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Posts Tagged ‘Kuwait City’

Transformation of Kuwait

July 1, 2012 2 comments

Kuwait City

I have come here really knowing Kuwait for one reason; it was a catalyst in sparking the Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991. Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait August 2, 1990 bombing Kuwait City to smithereens. In response to this surprise attack, President George H. Bush deployed American troops to Kuwait as part of a coalition force to beat back the Iraqi Army. But the damage had already been done. Kuwait City was in ruins. Iraqi troops set oil wells on fire, eliminated all resistance, and stole $700 million worth of gold bullion was from the Kuwaiti government.

Today, Kuwait City is a completely different place. With help from the US and other countries, they have rebuilt a new country and so much of the city has been rebuilt from the sand up.

Driving in Kuwait, the modern buildings of Al Kuwayt (Kuwait City) pierce the skyline proudly show casing the wealth of the nation. The architecture is outstanding. We could also see the palm trees and plush green landscape weaving through this concrete jungle, and sparkling blue water of the Persian Gulf encompasses the northern part of the city.

It is flat.

It looks like you are in Saskatchewan at harvest time for golden sand stretches to the horizon. (Well, it does but without the grass, rolling hills and trees.) The highest point in this entire postage stamp size country is 306 meters high.

The population of Kuwait is about 2.5 million. Most of them live in Kuwait City and of these, one-half are non-nationals hired to serve the Kuwaitis.

Transformation and Change

The people once lived as tribal nomads or as town dwellers but with the discovery of oil in the twentieth century, the traditional Arab culture of Kuwait advanced rapidly. Unlike most Arab countries, Kuwaiti Arabs enjoy a modern, industrialized society. However, I did witness how at times the old “Arab ways” and values conflicted with modern, urban life.

Kuwait is hot. The temperature remained in the low forties the entire time we were there. Bob and I are travelling with special clothing made for washing in hotel room sinks and drying over the shower bar. During our time in Rwanda it rained a fair bit and so drying our clothes became a three day operation. I did a wash in Kuwait, hung my clothes to dry outside and voila! Ten minutes later they were not only bone dry, but stiff also!

Islam and other faiths

The prophet Mohammed lived in the area, and it was here that he developed Islam as a new religion. Kuwait culture is now based on Islam, and it is the main religion in Kuwait. It influences architecture, clothing, food and other ways of life.

The Grand Mosque

While Muslims demand for concessions in non-Muslim countries like my own, Canada – non-Muslims are systematically persecuted, terrorized and ethnically cleansed from most Islamic lands. But unlike other Arab countries, Kuwait allows non-nationals to practice their own faiths. Today, eighty-five percent of the people here are Muslim and the remaining thirteen percent are Christian, and two percent Hindu, and Parsi followers.

The church

So in the heart of Kuwait City there is a church – by that I mean the body of followers of Jesus – who are living and leading well. I do not want to be too specific about the nature of their ministry so as to not possibly hinder their presence there, but I had the privilege of preaching at four of their twenty-four services on the weekend we were there. That is correct, twenty-four. (I think it is now up to twenty-eight). Bob also preached a one of the services and it was a very meaningful experience for us both. This is a church that ‘gives back’ when you preach. They are engaged, responsive and people of action. You get the impression they will take what they learn from this sermon and apply it next week where they live or work.

A ministry and marriage seminar was also held on the weekend for leaders of this large congregation and I was again impressed and touched by this group of people. I loved them and their leaders.

This is a church that has grown through multiplication. At the heart of it is transformation – they celebrate transformation in people’s lives. They have a very in-depth discipleship process as a key element of their church.

As I have pondered our fantastic time in Kuwait (including an afternoon on jet skis in the Persian Gulf) I learned something I am bringing home to our church.

Transformation is the key,
and obedience is the key to transformation.
And when transformation happens, multiplication always follows.

Handcuffed in Saudi Arabia

June 11, 2012 5 comments

Bob and I boarded our Ethiopian Airline flight from Addis Ababa to Kuwait City. It was a late departure and we would not arrive in Kuwait until 1:45 am.

FYI: Flights often come and go in the evening here when the temperature drops to a safe level. Air temperature very definitely affects takeoff performance. All else equal, hot air is less dense. The result is that our plane must be moving faster through it to generate enough lift to take off. Unfortunately, the less dense the air, the less power the engines develop, so it takes even longer to to accelerate to the needed faster speed.

We were tired. We had spent the last five hours in the Addis airport – three hours not so comfortable and the last two in the frequent flyer lounge (but it was hot). I was determined that I would sleep on the flight because after our arrival I would only have a few hours of sleep and then I was speaking four times in Kuwait starting at 8am.

