This December (2008) we celebrate dad's 24th anniversary for becoming a priest, as well as his 57th birthday... 3o2bal 10000 sana :)
I suppose most people know that my father is a priest, whether they know me from church, or know from my full name (by the way "Azer" is my great grandfather's name, and my full name in Arabic is Evronia ElKes Angelos Fathy Azer, and the "Fr." I write in English, "Evronia Fr. Angelos", is an abbreviation for "Father"), or otherwise, have seen me in one of the newspapers or church's magazines, LOL.
However, very few people know more about how this has affected my life, and what this life is like in the first place...
My Personal View:
First of all, it is very obvious from the dates above that I was born long after my father had become a priest. So, I had no choice in this decision, and it's not like my sister had a choice either, because she was two and a half years old at that time. But let's say that I was born into this life, not spending so much time with him, so I adapted. Do I hate it? Of course not, but it has its pros and cons, which is part of what I will discuss in this essay. I suddenly decided to write all this down, because a lot of people don't see all sides of our life, especially my dad's... but it's not like I'm telling a story here, I want to write this to make it part of a history I cherish so much, because it simply created ME.
The View of the Egyptian Community:
I've written before about how hard it is being a Christian girl in our society in one of my essays called "The Only Advantage of Living in Egypt" and I suppose no one argued with me about it, because all Christians have seen some discrimination, some way or another, throughout their lives. But being a priest's daughter, with my name so obviously showing it, certainly made it a lot different for me.
Long time ago, some of our neighbors' kids in the opposite block to ours in our street used to mock at us, calling us names...They even put a curtain to their apartment's balcony to block our view! I remember this now and I laugh at how much everyone in the area we live respects and appreciates us after they've known us so well. So, usually, as a little girl, this was tough for me, but thankfully, it didn't put bad marks in my life, or my childhood, probably it's because of how I was raised up; being so confident and so well respected from everyone around me.
But of course, kids' calling me names isn't a big issue, everyone would say "This is an individual incident" like what we hear on TV everyday :) But let me talk about the repetitive incidents that go on till this moment... I could be riding the car with dad, going anywhere, and we could be showered with verbal assaults, and may God Bless us if we don't close the windows, they could even attack us with their hands, or with anything they're holding... You pass, and you hear the slamming of people's hands on the back of the car, or on the windows, any of these stuff. Other incidents would be like: some sellers refusing to sell you stuff because you're Christian, or because they see you're riding with a priest, etc... Does that bother me? Well, if it wasn't for my family's safety and satisfaction, I certainly wouldn't be bothered, but as the Holy Bible said: "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven." (Matthew 5:11-12)
As for my name, when I was little, I was at a Coptic Orthodox school (Morcossia Language School) so I had no problems with people pronouncing my name, or teachers' discriminating me, although some kids made fun of it sometimes, but well, they used to call me a "nerd", they could make fun of anything else and I would just feel more proud! Later on at IGCSE, I was at Alexandria International School, and the whole thing with the British Council was amazing, I started becoming known with "Azer" as my family name, and when my dad visited the school when I applied, or to attend a meeting, or an honoring event at the British Council, he was welcomed and well respected. Now, at university, they don't even know how to read my own name in order to reach my dad's name :D, but there was a mocking incident with a teaching assistant in an oral exam when I was at my second year, but I pitied the guy, he seemed he already hated himself more than what I could've said to him to make him regret it more! LOL!
Anyhow, life isn't that bad! Cheer up, it's Egypt! It's the country where I was deprived of my simplest rights, I couldn't even go shopping with my dad when I was little (it's a simple thing but it affected me)... And do I love it? The land, I have nothing against it, it's full of churches and monasteries, and it's where a lot of saints' blood was shed, but the people, Hell NO! I think no one can argue with me now and tell me "We drank its water from the Nile, or were raised under the sun", this is total nonsense and it's not a Utopia after all, so no one should convince me into loving it!
The View of the Christian Community:
It's not that it's a piece of cake for Christians as well to look at you as a priest's daughter, especially at the same church where my dad serves. You could hear comments like "Do you really watch TV, do you even have one at home??"... Guys, yes, we do have a TV and I watch it (I even like MBC4 and dad mocks at me when he sees me watching it, saying "It's for you" :) ), I also listen to music and I even started using the net (AT HOME) since I was eleven or something!
And of course, at church, people don't get to see the crazy side of my personality a lot, they get to think, "this girl is complicated, she's living on another planet" and some people start to avoid you, or at least avoid talking a lot to you, because they think I'd go report it all to dad, who's the church's priest!! Once, I remember, a friend of mine told me "well, I didn't really think you were opened like that, I thought of you differently before I really talked to you". I don't know who to blame, but probably I wouldn't like people to judge me before really knowing me. If you don't know me, then don't form your own ideas about me, because most of the times, these ideas are wrong.
