Going into an Arab region is not just about witnessing to Muslims. Many of the expats have been driven there; some from a relationship gone sour, others from financial hardship.
As well as the local population, many hurting expats need the healing love of Jesus.
Knowing this, I decided to run an Alpha Course there. On returning from vacation, I brought some materials with me. I didn’t want to bring too many resources to arouse suspicion at the airport.
To my delight, 35 people turned up for the Course. But now we were woefully short of workbooks, outreach booklets, such as “Why Jesus?” and discipleship books.
That was not a problem for God, however. He provided the solution in a unique way…..
Soon after the start of the Alpha Course I was called, one night, to the Royal Suite, to see the mother of a royal relative. The Royal Suite, reserved for relatives of the ruling Sheik, had marble floors, gold taps, luxurious carpets and fittings and even its own lift that took a patient directly into one of the operating theatres.
The patient had been in ICU with a chest complaint, being attended by the physicians. She didn’t like it there and insisted on a transfer to the Royal Suite.
That night she was in dire straits. I watched her gasping for air, her mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water, her eyes wide open focussed on infinity, her chest hardly moving and her lips tinged blue.
I told her female companions that if she did not return to ICU to be put on a ventilator, she would die soon. Not daring to go against her orders, they summoned her son. He put me in touch with the Royal Physician who convinced the son to listen to me, once I had explained the situation to him. The son made a stipulation, however: “My mother must not know that she is going back to ICU. You must sedate her first”
I suggested that I sedate her, put a tube in her throat and take control of her breathing before moving her, but he would not hear of it. “She must not suspect you are doing anything to her. Everything must be done in ICU.”
All Intensivists know the most dangerous thing one can do is to sedate someone who is in respiratory failure. It reduces their ability to breathe even more and can cause unconsciousness and even death. Those, however, were my orders.
Praying hard, I prepared everything in ICU, made sure there was a clear passage to get her as quickly as possible to her ICU bed and summoned the aid of two ICU nurses. Then, with her companions hovering anxiously in their black abeyas, their eyes peering fearfully over the burkas that covered their faces, I walked to her bed in the Royal Suite.
I gave her a tiny dose of a drug that produced minimal sedation, blotting out her memory for everything that happened after the injection. Then we hurried her to ICU while her companions fussed around her like agitated, clucking chickens.
Once on a ventilator, she improved dramatically.
The next day the Minister of Health was there, insisting that we summon the Head of the Brompton Chest Hospital in London, one of the most famous chest hospitals in the world.
He arrived, spent all of Thursday with her and as we do in the West, prepared the family for the worst — she might require a tracheotomy — making a hole in her windpipe.
Whilst preparing one for the worst is a good tactic in the West, in the Middle East it is very bad form to give bad news. I have heard a Middle Eastern neurosurgeon discussing a patient with a head injury with the patient’s relatives. One look at the scrambled CT scan would tell a layman there was no hope of recovery. Yet the neurosurgeon was saying, “Yes, Insh’allah, he’ll wake up tomorrow.” I was shocked, but as I worked there a little longer, I realised he was doing the right thing in their culture. They all knew what he said wasn’t true, but it was a kindness to speak well of his patient. Better a lie spoken in love than the bitter truth, which is alluded to in other, indirect, ways.
As the Consultant explained a tracheotomy, they refused to listen and hurried him out of the ICU for a sumptuous tea at one of their palaces.
On my early round the next day, to my delight, the patient looked so well that I decided to take her off the ventilator. When the Head of the Brompton arrived, he was shocked, predicting to the relatives she would be back on the ventilator before the day was over.
She was not, however and continued to improve. He returned to London. After some days, with no diagnosis of why her lungs had failed, I suggested she be flown to the Brompton Hospital in London for extensive tests. The patient’s son insisted that I accompany her and the next day we settled her in an ICU-equipped Falcon jet aircraft and set off for London.
Once there, the son informed me that he had booked me into the executive suite of a six star hotel in Knightbridge. He wanted to reward me for saving his mother from a tracheostomy.
God had a arranged a luxurious stay for me five minute’s walk from Holy Trinity Brompton Church, where the Alpha Course originated! They, of course, had all the resources that I needed.
Two day’s later I boarded the private jet once more. I landed back in the UAE at the President’s private airstrip, where there were no customs or immigration formalities and no-one to check my case loaded with all the Alpha resource material we needed.
“For with God, nothing is impossible!”