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The unexpected highlight of the latest Willow Creek Leadership Summit was Mama Maggie Gobran, the diminutive Coptic Christian who works in the slums of Cairo, Egypt, with destitute children, both Christian and Muslim, who "are hungry every hour."

While she heads an organization, Stephen's Children, it was clear that the power of her leadership was a more mystical kind than normally spotlighted at leadership summits.

In her remarks, Mama Maggie said, "The hardest task of a leader is to get to know the Almighty and to keep your heart pure." One way to do that, she said, is through silence. There "you discover a taste of eternity." Her means:

"Silence your body to listen to words.

"Silence your tongue to listen to thoughts.

"Silence your thoughts to listen to your heart beating.

"Silence your heart to listen to your spirit.

"Silence your spirit to listen to His Spirit."

The leaders at the summit were fascinated by the power of her gentle spirit. Afterward, Marshall Shelley and Drew Dyck asked her a few questions.

How do you feel when people call you "the Mother Teresa of Cairo"?

Every time I hear it I feel that she's coming to me saying, "I'm blessing you." And I want her to keep on blessing me and the children until the day we stand before Jesus. I'm not worthy to untie her sandal. But I know she's with me. We have the same lover.

My nephew, a physician, gave me a Christmas gift, a framed photo of Mother Teresa, and she is in front of me every day. She comes to me in dreams. Also in hard times.

What do you do in times of discouragement, when it seems the needs outweigh the resources?

When you are heading anything, it's a very lonely place. Sometimes it's not easy. When we started this ministry one leader told me one thing—never give up. I keep that thought in front of me all the time.

When we are young, we think we are going to conquer the world, but when we become more mature, we think, Oh, we're so small compared to the whole world. And then you discover the most difficult thing is going inside your own spirit. The enemy comes inside to a leader and says, "Give up. Nobody loves you. Nobody appreciates you. Nobody cares." So I must take the time to go inside and see the way Jesus sees. By inside I mean not just taking an hour for quiet time but a day for quiet time.

St. John of the Cross described a "dark night of the soul," a time of bleakness and abandonment. Has that happened to you?

This is the fire that Jesus wants everyone to go through. In the fire you are either burned or become pure. His love is fire. It consumes or purifies.

Isaiah 33 says: "Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? … He who walks righteously and speaks what is right."

The fire of love will burn our sins and it will take us to dimensions we never thought of. Like Paul in 2 Corinthians 12 when he was taken places and he didn't know if he was even flesh or not, taken to "the third heaven." Like Moses on the mountain. They were taken to the Almighty, seeing things they never ...

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Marshall Shelley is editor of Leadership Journal and an editorial vice-president of Christianity Today.

Related Topics:Experiencing GodFormationSoulSpiritual
From Issue:Dark Nights of the Soul, Fall 2011 | Posted: December 12, 2011

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Displaying 1–5 of 12 comments


February 21, 2013  1:29pm

It saddens me that the Protestant theology of sola scriptura often turns into "I decide what is right and what is wrong." I admit I left Protestantism for Eastern Orthodoxy because, generally, a lot of Protestants believe they are the Pope and anyone who disagrees with their views/theology is a heretic; I saw this in myself and it disgusted me. I had to realize one day that cynicism, pride, and fear weren't the marks of Jesus and the early followers, rather love, worship, and service to others was. If you find yourself criticizing this gentle woman who has given her whole live to loving others in Christ's name, you're likely at a very sad place in life.

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Shane Anderson

February 21, 2013  9:49am

I continue to be amazed at what evangelicals accept as Christian. There is nothing Christian in the piety this person expressed, except her care for the poor. Unfortunately, it appears she has done the same as her spirit-guide, Mother Theresa, and is not pointing people to Jesus Christ and life in Him as it is given in the Bible. One would search the Bible in vain to find a spirituality like hers, where we look inside for inspiration, boast in visions, engage in asceticism, and revel in a wisdom-so-called rather than the simple gospel of Christ!

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A copt from Egypt

October 08, 2012  5:50pm

Before going on all these discussions. I will give you a glimpse of what she is saying. What she said about silence is a saying of one of the what we call desert fathers, they are monks or nuns left everything and went to the desert for solitude and to taste the life of heaven on earth. Mama Maggie expressed her experience as she is following those fathers path. About dreams and visions – there is heaps of them in the Bible. Angels and God himself talks to his Saints. So many of those poor Egyptians suffering for the word of Christ are blessed by God miracles through his Saints and 2 years ago we had an appearance of Saint Mary on one of the churches and watched by thousands. Don’t judge others please. Copts are desendents of thousands of Martyrs for more than 20 centuries and they have been killed to preserve their orthodox faith untouched for years. 1000s Monks and nuns and similar to Mama Maggie are still existing there. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Cyril_VI_of_Alexandria

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James Gleghorn

October 08, 2012  6:53am

Wow! I am very suprised by the tenor of some of the comments. Here is a wonderful Christian lady who is speaking in her 2nd or 3rd language having her speech parsed to judge her. I have met Mama Maggie and I have served with her in the dumps in Egypt and I can personally attest to work she is doing in Christ's name and for her sake. She gave up her life and totally surrendered it to Christ to serve the least of these and yet we are quick to judge a statement (in her non-native tongue) versus looking at the fruit of her work and lives that have been changed by the thousands by coming to know Christ as Lord and Savior. Keep parsing, while she is the hands and feet...

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G. Fisher

June 22, 2012  6:09am

Deceased Mother Theresa comes to her in dreams? Yikes, Didn;t we used to call this necromancy or spiritism? Were in the world has the church gone. This is downright frightening. Who is next Sylvia Browne? God help us all.

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