Out of Egypt … And Back Again

When riots broke out in Cairo, Egypt, in late January, Norris (’05) and Angela (Courliss ’05) Ham had no idea how quickly they would escalate. Though highly publicized by the media around the world, the riots were isolated to a very specific part of the city, so for a while, life in the rest of Cairo went on as normal. But things turned dangerous quickly.

“The mosques put out a call to the men of the neighborhoods and said they were to ‘come out and defend their homes,’” Norris says. Neighbors warned the Hams to defend themselves too, because looters were coming. Banks, grocery stores and schools shut down.

That’s when the American International School in Cairo — where the couple had been teaching for the past three years — called and told them to pack a bag. They were being evacuated to Sharm el Sheik, a resort town on the Sinai Peninsula.

They packed a few outfits, essential documents, their camera and computer and left everything else — including their bank account — behind. They didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to friends or their church, where they had led worship every week. And once they got to Sharm el Sheik, they had an important decision to make.

With the country so unstable, it no longer seemed safe for Angela, who was about seven months pregnant, to stay. The Hams decided to fly back to the U.S.

“It was a much more difficult decision to leave the country than to leave the city. But we needed to start thinking about our little baby and what we would do if I went into labor,” Angela says. Together, they spent a few days with each of their families before getting Angela settled in Indianapolis, Ind. Then the couple faced another tough decision — to send Norris back to Egypt alone to finish his teaching contract.

Current conditions in Cairo are now stable enough that the schools have reopened and rioting has died down. When it comes time for Angela to have the baby, Norris will fly back to the U.S., and the couple plans to eventually return to Egypt with the baby for two more years of teaching.

“Norris and I love Egypt,” says Angela. “We are going back because we feel that is where God is calling us.”

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