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Meditation and Reflection

Canon Andrew White: “My brain is so badly damaged that I am finished”

The Rev’d Canon Andrew White, widely known as the ‘Vicar of Baghdad’, has long suffered with multiple sclerosis. His ministry vocation involves a lot of travel and even more speaking, often close to tears, and yet, sadly, it is his mobility and speech which are most affected by his illness. But two decades of MS haven’t stopped him being “hijacked, kidnapped, locked up in rooms with bits of finger and toe and things”. He has been held at gunpoint, physically attacked, and seen many members of his staff kidnapped or killed. He has lived in Iraq’s holocaust, and seen hell with his own eyes. Glory in tribulations? We don’t grasp the half of it.

He posted a health update on his Facebook page yesterday, which is rather concerning:

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It has been shared more than 3,000 times, with about 500 tearful emoji faces. When it comes to saints and suffering, some seem to get more than their fair share. But Canon White would be the first to say that his suffering is as nothing compared to the desolation throughout the Middle East. We can pray for a miracle, but Canon White isn’t really expecting one. Nor, to be honest, are we. Perhaps the consoling nearness of the Holy Spirit is the best we may dare to hope for. Certainly, those in Christ should console one another (Rom 1:12).

He posted an update a few hours later:

canon-andrew-white-health-2

There are good angels and evil angels: the Devil is the enemy, bringing nothing but dark nights and disruption. But note the move from despair – “I am finished” – to victory: “..on the winning side.. see great things.” It could almost be a psalm, moving from desolation to consolation. One moment God seems to have callously abandoned; another, He is there, with His warmth, peace, joy and encouragement.

Please remember and pray for Andrew White. He desires and works for heavenly things: he serves God and seeks to make Jesus known. He radiates faith, hope and love, even when the Holy Spirit feels absent in a world of gloom, discouragement and pain. The tempter, seducer and destroyer may be corroding Andrew White’s brain, but he will never sever the mystical union or silence the prophetic inspiration. He can evict a mind, but he cannot blind the sons of God to the vision of divine light and beauty. Our ecstasy awaits; our joy is in heaven. ‘I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me..’

  • Royinsouthwest

    What a message! Canon Andrew White’s statements are simultaneously very sad, very humbling and very inspiring! If his brain is badly damaged then he still thinks more clearly than a great many people who have nothing at all wrong with them. The only sign of anything wrong with his thought processes is a spelling mistake, “dementure” but how many of us who have posted comments on Cranmer’s blog have never made a spelling mistake? I have often had to use the edit facility to correct my own comments.

    God bless Canon Andrew White and give him strength!

  • len

    Canon Andrew White is a great man of God and one can only imagine the horrors he has witnessed.
    Whether God heals Canon White or takes him home he will be greeted when that time comes with “Well done good and faithful servant.” Which is the greeting that all Christians hope for when they meet their Maker.

  • David

    God bless Canon Andrew White – bless him for ever !
    He is an inspiration to us all, especially his bravery, clear thinking and practical approach to compassion.
    God may choose to cure him or decide that he needs to come home to his true country, which as for all faithful Christians is in heaven.

  • Albert

    May God bless him.

  • IanCad

    That a double dose of fortitude and courage has been granted to Canon Andrew White can only encourage all the other followers of Christ. We who only stand and wait. When our time comes we have been promised the help of that same Holy Spirit so manifestly present in the brave Canon.
    Countless martyrs throughout the ages have received abundantly that promised courage. We (I) may tremble at the prospect of isolation, pain, hunger, death, were such exactions required of us, however clear the Word of Faith may be.
    Bless Andrew White, a faithful follower of Christ. The call was made and He answered.
    But I still shudder at the prospect of discomfort, torment, and hunger, were the bell to be rung for me.

  • carl jacobs

    Seven years before his death, HL Mencken suffered a stroke that destroyed his short-term memory. He could not read or write for the last seven years of his life. It was a form of living death for a man who had spent his life in the life of the mind. He sometimes spoke of himself as dead already.

    I mention this because Mencken was an atheist. It is instructive to see the different responses to a ravaged mind between one who has hope and one who has only despair. The former can see beyond the darkness, while the latter can only embrace it.

