The Zabbaleen of Cairo – Recycling and Reclaiming Lives

Thirty-two years ago the Zabbaleen, aka the “Garbage People” of Cairo, belonged to the most despised class in Egyptian society. At no cost to the government, and at very little cost to individuals, this group of people (numbering then ~ 17,000) not only collected, but recycled, virtually all of Cairo’s refuse. They lived as squatters on a barren piece of land that one missionary characterized as “hell on earth”. They lived without access to electricity, water, schools, medical care, or any religious facilities. But God has sent a Christian missionary, named Abuna Samaan, who found these people incredibly responsive to the “good news” of Jesus Christ. Over the past years they learned of God’s love for them and became a community with Jesus as their central focus. In the process Abuna gave up his job in the printing business to relocate to this area and begin the process of spiritual, social and economic development. For example, instead of using alcohol as a “retreat”, those who trusted in Jesus began to save and purchase their own homes and helped others to see that Jesus was also in the “recycling business”. Their tenacity also had the political consequence of encouraging the Egyptian government to help them by building a school and rudimentary providing medical care.

What’s most interesting was their discovery of natural caves at the boundaries of “their land” which, with the help of some wealthy Christian businessmen, were developed into church auditoriums...one seating up to 3,000 people and another seating 20,000 ... making the later auditorim the largest Christian church in the Middle East!

God is still in the business of reclaiming and recycling lives... He is still in the business of making all things new. As you think of the hardships in your own life and in the lives of those you love, pray the promise of Revelation 21:5, “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'"