Mistake 1

We lined up to check in for our flight using the Elite check in as we have done many times before. There was a slight difficulty with language as I had trouble understanding the woman. Just as she printed out our boarding pass I asked, “Can you tell me what seats you have given us?”

Bob and I have been flying with each of us on an aisle across from each other. This allows us to get up to stretch and move easily. When she responded to my question she told me that we were assigned a middle and aisle seat in row two.

I explained that we would prefer not to have a middle seat and she politely offered us two aisle seats across from each other and asked if that would be okay.

“Yes, that would be fine as long as row two was not a business class section. What is the configuration of this aircraft?”

She didn’t respond right away but went ahead and printed the row twelve boarding passes.

“Is row two business class?” I asked again.

“No” she smiled back and then reminded us of the frequent flyer lounge location near our departure gate.

Boarding the Flight

Unlike boarding times in North America our tickets say that we are to board the flight one hour prior to departure. It seemed unreasonable at first but we have learned on this trip that the boarding procedures are not as efficient as we are used to. It begins with passing through security again at Addis. This is the third time we have placed our bags on the conveyor and through the xray machine.

Next you are gathered together in a secure room that is too small for the number of passengers on the flight. Our room was filled and 85% of the passengers were young women in Muslim wear although many had their faces showing like they were enjoying their last bit of freedom.

When they announced pre-boarding for the flight it was a zoo when over one hundred young women crushed together, pushing and forcing their way to the front. It was odd if you are a frequent flyer because you know that we are all being directed down several long hallways to a door on the lower level where busses will come, load up fifty at a time and drive you to the airplane. Rushing was not going to do anything, especially because all the seats are assigned – you are not benefiting by getting their first. Now sometimes I like boarding early if I have carry on luggage to ensure I get some space, but these young women were carrying nothing.

As we entered the door of the plane I let out an “Oh no” to Bob.

“What?” he asked.

“Row two is business class!”  I told him. “Oh well I will just talk to them and explain the mistake.”

After minutes of trying to explain that we had boarding passes for row two but the gate agent misinformed us and moved us to row twelve – nothing had changed. We kept having higher and higher levels of staff come to talk with me while Bob stood nearby just wanting to go to sleep.

Now when you are really tired, those front section seats look so wide and plush and inviting. The thought of them fully reclining pushed me to be bolder and stronger than I normally would – remember I am tired.

So they went an brought the man in charge to speak to me who listened to my story again and then briskly said, “We do not have the authority to move you from economy to business class.” He then offered to move us into the exit row to at least provide extra leg space, however he didn’t remind us that the seats do not recline at all. So this flight, Ethiopian #620 was already on our list as the worst flight of our trip (so far).

Mistake 2

Bob had a bad trip. He hardly slept, while I on the other hand did collapse into dreamland even sitting straight upright. We were both relieved when the wheels touched down right at the appointed time of 1:45am. In that half baked, dozy almost nauseating stage of being only partially awake we gathered our things together while the one hundred ladies stayed in their seats – very different from their behaviour on boarding. I said goodbye to Mr. “I have no authority” stepping onto the jetway and started walking towards the airport enjoying the air conditioning. You could tell that even at two in the morning it was still very hot here.

Suddenly a man started yelling in Arabic, and he kept yelling.

I turned around to see what was going on only to recognize the man in the official looking uniform was yelling at me – well Bob too. So in my I just woke up character I asked, “WHAT?”

He motioned for us both to return to where he was by the aircraft.

Right at this time the one hundred maidens started out of the aircraft making our walk back to the man reminiscent of salmon swimming upstream.

When we approached him, he took our boarding cards saying “Kuwait, Kuwait!”

“I know, I know” I said strongly back.

He then said, “This is Saudi Arabia” and he made the motion of clasping handcuffs on my arms as he pushed us back onto the plane through the last women departing the flight.

The plane had made an unscheduled landing in Dammam, Saudi Arabia and the only people who got off were the hundred women and their handlers. Very wierd. I asked Bob, “How much does it cost to get a plane to make an unscheduled stop like this?”

When we finally landed in Kuwait at 3:45am, there was a very nicely dressed man in a suit holding up a sign with both of our names on it. “Oh boy” I thought. Usually when I am going to get into trouble, I like having my lawyer friend on the other side and able to help. This time he is with me!

Well the suit man turned out to be a fellow our host had arranged to meet us and guide us through immigration into Kuwait. Although there were people sitting in the immigration area that looked like they had been there for days – we were processed through in minutes and able to meet my friend and Arrow leader, Warren Reeve who had been waiting for us since 1:45am.

“Don’t worry he said, this stuff happens here.” Warren said graciously.

I slept for two hours before starting to my marathon preaching day. Before falling asleep I quietly pondered what it would be like to be behind bars in Saudi right now?

Then I wondered about the future of those young women who departed where we could not.