The Vicar of Baghdad – www.firstthings.com

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According to Christian tradition, the apostle Thomas stopped by Baghdad on his way to India and gathered the first Christian congregation there. The ministry of Canon White at St. George’s recalls those apostolic foundations. The congregation sings praises not to “Jesus” but to Yeshua. The Lord’s Prayer is recited in Aramaic, the language in which Jesus gave it to his disciples. Canon White is called abouna, “father” (related to the New Testament word abba), by his parishioners.

You can meet and hear Canon White at the William Wilberforce Weekend , May 2-4, 2014, in Chantilly, Virginia.

Read the full article HERE.

Back to a beleaguered Baghdad

Dear Friends,

I have arrived back in my beloved Baghdad. I have known this place in some difficult times but nothing has ever been as bad as now. The usual twenty minute journey from the airport took over 3 hours.

Yesterday’s bombings were so serious and all around the church there were homicide bombings. Scores of people were killed including two young male friends in their twenties. They were Dawood’s closest friends and ran a shop which provided our church with much it needs. Our church is in an area where many of the government ministries are, thus the reason we are under such attack in this period leading up to the general elections at the end of April.

As we worshiped tonight our usually small group at our prayer meeting was bigger than ever and our worship even more fervent. We are all in such a desperate situation and all we have is our Lord and each other. It is so special that we stay together with those G-d has sent us to love and be loved by.
back-to-baghdad-6-feb-2014

This picture is of Mariam, Rita, and Stephan together again, oh what joy it was to be together again. As Mariam said to me, “we are all your children and G-d’s children and we are just so happy to be together again praising G-d.”

Blessings,

Canon Andrew White - the Vicar of Baghdad
Andrew

February 2014 Prayer Calendar

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February 2014 Prayer Calendar

A Baghdad Sunset - January 2014

A Baghdad Sunset – January 2014

Michael John’s last report

St George's - an oasis of peace amidst the bombed out buildings

St George’s – an oasis of peace amidst the bombed out buildings.

Baghdad is a shot of adrenaline. Whether sit down meetings in unknown locations, or driving ninety on busy streets flanked by security (without a seat belt in case of attacks), or hearing bombs and guns at the break of dawn. It is also a city waiting. Waiting to be pulled out of the depths of violence or waiting for the next attack to drag it kicking and screaming back into fear.

I am greeted with a surprised smile when I show my British Passport at the varying checkpoints dotted along each road. These man made points, armed with artillery and the odd tank gives the sense of anticipation. And they have every right to anticipate the worse. Our meeting at a prison on our last day was cancelled due to the prison coming under attack. We went out for dinner at a church members house and during the two-hour meal seven bombs went off killing thirty and wounding over eighty. And the scene of a bride crying in the streets with the pavements littered with the bodies of her guests and her new husband slaughtered.

Times in Baghdad are slowly on the up. But there is tension, in our compound and outside. Tension, with Iraq’s GDP significantly growing but whilst many of the congregation don’t even have mattresses let along air conditioning. Or the tension of Al Qaeda rebels in Syria, who, armed by the West will flood into Iraq just as they descended into Syria as soon as that government is over thrown. And there is personal tension, as Andrew’s health limits him, he struggles on and after a few hours of meetings, his body exhausted staggers, with the help of his side men, to his bed, where he sits to regain his strength, before a widow comes knocking on his always open door. It’s the tension of the unforeseen, the unknowing, the uncertain.

But, as the saying goes, the night is darkest right before dawn. And here there is a lot to be thankful for. There indeed is much hope for the future, for the future of the church, the capital and the country. It may not be much, but with God’s help its something.

In the middle of all the business of Baghdad, the confusion, the terror, lies a small compound, standing between two shell shocked buildings, with a small garden, a illuminated cross at the highest point and a large cemented area, where the young men play football in the week and the buses pull up bringing the faithful at the weekend.

