Latest from Baghdad

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Baghdad. The tragedy and joy of this place continues. In the last days it seems greater than ever. The theme has very much been children. What joy we shared with our children as they sang to us “Jesus has made me the Happiest in the world”. O the joy of seeing these little children praising G-d.

The children singing amidst the tragedies
It was just after church yesterday that we learned of yet another terrible tragedy in Tel Afar in the province of Niniveh. This time the suicide bombers attacked a primary school killing and seriously wounding over 130 Children. The killing and massacres continues non stop every day the violence is so terrible but when it is children the pain is so great. And again this morning there is no knowing how many have been killed – several major bombings have happened in areas where many Christians live. I am sorry that so much of the news I share is so terrible but this is the reality of life here. This is where G-d has called me to serve him and you as my friends are also part of this ministry.

Things remain terrible here they are so bad but very little mention on the media and scores of people are being killed each day. The only solution is the reconciliation work between all the different sects and groups. At the moment it is hajj so a lot of the senior Islamic leaders are away. We managed to meet with most of them before they left so everything is being set up for there return when we plan to have a meeting of the High Council of Religious Leaders in Iraq in a nearby country in the region. We also plan a major meeting in the region between Jews, Christians and Muslims this is a very important yet sensitive issue. Please pray that we manage to find the funds soon for these very important ventures which could truly help bring peace to this broken land. As always these ventures are very expensive but totally G-d inspired and he will help us find all we need. As usual our days a full with a mixture of meetings with diplomats, politicians and religious leaders.

Ungo and LinaApart from work things there have also been other more interesting and personal things. On Saturday we had the wedding between Ungo my driver and Linda who used to serve us at Abu Afif Chocolate shop. They are two of my favorite people people – two months and twenty days after I asked them if they would like to marry each other they did and it was a truly wonderful day.

We continue to work in this broken but inspiring land and I will not leave it. But we seriously need your prayer that the Lord will provide for us as we have nothing. Even our security money and our own living expenses have gone on emergency needs for the people and we urgently need help.

Please pray for us.

Grace, Peace and Blessings,

Canon Andrew White - the Vicar of Baghdad
Andrew


Meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury

Dear Friends,

What an incredible day yesterday. A truly wonderful time with my dear friend Justin Welby the Archbishop of Canterbury with some of my staff including Tim his son. We discussed serious things relating to the Middle East conflicts and we have several excellent ideas how to address some of these issues, a lot more to come. Apart from the things on the ground it is clear that we have a lot to do internationally as regards reconciliation.

Canon Andrew with Archbishop Justin

We want to bring together the most senior Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders to try and find a way forward. We have a lot of work to start from now. I will be returning to Baghdad today with Tim so we will have some time to work on things.

Canon Andrew White and members of staff with Archbishop Justin

The major thing of this week is the engagement of ny adopted daughter Lina. Iraqi Christian engagements are a major public and spiritual betrothal, totally unlike anything in the West. The big day is next Wednesday.

Before that we have another very important event, which is the children’s first Communion, one of our biggest services of the year. So it should be a week for some good pictures.

Blessings,

Canon Andrew White - the Vicar of Baghdad
Andrew

A wonderful day…

Dear Friends,

Today was a wonderful day when we celebrated the resurrection glory with our dear Bishop Michael Lewis.

Bishop Michael Lewis at St George's Baghdad - 21 July 2013

Bishop Michael spoke about Mary and Martha and Mary’s immense love for our Lord. He said something that I always say we must listen to our Lord. Today I was listening and not speaking. I found the event so moving. As I gave out communion I looked at the faces of our people and I loved them more than ever. They all shone with the glory of the resurrected Lord.

As we left the church there were our children waiting to sing to the bishop, and yet again we saw that the Lord was here and his Spirit was with us.

