Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Review of Mama Maggie

Book #38. Mama Maggie, by Marty Makary & Ellen Vaughn. Hardcover.

Maggie Gobran had been a successful Egypt businesswoman and university professor when she felt that God was calling her to serve the poor of her nation, coming to be known there and eventually around the world as “Mama Maggie.” For her work in the “garbage villages” of Cairo, she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

This book tells the story of how Gobran acted on the compassion she felt for the poorest of Cairo’s poor, the “garbage people” who live in the sprawling slums of the city. Her managerial and organization background came in handy in creating the Stephen’s Children charity, which has trained, educated and loved thousands of children. Learning about the mind-numbing bureaucracy of Egypt was interesting, and demonstrated the tenacity that Mama Maggie and her family needed to get the organization up and going.

The discussion of the religious landscape of Egypt was also very interesting. When Stephen’s Children began, many of the poor were Coptic Christians, as are Mama Maggie and her family. But as a result of policy changes, many poor Muslims moved into the slums, and the charity served them equally well. The last few chapters of the book talk about the recent persecution of the Copts and other Christians as Egyptian’s government turned more hard-line.

The story of Maggie’s spiritual journey is also interesting. As her organization grew, and as demands on her time increased, she chose to spend more time in retreat, more time praying. Egypt has a long history of monasticism, and Maggie has integrated many of these practices and traditions into her modern twenty-first century life.

This is an authorized biography, so I imagine that there are some “sharp edges” that were filed off. But as a portrait of a woman committed to a cause, committed to the poor, and committed to God, it works. It is both inspirational and informative.

Source: public library, after hearing the book referenced in a church sermon.

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