The most heart-warming sight, and sound, is the secretive service at 5pm. The church is full with hundreds but in an upper room in another building of the compound another few hundred people meet. Muslim woman and their children. They don’t break bread here, nor do their children join in with the churches children’s programme. Please pray that as the prophet Jesus is declared maybe their hearts would be strangely warmed.

I’ve learnt a lot here. Doing pastoral visits to prisons, to see an unrepentant mass murder and a PTSD suffering Brit, locked up, unable to speak the language, scared and looking at twenty years as the only Britain jailed in Iraq. Other trips to see the Sisters of Charity, or dirt poor families and I can smile, take pictures and write about it, but I’ll be on a plane tomorrow, and back safe in Oxford before the sun sets, with their memories etched in my mind.

I’ll remember the two congregations on a Saturday morning in the 100-acre expanse known as the US Embassy, where they care and pray for Iraq and her people, whilst missing their own families and forming bonds unlike many churches I’ve seen. It was Kurt’s last Sunday, a Marine serving his country, who was prayed off by his loving family and said goodbye to Andrew as if a son leaving his father. They all give some money to help the church in the centre, as they know how bad it is on the outside of their embassy walls.

I’ve learnt that nothing is what it seems, where once Saddam was the only dictator, now there are thousands who dictate over the smallest of issue. Getting a visa out of Baghdad costs a days work. But also any pre-conceived conceptions have been shattered and will dwell on my warm welcome from Muslims and Christians alike here in Iraq.

Back here the school carries on, educating Christian and Muslim children together, though as the weather hits high forties, everyone is in need of a nap.

As the dust continues to cover the city above us, we can feel so insignificant. Sometimes sitting outside, late at night listening quietly to the silence of the night, we can misread where we are, as the midnight curfew descends on this historic city. Any other city, in another town, the sky lit with the lights of the intertwined roads and large buildings and we settle back and wait. Some nights, we drift and discuss the day’s events and tomorrows schedule, maybe even politics. And we sip a coke on the roof of our building and pretend we’re anywhere. But we’re not anywhere. Because sometimes the night is shaken to its very core, or tomorrow’s plans are literally blown out the water. And we know we can’t leave without men in guns, or walk down busy city centre streets, or bring my wife on holiday here, or go and buy her a present from a market, we have to plan and prep security for a trip like that and even the thought of walking round more than one shop is laughed out the room.

Baghdad continues to descend into the complexity of violence and intolerance of many. But we must pray and hope that there is more to life than episodes of confusion and hopelessness. Here young men pray for visas to UK or US, there chances are slim, and that’s being nice. The old men, tried and whose dreams of peace are vanishing. Where young woman long for a husband, who may be loving or not and old woman who serve the church wholeheartedly without any praise. There are places all over the world where the blurred nature of violence continues to swell and overpower peace. There are a few here that continue to fight against violence and disillusionment, and serve the poor and the helpless, give hope even in fear, visit the suffering and the imprisoned, bring religious leaders together for unity and discussion, provide education and medicine.

Being in Baghdad it’s hard to know how to pray, or why even bother in the intricate nature of oppression. But we must. If only to join with our brothers and sisters here who continue to pray, even amidst this torrid backdrop. And so as my finals thoughts before I leave try to form, whether Middle East or Africa, Syria or China, Korea or Egypt we must remember those in crisis, and give, with our intellect, finances, time and prayers to the whole wider church and any oppressed people, because no land is forgotten by God and so then, neither must we.

Michael John

New Voices from Baghdad

Greetings and Blessings from Baghdad,

It is wonderful to be back here in Iraq, the place is as crazy as ever. The violence is as intense as ever. The wonder is as amazing as ever. We give thanks to God that Paul White is back at work after his extended time away due to serious spinal surgery. We are also joined by Michael John who is a student at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford training for ordination. It is wonderful having them both here and I think it is very important that they provide an update from their point of view, so here it is!

