The Long Road to Rio
“I’m lucky; I’m so lucky, so blessed to be here at Rio,” stated Zahger Botrous, Rio Science teacher. It’s been a long, challenging journey for Zahger from the streets of Tatelaya, a village in Upper Egypt, to the classroom at Rio; but as Zahger explained, “I know looking back that God has had a plan for my life in the past, and he also has a plan for the future.”
Growing up as a Seventh-day Adventist in Egypt, Zahger knew even as a child that his beliefs made him different from not only the majority Muslims in Egypt but also from the Orthodox Christians, the predominant religion in Tatelaya, who sneeringly called the handful of Adventists “Jews.” This natural bias against Adventists was even compounded by the Egyptian “Pope,” who officially announced that neither Jehovah’s Witnesses nor Seventh-day Adventists should be considered Christians. Although his dad’s family was Seventh-day Adventist, his mom and her family were Orthodox. In fact, even though his mom attended church with the family, she did not become a baptized SDA until Zahger was in college. “Many of my relatives made fun of our beliefs,” Zahger said, “taunting us as kids and telling us we were not going to go to heaven.”
Even though belonging to a minority religion was difficult, Zahger looks back with fondness on being part of the SDA church. His father was a third generation Adventist, and his great grandfather was one of the first SDA converts in Egypt. His great grandfather learned about the church from a foreigner who was working on an Egyptian rail line where he also worked. This worker shared his faith, and several workers’ families in nearby villages, including Zahger great grandfather’s village, were converted.
“Part of the reason I wanted to be an SDA, even as a child,” explained Zahger, “is that I truly admired my father and wanted to be like him.” When his father was away working in Kuwait, Zahger, as the oldest child, was proud to take the place of his father as “man of the house” when he and his three brothers and three sisters went to church.” Later when he was in high school, the church appointed him leader of the children’s division, and in college he frequently spoke for worship services.
All the children in the family particularly enjoyed the visits from missionaries, who were often invited to Zahger’s home for dinner; and a highpoint of the year was attending camp meetings in Cairo at the Nile Union Academy campus.
Life was by no means easy or luxurious for the Botrouses, but compared to many Egyptians, Zahger had a relatively carefree childhood—playing soccer with his friends in the streets, fishing and swimming in the irrigation canal outside of town, and hunting birds in the local fields. His father made a good income for the family, but to do so he had to work in Kuwait, where he was an electrician. Continued...