Baghdad vicar brings Norwich hope message
Canon Andrew White brought messages of love, reconciliation, healing and angels amid the bombs and rockets of Baghdad, to several Norwich churches last weekend. Mike Wiltshire and Mark Sims report.
There was prolonged applause for Canon Andrew White – ‘the Vicar of Baghdad’ – after his final meeting at Norwich Cathedral on Monday night, following five remarkable events in the region. “It’s been the best visit in the UK that I’ve ever had!” he declared.
Andrew White is widely-known as ‘a fighter for peace’ in the Middle East, seeking conflict resolution and providing relief for the sick and needy, despite great personal danger and his own struggle with MS.
With more than 4,000 people in his Baghdad church – the largest fellowship in Iraq - he added, with sorrow, that “more than 257 of my people have been killed in five years . . . in once instance all 11 leaders of our Alpha Course were kidnapped and murdered.”
But he added: “We are still the happiest people, though surrounded by bombs and rockets. We know the joy of the Lord, and often sing that old chorus, ‘In my heart there rings a melody . . . a melody of love.’ ”
Speaking at Norwich Family Life Church (NFLC), for close to two hours, he told of angelic visitations, the manifestation of God’s presence and extraordinary healings in his Iraqi church.
He came to NFLC carrying the original, well-used Bible of Smith Wigglesworth (1859-1947), the famous UK healing evangelist, often called ‘the Apostle of Faith’ and pioneer in the Pentecostal revival of the past century. He also had Smith’s original much-filled bottle of anointing oil.
Speaking prophetically, yet unaware that NFLC has bold plans to rebuild on its former site at Heartsease, he felt certain ‘that God wanted him to speak at NFLC’, and then he prophesied that it was God’s plan for the church to plant out to the east of its current location in the north of city and it would experienced a mighty anointing of God.
NFLC members applauded this unexpected prophetic confirmation to rebuild their former Mount Zion site which is to the east of the current Mason Road location.
Then Andrew White used Smith Wigglesorth’s anointing oil bottle to bless NFLC’s Senior Pastor Trevor Pimlott for the challenges ahead.
By Mike Wiltshire
Leaders inspired at Cathedral seminar
More than 150 leaders in Christian ministry heard Andrew White speak on key issues in the Middle East, particularly Israel, Iraq and Iran and the impact of the so-called Arab Spring, at a seminar at Norwich Cathedral.
“The heart of all our work in reconciliation is listening to one another,” he said, and told of his great love for Iraq – known in the Bible as Assyria – and its historic links with Abraham, Jonah, Job, Ezekiel and St Thomas.
At all his meetings he highlighted the prophetic passage in Isaiah 19:23-25 which speaks of God’s ultimate end-time plan for Egypt, Iraq (Assyria) and Israel.
Against all the odds, Andrew was years ago invited to meet Tariq Azis
, former close adviser to president Saddam Hussain. This in turn led to contacts at top international levels which assist his reconciliation projects to this day.
All his ministry is based on two words, ‘Father, forgive’ and he added: ‘The reason I have no fear in Iraq is because love casts out fear. And I have learned to love the people – especially through the children of Iraq.’
‘I’m as committed as much to the Arab world as much as to the Jewish world,’ said Andrew, a rabbinical scholar who speaks Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic. Despite his long struggle with MS, Andrew often meets with senior religious and political leaders for closed-door dialogue to help resolve conflict.
Answering questions, he said “the greatest lesson that God has taught me is to believe the simplicity of Scripture – and God’s promises of daily provision.”
Real, practical love is the most important thing - showing the love of Jesus to all, he said. The ministry of freely giving food, medical treatment and education costs around £100,000 a month. Muslims often ask him why they show such love, and he tells them: “Because Jesus loves you this much.”
He would not claim any ‘great achievements’ because he was aware that of 163 hostage cases he has worked on, only 27 people were brought back alive.
His greatest joy in Iraq is his church, St George’s, and its outreach to Muslims, Jews, Christians and other minorities. He praised the pioneering work of the Mothers’ Union, “the greatest missionary agency in the Anglican Church”, and the backbone of the Baghdad church.
Each service in Arabic and Aramaic begins with the declaration, “The Lord is here!” to which the people reply, “His Spirit is with us.”
The church offers free medical and dental services, plus groceries and education for 2,000 local Iraqis each month. He spoke also of his early years – “I had a strict Baptist and Pentecostal background – so I became an Anglican!”
Speaking with great humour, he was thankful that God had brought him to Norwich ... “the only thing I really knew about the city was Coleman’s mustard . . . so here I am in Mustardland. But now I really love this area and hope one day to bring a group of Iraqi children to meet you.”
At several Norwich meetings, he phoned his Iraqi daughter, Leena, 18, in Baghdad, who, as his PA, confirmed to his listeners the joy, the healings and the angels that are all part of life among the believers in a war-torn nation.
On the Monday evening, Andrew addressed the largest-ever meeting of the Council for Christians and Jews in its 70-year history, at Norwich Cathedral.
By Mike Wiltshire
Message of hope at Holy Trinity
Canon Andrew White’s first Norfolk appearance was during the morning service at Norwich’s Holy Trinity
Anglican church on Sunday March 25.
There, a diverse audience of around 500 people listened intently as he talked about his experiences leading St George’s Church
, the only Anglican one in Iraq, with a ministry that includes running ‘the most advanced stem cell clinic in the world that has treated thousands of MS sufferers’- based in Kurdistan
The Canon’s talk began with a light-hearted tone as he discussed providing meat for people, as well as the presence of angels around his church. The talk then took a sudden, darker turn as he recalled an occasion when, during his leading a service at St George’s, a neighbouring Catholic church was suddenly attacked by Iraqi insurgents, killing 59 people.
To engender hope in the community, Canon White preached on Romans 8 a week later, singling out verse 18 in particular, “the sufferings of the present world cannot compare with the glory (that will be revealed in us).”
Canon White called St George’s Church “the best I’ve ever had”, praising its diverse congregation whilst also highlighting its lack of British folk. Nearing the end of his talk, Canon White handed out copies of his books and a DVD, an unusually charitable gesture for a touring author, even a Christian one.
Afterwards, Canon White was on hand to sign his wares for a large queue of people and I managed to sit down with him and ask a few questions. Inquiring about his angel sightings, he showed me photos featuring strange orbs from his latest book, Faith Under Fire, revealing that: “We see angels as really bright lights, they only photograph as orbs.”
He went on to say that God’s presence manifests itself in such an overt way in order to give hope to people who are enduring such suffering and trouble as those in Iraq.
By Mark Sims