Michael:

As I step out of the airport I’m greeted by 48c heat, and I quickly realised I’m a long way from home, and in more ways than I initially realised. The first thing you experience when eventually getting to St Georges, after the heat, is the overwhelming sense of love. There’s the school filled with humorous and friendly children, who sang “head, shoulders, knees and toes” for us. They jumped and danced for our attention, but our stay was not long enough, time is precious and we cannot get too distracted. Next was the clinic, as we were shown round the different rooms and saw the wide-ranging treatments available, it became obvious that this is special for Baghdad. The look of relief on the patient’s faces, just to have access, let alone actual opportunities was prominent.After we headed out, in our three-car convoy, to see some of the church members. The first, a small home, filled with the stench of undesirable smells. With security outside we ventured in, where we were offered water, of which we cannot accept, and sit on their broken sofa while a middle aged woman cradles herself on the stone floor, where she sits daily. They are excited and emotional to be seeing their Vicar, who brings a little food, not enough, but at least there’s something. A wide-eyed woman sits in the corner, smiling at our visit, which vanishes when we get up to leave. There are hundreds of families like this, who have a place to call home, which is bed less, lightless, foodless and absolutely no defence against the now 50c heat. I begin to pray for the night.We also went to a high security prison. To meet a man who had been prominent in Saddam Hussein’s regime. I realised that at one time this man had opened many doors for the work of frrme, but he’s now a brittle old man, powerless and dying, on death row for his horrific crimes, and its Andrews gift to him that even men like him deserve love and a little time, which gives him hope. He’s offered prayers and we depart into the dust bowl.

As we drive back, high speed, through the streets of a city, dishevelled through war, and torn apart by religious differences, I wonder, that what frrme are doing here, truly is what the church has been called to do. It sparks in me questions regarding how I’ve viewed church, what I’ve supported and what I really believe in. What is the church called to do, this church that even the gates of Hell shall not prevail against? Preach the good news, bind up the broken hearted, visit those in prison, look after the poor and love the vulnerable. So far on my trip I’ve seen all these things being done, not to mention the behind the scenes work, with other programmes, meetings and trying to show God’s love in the Middle East. FRRME do a lot more than I’ve seen so far, and I cannot wait to experience and see it for myself but I’ve only been in Baghdad 30 hours.

Paul:

I am finally back in Baghdad after about 5 months away. I had to have spinal surgery but am finally mended and am ready to get back to the work God has called me to.

As soon as we got in the car from the airport I felt as though I hadn’t been gone at all. The streets are still filled with rubble, we still encounter numerous checkpoints, and the traffic is still horrible. There are small changes though; a new fountain here, newly planted trees there, but the over-all picture is still one of carnage and violence. We finally get back to the church compound and I immediately noticed differences. There are new walls that are very secure, and I notice many small improvements throughout the compound, the result is an overall impression of cleanliness. An immediately noticeable difference is a new structure for the school children. It is a bright new enclosed area for them to play and store their things. This is definitely an improvement and an enhancement to their education.

As we begin to go out into the city to do our work our first stop is to a new grocery store in the green-zone to buy groceries to take to some of the parishioners. I learn that there was another branch of this super market out in the city, but that it was completely destroyed by a bombing earlier in the year. This to me highlights exactly what I have seen since I have been back. There is improvement, there is an attempt to build a better country, but despite these efforts there is still a spree of violence that is trying to hold the country back. It feels as though Iraq sometimes is taking two steps forward, and one step back, but I do believe there is a real effort at improvement. This gives me hope for the future of this country, although this process will not be quick or easy.

Here is a photo of the inside of the new school structure with the school children who are receiving awards for good marks:

Prize giving at St George's Baghdad

Prize giving at St George’s Baghdad

With every blessing,

Andrew, Michael and Paul

Canon Andrew White - the Vicar of Baghdad
Andrew

Trauma in Iraq Continues

Dear Friends,

What does G-d say? The trauma in Iraq over the lastfew days has been immense. People have been killed bombs have gone of one stop and it would be normal for people to say why? Why does G-d allow such awful things? It is question that is often asked to us Whatas Christian’s. Why does God allow such awful things to happen if he is really in control? Bombs, illness, famine. These are indeed the real questions of life.

