The email read something like, “No one is authorized to leave the base today without my approval.” I couldn’t believe my eyes. Today was the day that I had been invited to speak at the only Protestant church in the entire country of Kuwait. When the pastor of the National Evangelical Church of Kuwait (NECK) asked me to preach while he was on vacation I was elated. I didn’t even pray about it. I accepted and figured I would repent later if it wasn’t God’s will.
I had been very excited for days about this opportunity. I had been taking a suburban with 5 other Airmen into Kuwait City every chance I got. We would attend a church service at NECK then head to the Sharq Mall for shopping in downtown Kuwait City. I took these Airmen to that church because I wanted them to understand that Christianity is not banned in all of the Middle East.
Yet, the email is saying I can’t leave the base. Here I am a preacher and I am being told by an Air Force colonel I can’t leave the base that day. I quickly sent him an email asking him if I could talk to him. In his office, I pled my case. I told the colonel what a huge opportunity it was for a minister to be able to preach in a church in a Middle East country. He asked me who I had planned to take. I told him about my plan to take 5 people and go shopping at the Sharq Mall then to a nice Kuwaiti restaurant for a meal. The commander told me he would allow me to go to my speaking engagement if I took the bases Protestant chaplain and went straight there and straight back to Al Jaber Air Base. Being grateful for an exception to policy, I knew better then to argue further.
I preached to over 500 people that day from Romans 12:1-2. These people were from over 20 different nations. It was an incredible opportunity that I will never forget. I remember the pastor cautioning me to speak slowly as I preached as English was a second language for nearly everyone that would be present.
The church itself is a fascinating study. Beginning in the early 1900s as a medical mission, it served in that capacity for many years. However, when Kuwaiti oil was discovered in the mid-20th century a medical mission became irrelevant as technology dramatically improved the Kuwaiti medical system.
Now the church meets in a compound of nearly a dozen buildings that are leased from the Kuwaiti government for under $1000 per year. There are actually numerous congregations that worship along language lines. For instance, there is a Swahili congregation, a Tagalog group and other assorted languages. Very few Kuwaiti’s attend the church however, the church ministers largely to workers who come from other countries to work in Kuwait.
Seeing the cross on the side of the building, I asked the pastor if it had been taken down when Iraq invaded in 1990. He told me that the cross remained on the building and that some Iraqi Christian soldiers actually worshipped with them during the occupation.
Occasionally, the Lord will give you a treat you don’t expect. I knew when I received my 12 month assignment to Kuwait that I would minister within the base chapel setting. But, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I could preach in downtown Kuwait City. But, God opened the door and it was a highlight of my ministry. To read more about the work of the National Evangelical Church — Kuwait go to http://www.tlckuwait.com/new/Index.html