacy class in her local church every week and wouldn’t miss it for anything. “The literacy class teacher used a curriculum based on Biblical passages and stories for the reading and writing lessons. What really drew me to these classes was the teacher’s commitment. I experienced such love and compassion. Every week she traveled to our remote village to help me and other girls see new horizons.”
After two years of weekly classes and assignments to do at home, Sonia passed the final literacy exam successfully and received the basic literacy certificate. But her most life changing experience came when she accepted Jesus as her Saviour during a conference for literacy students.
“I decided to start a basic literacy class for women and girls in my village… I can help others become empowered to change their lives as I did.”
The revelation of Christ’s love healed her and helped her to find her true worth. Soon after, she started attending several discipleship groups and even started one at her traditional local church for teenage girls to tell them about Christ’s love, and to pray and worship with them. She was keen to share her testimony with many women and girls in her small church.
Sonia also learned knitting in one of the women empowerment workshops provided by the ministry, and soon she got busy making scarves, jumpers and baby clothes to support herself. This gave her some financial independence from her brother. “But my dream grew bigger and bigger,” Sonia says. “I decided to start a basic literacy class for women and girls in my village and I have attended a training course to learn how to do that, hoping that I can help others become empowered to change their lives as I did.” It wasn’t easy, but she passed the test on her second attempt and eventually opened a new basic literacy class for the women in her village.
Today, Sonia is 19. The young woman is now seen as a respected community leader. She still dreams of finishing her secondary education, although her brother is trying to arrange her marriage, claiming that she is too old to start studying. But Sonia focuses on God first. “I know that the Lord has something wonderful in store for me and my life to come. My life belongs to Him and I am amazed at what he is making out of it. I cannot wait for the future adventures with Him.”
The women’s literacy programme has been running in Egypt for over 10 years, mainly serving Christian women from villages and small towns in the south of Egypt. Teenage girls, widows and housewives can all be found in these literacy classes, ranging in age from 17 to 65!
12,000 women now hold the official literacy certificate. The programme has been so successful that some Islamic NGOs and mosques have even asked for these literacy classes to be run for Muslim women in their facilities. This is a great opportunity to show the love of Christ to the non-Christian community.
None of this would be possible without your support, so thank you very much.
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.