    Sin takes its inevitable toll. But God is greater than the powers of sin, and death, and Hell.

  • Dreadnaught

    One does not have to be a Christian to humbled by the courage and humanity of this man. MS is an insidious affliction in that is slow, progressive and incurable that demands much of the individual and their loved ones witnessing its debilitating presence. No one deserves this demise.

  • Inspector General

    It is staggering to know that mere humanity, with its selfishness, weakness and corruption, can produce such an outstanding fellow as Canon Andrew White.

    One is not worthy enough to even hold the man’s coat.

    • CliveM

      I think Inspector that final sentence goes for all of us.

    • Anton

      Humanity can’t produce such a man. But God can.

  • chefofsinners

    The still small voice of God came to Elijah, as he hid in a cave, saying “What are you doing here?”
    We all sometimes feel like running away and hiding, but with God’s help we return to the fray and serve Him until He takes us from this world.

  • Anton

    It might be that his brain is so badly damaged that it has trouble running the automatic functions of his body, but that he retains his wisdom. May God remain with him.

  • Eeyore C

    thank you Archbishop for posting this. Canon White is a giant of our faith and deserves our prayers as you suggest

  • Politically__Incorrect

    I pray not just for his health but the work to which he devotes himself. Andrew White is an exemplary human being. We should take encouragement from him.

  • Psalm 22

    12 Many bulls surround me;
    strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
    13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
    open their mouths wide against me.
    14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
    My heart has turned to wax;
    it has melted within me.
    15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
    you lay me in the dust of death.
    16 Dogs surround me,
    a pack of villains encircles me;
    they pierce my hands and my feet.
    17 All my bones are on display;
    people stare and gloat over me.
    18 They divide my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment.

    19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
    You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
    20 Deliver me from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dogs.
    21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
    save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

    22 I will declare your name to my people;
    in the assembly I will praise you.
    23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
    Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
    24 For he has not despised or scorned
    the suffering of the afflicted one;
    he has not hidden his face from him
    but has listened to his cry for help.

    Ps 69

    1 Save me, O God,
    for the waters have come up to my neck.
    2 I sink in the miry depths,
    where there is no foothold.
    I have come into the deep waters;
    the floods engulf me.
    3 I am worn out calling for help;
    my throat is parched.
    My eyes fail,
    looking for my God.

    13 But I pray to you, Lord,
    in the time of your favor;
    in your great love, O God,
    answer me with your sure salvation.
    14 Rescue me from the mire,
    do not let me sink;

    16 Answer me, Lord, out of the goodness of your love;
    in your great mercy turn to me.
    17 Do not hide your face from your servant;
    answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.

    30 I will praise God’s name in song
    and glorify him with thanksgiving.
    31 This will please the Lord more than an ox,
    more than a bull with its horns and hooves.
    32 The poor will see and be glad—
    you who seek God, may your hearts live!
    33 The Lord hears the needy
    and does not despise his captive people.

    Suffering, confusion, near despair, has always been the experience, even the calling, of God’s people. Some, of course, are called to experience this in profound ways; those the Lord deems worthy and those of whom the world is not worthy. The suffering and struggle of faith expressed in these two psalms is to varying degrees the story of all who trust in the God of Abraham, the God and Father of our lord Jesus Christ.

    Christ is himself the perfect example. These psalms are explicitly messianic. He is the righteous sufferer all but overwhelmed by his circumstances. However, the ‘all but’ is critical. He prevails as faith will always do, even if prevailing faith must stretch into the jaws of death. For him vindication lies beyond the grave. He pioneers levels of faith no other has charted. As the Captain of our Salvation, he has carved a way for us to follow while as our High Priest who is seated at God’s right hand in the place of absolute power he supports, sustains, enables us as only one who has been there already can.

    We commit Andrew White to him. We commit our own cause to him. He ever lives to intercede with the God who will supply all our needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus. Let’s ‘look off unto Jesus’.

    • chefofsinners

      At the end of a tough week, that’s good stuff to read. Thank you.

    • steveherts

      Amen, a blessing upon Canon White, a faithful and steadfast servant of the Lord. May he truly know the blessing of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