I couldn’t sleep. A call had come in 12:00 a.m. and I had missed it. Now it was 4:21 a.m. when I tried calling back. No answer. By 6:30 a.m. the second call got through. A relative of a woman here in India had a dear family friend who had traveled to India with his father because his father desperately needed heart surgery. But his father had unexpected died just before surgery. Now her friend was all alone. Could I please find him at the Apollo hospital and care for him?
Grieving alone in Delhi. I can think of few things worse. As we raced across town to the hospital, I collected a few more details from H…, his wife back in Texas. “Ok…he’s from Dallas.” What’s his name?” “M…” “Can you spell that?” “ He’s Iraqi. We live in Dallas, but his father was from Mosul (ancient Nineveh) in Iraq.” “Really?” “Yes, Doctors in Erbil told him that he wouldn’t get good care in Iraq, but if they want to India, they could get great care from good doctors for a reasonable price. Here’s his phone number. Call him and let him know how he can recognize you. I’m flying out of DFW right now and I’ll be in Delhi as soon as I can.”
It wasn’t exactly what I had on my crammed “To Do” list, but sometimes you just need to burn your list. This was one of those times. The hospital caters to “medical tourists”—people who come to India for a hip replacement or a bypass operation. The airport terminal-size facility was large and gleaming from a distance. But I lost some of my confidence when pigeons flew with impunity through the mall-like lobby/waiting room.
M… is a gentle Iraqi. Early thirties. His normally bright, warm blue eyes were ringed with the scarlet circles of a man who had only snatched momentary opportunities for sleep since he had arrived at Delhi’s airport five days earlier. He had been grieving by himself, but even in this moment, he defaulted to a Middle-Eastern host’s hospitable care of his guest. His words had the flowing cadence of someone fluent in Arabic. We had never met before, but as we talked, we traded lifetimes like cellphones mysteriously exchange contact information.
Task #1 for M… was to track the physician to find out what had happened after his father had been showing so much improvement. We searched this medical haystack until we found the doctor who clearly didn’t care to be found. He actually didn’t know that his patient had passed away the night before and he seemed humiliated by my Iraqi brother who was fighting hard to wipe away tears as they squeezed through his eyes. In the end, the doctor neither excused himself or said good-bye. He simply set his face in another direction and grimly walked away.
There were several more steps that first day that had to be accomplished, but by the time he found the waiting bed in our flat, he had nothing left. He slept. Ate a bit, chatted as well as a zombie can chat, and then fell back into the arms of his bed again for a whole night’s sleep. He was still sleeping the next morning when a very weary H… arrived on our doorstep. Just as he was waking up, she needed her sleep.
While M… was beginning to take care of legal matters, I heard something about their being involved in some sort of ministry in the Middle East. Snoop that I am, I googled their names. Not only did I watch their wedding video on youtube (quite nice by the way), I discovered a story worth telling. With several female friends, she had been abducted in Afghanistan in 2001 and imprisoned by the Taliban for over three months until her rescue by Army rangers. Since then, with her friends, she wrote a book, completed a documentary about the imprisonment, gone on to found a church-planting ministry in the Middle East…oh, and marry a Christian man from Iraq.
And those happened to be the two courageous, exhausted kids whom God placed under our roof for the next your or five days. We ate, we laughed, we cried, we prayed. Let’s see if you can relate to this: Have you ever had an experience where you feel like God wanted you to reach out and care substantially for someone else only to figure out later that you were really the ones He intended to be on the receiving end? Hebrews 13.2 read, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” The only difference is that in our case there was no mistaking who we were entertaining the whole time.
Imagine a place with no “normal”people and you’re just beginning to understand the pull of Delhi.