I didn't let any problem I've faced at church affect my love to it, because I love to serve at it, I don't even like anywhere else... it's my favorite place and my home... so now, as a grown-up, and after two and a half years of serving at Sunday school, I think my girls who I serve (who are currently at first year at secondary school) know me better, they know that I'm kind and open-minded, they know I watch TV, and they even chat online with me!
There's another side of this issue, the part of living in a house like ours, where you don't get to have peaceful moments without the phones ringing, and I say "phones" because sometimes the house line, and the mobiles ring at the same time, and they are all asking to speak to one person, certainly not me! LoL... but calls in the middle of the night or dawn are usual things at home. So I hope now everyone who hates our answering machine appreciates the fact that I have had enough of this noisy invention called telephones!
December 2005: A Month That Changed My Life:
In December 2005, dad had a sudden heart attack and had an open-heart surgery. What I gained from this experience is not something that can be put into words, and not something to be easily explained either. I've seen people's love to my dad, it moved me a lot, I've seen blessings from God, I've seen how God loved him so much and that's why God blesses our life as his family, because dad is with us...how many times you see a person having a heart attack, and this person is coincidentally visiting a patient in a hospital? Yes, it happened to my dad, and he was admitted instantly, had a surgery just one week after. It was all just a bunch of unpleasant surprises one after the other, because my father never really complained from heart diseases before that time. He was in Cairo, and everyone hid the news from me, but I had to know one way or another. I had exams at university, and I was staying over at my best friend Lydia's house, because the whole family was in Cairo. I remember in one of the oral exams (it was this subject I disliked much: Engineering Production) I was so tensed and shaky that the professor asked me if I was alright, of course I didn't tell him that I was studying for that exam on my way back from the hospital! The day that followed the surgery, was my practical physics exam, and I knew, while writing down on my exam papers, that my dad was in the ICU at that time, and was praying for him.
This whole experience was life-changing. It made me so strong, so much trusting God. I've experienced a stream of emotions, I felt I was losing my life, I asked God "Why" but then I learned to ask him to "Let His will prevail", which was so tough, I was taught to ask for God's will, not my own will, and the best will come afterwards.
I still remember: the New Year without dad, but thankfully by Christmas he was back at home, first time away from church, watching the mass on TV, people coming to visit him at our home all day long, and I had to study at night... lots and lots of memories...I recall them all :)
I also remember that while my dad was in the hospital I received my prize from the Goi Peace foundation, for winning . And by the way, this year at university, was the highest score so far for me; I got 88%.
The Side of
My Dad No One Knows About:
My dad, throughout the years, has built a reputation for being one of the most well-known, respected priests, for his integrity, religiousness, dedication to his service, good relationships (wasta ya3ny :D), his love to help others, his talented voice, his preaches, his love to Coptic Hymns and many other things. He has a great reputation with everyone and all organizations and affiliations in the country. However, there're a lot of things many people don't know about him. Sometimes they mistake his firmness for toughness, or his wisdom for strictness, but I see it all everyday, and I can tell more than what anyone thinks he/she sees.
My dad is so opened, so funny, so energetic, so kind, so emotional and he rarely shouts! And probably you'd be surprised to know that I am even so spoilt! Yes I'm "Daddy's spoilt little girl". My parents have always trusted my sister and me greatly, they made us feel responsible and gave us freedom to decide our own lives and make our own decisions about everything. I like the kind of life I am leading, and I'm proud of what I've inherited from that life. Everyone keeps telling me "Oh you write so well, you're so talented" but does anyone know that I got my writing talent from my father, especially poetry?! He doesn't write long poetry, nor published books, but he has a lot of thoughts, a lot of rhymes in his mind, numerous writings that are allover the house ...and it's very obvious in the way he organizes his thoughts and points in his sermons.
My dad and I get along in almost everything, he is my friend and our decisions are almost the same, and it's the same with my mom as well, but everyone would say "like mother like daughter". But let's say that I'm a mix of mum and dad at one package :) It's not just the writing talent that I got from dad, but his style of service at church, his priorities at service, his ideas, his love to Coptic hymns, his voice, his intelligence at education and many characteristics... I've taken a lot from him, and I hope I've made him proud enough so far.
I believe that I have led a blessed life, and a real lucky one. I thank God for all his gifts; for being raised in a home that made me love Him more everyday... a home that put so much success, so many talents, so many great and happy moments and memories in me.
Happy Anniversary dad, to you, and to St Takla Church, where your service blossoms everyday, and to all of us...
Happy Birthday to you...May God bless you always...