I remember the days when I was at studying theology in Cambridge. I was at a very good Evangelical College Ridley Hall. Studying theology is never easy, training for ministry it is always difficult but the hardest thing for me was dealing with the intensity and negativity of so many of my fellow students. The doubts and anger and theological questions. When we are faced with suffering we always have questions. They main one being “Why Lord why?” it is natural to ask questions, but the issue is how we respond. For us as Christians our response has to be different.

In the midst of our immense difficulties and problems we have to remember the most basic thing in our life, our relationship with G-d. It is a relationship based in LOVE it is only the love of G-d that can sustain us in such suffering. It is only knowing His love that will sustain us and enable us to cope with out major theological questions of theodicy, (Why does a good God allow evil). We may be faced with major theological questions but our response is also a major theological. Like the response to most issues of suffering there is no clear easy response. The fundamental issue is the we live with a partially inaugurated eschatology. In other words G-d’s glory and majesty have been revealed yet at the same time the present evil age continues. In other words Man and the world fell soon after creation. The world remained in a fallen state until Jesus comes in all his glory. When our Lord comes the world radically changes. Suddenly light is revealed in darkness. People have hope, light and a future. Jesus has come, life has changed.

Whilst change has come, the way of salvation has been revealed miracles happen and we live with supernatural God given power the present evil age continues. So we live in a post cross world but the present evil age continues. With its evil brokenness, terror trauma and evil continue. Yet there are so many Christians who think all brokenness and evil has gone. Indeed in 2 Corinthians 5 :17 we read that “the old has gone, the new has come” but that does not mean that all evil is over forever. It does not but we are told that “the suffering of this world is nothing to compare with the glory that is to come” Romans 8:28. So in scripture we are told of this ongoing battle between suffering and glory. Is the nature of the challenge we live with daily. It is the challenge of a partially inaugurated eschatology. I find it very difficult when Christian friends imply that if we are really living in Christ we have all the answers. We only need the real faith to have total healing and a total end of all tragedy.

My Lord is with us always despite the suffering. Our G-d suffers with us, as I will write about that soon when I look at the suffering of Christ.

With every blessing,

Canon Andrew White - the Vicar of Baghdad
Andrew

Update 29 April 2013

Dear Friends,

Today I must confess I started work at 01.30 but I had had 3 hours sleep so managed. I had two miraculous answers to prayer, but the one not yet answered I confess was causing me great anguish. It is always an issue that causes me great pain even though I know the Lord always provides. It is simply the issue of money. Not being able to provide for my family, staff or church always causes me great anguish even though I know our Lord always provides.

I left Baghdad at 7.30 am this morning because I was returning to England via Turkey. The stop over in Turkey is about 7 hours and is usually very monotonous but not this time. I met with some of our many people now living in Turkey. I married two of our people and baptised a baby. Most of our people live a long way from a church or city. They travelled ten hours today so they could meet me near the airport. After yesterdays pain of people leaving it was good to have a day of joy amongst those who have left.

I did not make clear yesterday in my Facebook posts that despite so many people leaving us the church has not shrunk in size we have been joined by so many people from other places and this includes several hundred Muslims, so we still do have much to give thanks for. This week will mainly be spent in a variety of meetings, beginning tomorrow with our board meeting at the house of Lords. We still urgently need your prayers that we will have enough funds to function properly in Baghdad next month. At the moment we not even have enough for the Clinic to function next month. So please do pray for our third miracle.

Blessings and love,

Canon Andrew White - the Vicar of Baghdad
Andrew

From Brightness to Brokenness

Dear Friends,

Inauguration of Archbishop Justin Welby at Canterbury CathedralIt is difficult to describe the extremes of the last few days. I travelled back to England for Archbishop Justin’s enthronement in Canterbury Cathedral, but before that great event it was the 10th Anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq. I landed in Heathrow and went straight to the BBC studios in London for the first of many interviews on Iraq ten years on. I eventually got back home to Liphook but the interviews continued by phone. The next day there was time for a quick meeting with my team before heading to Canterbury. This was on the Wednesday but from then until the enthronement on Thursday all the interviews were about my friend Archbishop Justin.