With every blessing,

Canon Andrew White - the Vicar of Baghdad
Andrew

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

With the children before Sunday Service

Video by Al Hassan Fahmi

The fear and love of the Lord

Today has been a truly wonderful day as we celebrated the First Communion of our children whose bus was blown up just two weeks ago. We had our first service for the children’s families on Friday. I will never forget what one little boy said on Friday, “we knew Jesus was here with us when we came into the church, because we saw him on the bus when it was blown up”. The pictures below are of the children and the distribution of relief after church today, which was boxes of MRE’s (“Meals Ready To Eat”) left over by the US Army.

Yesterday was a good day at the US Embassy, I spoke on “The Fear and Love of the Lord”. Looking at the readings for this Sabbath, I was immediately drawn to  Psalm 111. In it fear of the Lord is mentioned twice in verses 5 and 10. The fear of the Lord is essential to our faith and practise, it is the thing that keeps us from sinning as we realise how awesome our G-d is and also what leads us into wisdom. It is so interesting though to see that both times when fear of the Lord is mentioned, so too is the everlasting covenant of G-d. G-d has made such an incredible eternal covenant with us. Why did he make that covenant with us? Simply because he loved us. And why did He love us? Because he loved us. So we see that G-d’s love to us and our fear of Him are intrinsically linked. Fear and love of the Lord go together!

Assange, the founder of Wikileaks has hit the news. I have to confess that I have no sympathy for him. The way that he released sensitive information from the US Embassy here in Baghdad was despicable. He is calling for his personal human rights, yet he did not provide that for the Jews of Iraq. He listed the names of all seven and their addresses here in Baghdad and named me as the person who is helping them. All those who endanger the lives of others in such a way should be held to account for their actions.

 

Canon Andrew White - the Vicar of Baghdad

Andrew

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The terrible bomb blast – but they are all alive!

Dear Friends,

We are used to bad days, but today has been in a different league. Central to our work and ministry here are our children. One of the biggest services of the year is when some of our children have their First Communion. This service takes place at the end of August. The children prepare everyday with about two hours of teaching. They all come to church in our bus and are then taken home.

As they were on their way home today, they were caught up in a major bomb. The bus was not too badly damaged and it continued its journey. All of the children started singing the Lord’s Prayer. As they were in the midst of their prayer a huge bomb exploded. All the glass of the windows shattered, people fell to the floor injured and one of the teachers was in a very bad way. They were all taken to hospital, but were all discharged as none of them had life threatening illnesses. In a normal country there is no way that some of the teachers would have been discharged. One person was hardly breathing and in profound shock. She was brought to the church and I looked after her until she was more stable. Only then could I leave to visit all the children.

It was wonderful seeing all the children, despite their injuries they were all smiling. Their parents however were not, some were in floods of tears on learning what happened. The fact is that today was miraculous. When you see the state of the bus it is simply a major miracle that nobody died or was more seriously injured. The children knew quite clearly why, they just kept telling me that they were alright because they were praying and G-d was with them. And He was.

Many tears were shed and there are huge things still to do as well as people who still need treatment. Please pray for us as we try and recover from another trauma.

Grace, Peace and Blessings,
Canon Andrew White - the Vicar of Baghdad

Andrew

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URGENT – suffer the little children

We really need your prayers, urgently.

We were just taking the children home from their first communion class when a bomb exploded, then another bomb. There have been nine bombs this morning.

They will not let anybody in the hospital so I am now back at the church. We are told nobody has died, just injuries.

Please be praying for the children and that we can we help them all and their families through this.

Bombings in Baghdad - 31 July 2012 - Picture: Al Hassan H Fahmi

Canon Andrew White - the Vicar of Baghdad

Andrew

Please consider making a donation today in support of our work here in Iraq and the region. And please subscribe to this blog to receive news and information that may not be posted onour facebook pages and share it among your social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, etc).

I love them so much

Portrait of a young boy from St George's congregation

For me the big news of today is our youth. I love them so much.

Despite all our problems all they could do was sing. “He is my love he is the only one I know, He always loves me and I so love Him too“. I so love them too.

I told them we had no money and one of the 10 year old boys stood up and prayed and thanked the lord, that when I go home next week I will collect the most ever.

I will.
Canon Andrew White - the Vicar of Baghdad

Andrew

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