Faith and Healing in Our Midst
Today was a reminder that our human bodies, though fearfully and wonderfully made, can still break down. Our dear Barbara has been down all day with a bug from somewhere and so could not travel with us. Ironically, we had a hospital visit on the schedule today. But we have kept her in prayer and believe that the great physician will heal her soon!
And just like the church in this part of the world, our number has been diminished as well. Today we said good-bye to Elmarie as she headed back to Beirut and also to our dear pastor and wife from Kirkuk as they headed home. It has been more than a blessing to spend these last days with them and share as one church family, and to be able to bring home their pictures and stories. We pray for the day when we can all gather together again.
The hospital was Basrah Children’s Hospital, a very new hospital which opened in 2010. We were greeted by its director, Mr. Kadham, and had coffee and conversation in the conference room. This hospital serves the middle to southern half of Iraq, not just Basrah, and the care is 100% free to patients and their families. This is a very up-to-date facility with 101 beds, 45 of which are pediatric cancer beds, and they are always full. We visited two rooms each of which had two children who were being attended to by their mothers, and we were humbled to give small gifts of colorful stickers and handmade caps to them. We also circled together, hands clasped as one, and prayed in the name of Jesus for the healing of these sweet Muslim children. There is a never-ending stream of patients in this place needing this care. Cancer rates here have skyrocketed as the depleted uranium from the bombs of 30 years of war has poisoned the water table deep into the earth. Even more humbling was hearing from Mr. Kadham how he appreciates the presence of the Basrah Evangelical Church. They have made previous visits to this place to show their love and care to the children as they spend time here hoping to be healed.
We ended our day with a short cruise on the Shatt Al Arab, the river which runs down to Kuwait and the gulf. 40 km away on the east side is Iran. Before the Iran-Iraq war from 1980-1989, the east side of the river was covered with 30 million date palm trees, and Iraq used to be the date capital of the world. Saddam Hussein had them all burned down so his enemy could not use them for cover and today it is just a blighted empty place. 30 million trees gone from a place not far from what was considered the Garden of Eden. And we could see the loss of this vast richness of God’s provision in the eyes of our church friends as they told the story as we went down the river. Other evidence of the wars was part of the scenery in the form of burned and broken ships, left to rust away in the current.
And another loss was also clear as we went down the river. These wonderful friends from the church are part of the few families who remain here. Before the war in 2003 there were 150 people at the Basrah church. They remained through the Iraq-Iran war and the first Gulf War in the early 1990s. But the last war has seen them leave so just these few families remain. This faithful remnant. They preach the word. They teach the children. They visit the sick. May God continue to use them to heal this land. May God hear our prayers.
The Outreach Iraq Team