Interview by Marshall Shelley
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 imagined. They could not express it even.
So for every believer, when we go and close the door to our secret place, the fire will come either to burn my sins and my wrong attitude, or to take me to another level of inspiration, of wonders, of heaven, and seeing things.
Then I come back more humbly because I’ve seen in some ways God’s glory. So it’s all about his fire of love.
Young people have a new social awareness. They want to help the needy around the world, yet sometimes they don’t know where to get involved. How should they get started?
Jesus takes us always step by step. He doesn’t reveal the whole all at once. So I would tell anyone who feels this: Please take another step and do something to the closest person—inside your family, inside your town, inside your church. You can encourage someone with a word. You can give a flower to someone. You can do something. When you do, Jesus will open the door for you for more. Take the step.
Copyright © 2012 by the author