The Times Online recently published a story about Canon Andrew White's ministry out in Baghdad. He truly is an amazing person - and not just because he looks ever-so-slightly like Morpheus from the Matrix. I had the privilege of meeting and "working" with him a few years ago at a conference in Solihull (of all places!). Not quite the Black Country (where I was living at the time) and certainly not quite Baghdad! Either way, we both ended up there. Him, because he is an inspiring person and had an amazing message to bring; me, because the drummer in my band was playing in the worship band and I was stepping in last minute for a bass player who couldn't make it!!
At that particular time, he was regularly meeting up with Yasser Arafat. For some reason that he could not quite understand, Andrew's son had taken a particular liking for Arafat and always would ask that his best wishes be passed on whenever Andrew was going to speak with him! In return, Arafat gave Andrew's son one of his turbans for his birthday! That may seem bizarre, but it did a world of good for me. It highlighted how we completely vilify people who are evil, and turn them into less-than-humans. Andrew's son, though, knew the truth: these people are exactly human, and as such are no more in need of God's grace than me, or you, or Canon Andrew White! And are no less deserving of love from those who claim to follow Christ. Remember, as Shane Claiborne has popularly pointed out, even St. Paul began as a terrorist... (of sorts...)
Please pray for the work that Andrew is doing out in Baghdad. It must be so difficult. His family live back in England, and he is also suffering with Multiple Sclerosis. Yet he carries on. His church is attended by over 2000 people, from all denominations, and indeed some are even from other faiths!! As he continues to be involved in negotiating peace and the release of victims of kidnapping, it is glaringly obvious (at least to me) that the world is a better place for this amazing guy.
Finally, on a more positive note, I think this story completely sums up both sides of Andrew's life (i.e. his approachable, everyday-man side and his extremely important global ministry side!). During one of the breaks of the Solihull conference, we were sat in the back room eating from a few bags of greasy chips bought from the local chippie (if Solihull has such a thing...!). Eating, laughing and telling jokes, we were all getting on very well. Midway through Andrew telling us a joke about "an Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman" his mobile phone rang. He paused from his joke to look at the caller-ID. "Oh" he said. "I'd better take this; it's the Whitehouse". And off he went into a back room! Classic.