During all this preparation for the great event there was continuous news of tragedies back in Baghdad. There was bomb after bomb after bombBombining in Zayona (AP Photo Hadi Mizban); people close to us were hurt but not killed. Amongst all of this I went into Canterbury Cathedral for what proved to be a truly powerful yet emotional event as I watched my close colleague installed on the throne of St Augustine. Archbishop Justin spoke with humility and power – in this Archbishop the church and nation has great hope.

The following day I made my journey back overnight to Istanbul and then on to Baghdad. I arrived at 8am and then without sleep had the two US Embassy services to take as we celebrated the Palm Sabbath. The following day was the celebration of Palm Sunday at St George’s. This is one of the most triumphant and wonderful services of the year. As we celebrated our Lord’s journey to Jerusalem we could not forget that the Palms would soon turn into nails.

Monday morning, as Holy Week began, so the tragedy of Iraq continued with the now normal morning bombings. That evening though our friends from the “voice of the martyrs” in Canada arrived and they are with us until Friday and are having a very active time of seeing our daily life.

Last night was a very important night it was the beginning of Pesach or Passover. Yes, this is a major festival for all Jews, but it should also be for all Christians. This is a feast of obligation for us all. Though it is rather strange celebrating it in Iraq I will never forget just after the war here, I helped organise the Seder meal for all the Jewish Staff in Saddam Hussain’s Palace. So here is the scripture that shows this is forever.

Exodus 12: 17-20

Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And anyone, whether foreigner or native-born, who eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel. Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.

The story of the liberation of the Jews is a mirror image of the salvation we remember this week when the Palms turned to nails. It is a time of salvation that we must never forget.

Hag Sameach and a blessed Holy Week,

Canon Andrew White - the Vicar of Baghdad
Andrew

Interview with The Telegraph

Canon Andrew 17 March 2013

Photo courtesy of The Telegraph

Read Canon Andrew’s interview with David Blair for The Telegraph on the 10th Anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

Suffering & Glory

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Baghdad in the name of the Almighty.

Today I started writing my new book called “Suffering and Glory”. It is a topic that is at the heart of the Christian Gospel. Romans 8:17 says, “We share in His suffering that we may also share in His Glory”. If I were to sum up this past weekend it has indeed been a time of intense suffering and glory. There have been moments when I have felt so ill physically and so emotionally down that I have very unusually wondered how I could go on. Then the bombings have been so terrible 10 on Saturday morning alone. Scores killed and hundreds injured. The media rarely reports what is happening here now because it is such old news. In the midst of all this we have our services. In the US Embassy on Saturday morning we had our usual time of prayer requests and thanksgiving. My Iraqi adopted daughter Lina spoke up saying. “I just want to thank G-d that He has provided for me so much that I literally need nothing”. Lina was saying this living in the midst of war and terror. I was so challenged by this that it has continually rang through my ears ever since.

Despite my limitations and weakness I have seen G-d’s might and majesty. Despite being surrounded by horror and living with such weakness I am more aware than ever of the might of the Lord and his miraculous power are radically working through our work. What we are doing now is only part of what we are called to do. I know that G-D is calling us to recommence our work in ISRAEL. We are also being asked by the most senior Islamic leaders in SYRIA to go with the top Iraqi Muslim leaders to try and work for peace there where everything else has failed.

Having prayed much about these I feel that it is right. I know that the Lord will make my strength perfect in weakness. To do this work we need to raise a lot of extra money. Not for our wonderful church in Baghdad but for Israel and Syria. Please may I beg you to come and stand with us in G-d’s own land of the Holy One and in war torn Syria. Together we can take the miraculous power of G-d with us to these places.

We have a registered charity in the UK and a 5o1C3 in the USA. You can give and make contact with both these organisation through their websites www.frrme.org and www.frrmeAmerica.org and say what you want the support to go towards.

Thank you for your help my friends, together we will move forward.

Canon Andrew White - the Vicar of Baghdad
Andrew

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