Isaiah 19 is for now

A recent interview with Canon Andrew White - Vicar of Baghdad

BCN Exclusive: An Interview With "The Vicar of Baghdad," Canon Andrew White Teresa Neumann (August 24, 2009)

"Baghdad is still the most dangerous place on earth. As for being taken hostage myself, to be honest, I don't worry about it, although yes, it could happen any day. For me, it's very blurred—the line between life and death. As a Christian, I know when my time is up, it's up. But nothing will get me until then."

On Friday, August 14th, Canon Andrew White, also known as the "The Vicar of Baghdad," was in Albany, Oregon, to speak at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship (VCF) of Albany. Before the meeting, I was privileged to sit down with the vicar for a short video interview.

For those who are unfamiliar with him, White was the Anglican envoy to Iraq when Saddam Hussein was still in power. Today, he pastors St. George's Anglican Church just outside the Green Zone in Baghdad, the only Anglican church left in Iraq. He also helps pastor the American Armed Forces chapel in Baghdad. He is a wanted man, and wherever he travels in the Mideast, he must be escorted by scores of armed bodyguards. White has set up his own peace resolution organization—the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME) and for his extraordinary bravery, he was awarded the U.S. Cross of Valor.

Baghdad, says White, is still the most dangerous place in the world. As a highly valued intermediary in Mid-east conflicts, he has been involved in nearly 150 hostage negotiations. Of those, only 46 were returned alive. He has, himself, been kidnapped and held hostage, witnessed horrific scenes, lost personal bodyguards, friends and hundreds of his own parishioners to brutal terrorist attacks. Indeed, the body of his close friend Jason Swindlehurst, who was kidnapped in Iraq two years ago and held hostage, was delivered to British authorities just this last June.

By the way, Canon White also suffers from Multiple Sclerosis.

Canon White is as kind, gracious, vivacious, gregarious and upbeat as they come. His ready smile, dry humor, impeccable British accent and warm brown eyes belie the horrors he has endured. A very tall man, he possesses a spirit that is bigger than life. He exudes love and possesses an exceptional confidence in his calling. 

Like Corrie ten Boom and other great ambassadors for Christ before him, Andrew White is a true hero of the faith.

During our interview, the vicar touched on a topic that was to be the main theme of his message that evening. It is found in Isaiah 19. He began by teaching about the Biblical history of Iraq, explaining that two of the most "miserable" missionaries in Scripture were sent there; Jonah and "Doubting" Thomas the apostle.

Jonah told the people of Ninevah about God and when Thomas went through Ninevah on his way to India, he told them the Good News that the Messiah had come. White added that today Ninevah is entirely Christian; indeed, almost all of his parishioners in Baghdad are from there.

Back to Isaiah 19: One day, while praying, White said he was led to visit Ezekiel's tomb just south of Baghdad. According to White, the prophet's remains are housed in a Jewish synagogue next to a mosque in an obscure village called Al Kifl. When he entered the temple, the canon said emphatically, "The Glory of the Lord was there." 

He pointed out that in Ezekiel 10 (which I believe was emblazoned across the ceiling of Ezekiel's tomb) the Glory of the Lord departed from Solomon's Temple and "went east"— toward Iraq—during the Babylonian captivity. White does not believe that the Second Temple contained the "Glory" but insinuated that it continues to reside with Ezekiel's remains and is waiting to be restored in Jerusalem. 

Amazingly, White had brought with him to Albany a very old, tattered and frayed Bible which had been Smith Wigglesworth's. (White's grandfather had been Wigglesworth's personal assistant and had given it to Andrew when he died.)

"Every chapter in this Bible," he explained, holding it up for emphasis, "has been marked or underlined in some way. Except for Isaiah 19." 

Why? Because, said White, it was a Scripture meant for our day.

He then read it aloud: "In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria [Iraq]. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, "Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance."

Though he never said so, my impression was that he believes this Scripture to be a literal prophecy. Of this he was adamant, that when the Scripture does come to pass—and when the handful of Jews who still reside in Iraq are gone—the Lord's return is nigh. Heavy stuff. 

The vicar wrapped up his message with the exhortation that we must love, love, love, love, love our enemies. He admitted how truly difficult it is. There is no hope for peace or reconciliation without it, he said, and it is the only way he knows how to personally live his life. 

I was deeply moved by White's love for the Iraqi people and for the country of Iraq, his bold appreciation for America, his incredible courage and guileless character. He is a man marked by God to do exploits in the Kingdom few of us could do. 

Please pray for his protection and the protection of our brothers and sisters in Iraq.