About Keith Krebs

Following the Good Shepherd

Cultural Schema

“Do you have anti-freeze?” I asked, as I walked into the auto parts store ten minutes after closing. The door was still unlocked, and they graciously let me come into the shop, yet they looked blankly at me.

“Anti-freeze?” I asked again.

Puzzled looks around the room.

“Ahh…Coolant! I need coolant. My car is overheating,” I said, finally realizing people living in this desert have never had a need for anti-freeze.

The context in which you live shapes the way you understand things.

This can be true of the way we understand people too. I am learning to listen and ask questions. I don’t want to misunderstand what people do and say because I have not paid attention to how my understanding is different. My experiences have shaped my understanding in certain ways that others may never have experienced.

Coolant, not anti-freeze.

Petrol, not gasoline.

Trousers, not pants (means undies).

Operating theater, not operating room.

Use your right hand only to eat or pass something on to someone else. The left hand is considered unclean.

Context and culture shape the meaning of actions and words.

I have a lot to learn.

Keith Adding "Coolant"

Circles Without Borders

The mission of the American Mission Hospital is: “We are here to serve the people in Bahrain in the Spirit of Christ who went about doing good to all who came to him.” Compassion is one of the ways the Spirit of Christ is shown to those who come for medical care.

One of the ways compassion is shared is through the Chaplain’s Fund that provides assistance to those who cannot afford medical care. It is a great joy to see the relief on a patient’s face when they discover there is help available.

Dr. Mary, one of our anesthesiologists, had a vision for how to raise funds for the Chaplain’s Fund. She is a craft project lover and she saw a woman wearing a pair of earrings made from discarded IV bottle pull rings. She asked how they were made. Earlier this year she gathered volunteers from the staff at AMH to begin to make the earrings.

Dr. Mary is a firm believer in recycling, innovation, and using the talents of people. All these values were incorporated into what is now called, “Circles without Borders.”

The first step in making the earrings is to gather ring-pull tabs from IV bottles.

Pulling the tab

Then trim the extra plastic off the ring so they are ready for the next step.

Pull tabs with rings

Next, nylon thread is crocheted around the plastic rings.

Circles sewing

Almost finished…

Almost finished

The nylon strings are trimmed off and melted to prevent unraveling, and then earring wires are attached.

Finally, you have a beautiful earring!

Finished Earing

Here’s Dr. Mary with the finished products.

Dr. Mary with a box full of completed earrings

The earrings are sold at AMH events and to staff at the hospital. Chaplain Keith has also distributed them at churches in the United States. Many people have the opportunity to share in the Spirit of Christ who reaches out to people with compassion and healing. This is a project “without borders.”

Posted in AMH

The Power of Place

AMH at dusk
The American Mission Hospital has a track record. For over one hundred ten years it has provided excellent health care with compassion and understanding. That history gives this place a power of location. People know how to find AMH, and they know what they will find when they come here for care.

American Mission Hospital is located in the heart of the busy capital of Manama, Bahrain. It is very interesting that the address of the American Mission Hospital is:

PO Box 1,

Isa Al Kabeer Avenue,

Block 307, Manama

The Kingdom of Bahrain

It is an interesting historic fact that the American Mission Hospital has the unique distinction of carrying the PO Box 1 address, so any mail in anybody’s name with PO Box 1, The Kingdom of Bahrain, will get here. In addition, any mail with just the name  ‘American Mission Hospital’ on the envelope will also be delivered here.

We are easy to find.  We have been around a long time.  People know where we are and why we are here.

The hospital is on Isa Al Kabeer Avenue. Sheikh Isa was the late King, and the hospital is on the road named after him.  “Isa” is “Jesus” in Arabic and “Al Kabeer”  means “great.”

Isa Al Kabeer

It is a beautiful coincidence that the American Mission Hospital stands on ‘Jesus the Great’ Avenue here in Manama.  Read the words of the mission statement of this beautiful place:

“We are here to serve the people in Bahrain in the Spirit of Christ who went about doing good to all who came to him.”

It does matter where you are located in space, time, and spirit.

Posted in AMH

Breakfast in the Souq

Breakfast with Gary BrownThis morning I had breakfast with Gary Brown in the Souq Bab Al Bahrain at Naseef’s, located in the heart of old Manama, the capital of Bahrain. Gary taught and was the principal at Al Raja school for 32 years. He speaks Arabic fluently. As I listened to him order breakfast in Arabic and greeting and talking to people in the shops in Arabic I now have this deep desire to learn how to speak Arabic too.

Initial Observations

Denise and I have been in Bahrain for 3 weeks as I write this. So here are my initial observations as we begin our ministry here:

  • Bahrain is a nation of many nations.  In my first 4 days here I personally met individuals from 18 different nations.
  • The American Mission Hospital is deeply respected by the people and the leaders of Bahrain as a place of healing and hope.
  • We have experienced warm and genuine hospitality from everyone we have met.
  • We experienced a warm thank you and send-off for Chaplain Appu and Lali Varghese for their 12 years of faithful service at the American Mission Hospital.
  • There is a spiritual vitality in this place.  The worship at the English Language Congregation is beautiful and inspiring.  There is a commitment and a heart to love the people of Bahrain with the love of Jesus.
  • The food is delicious, and we are invited to many homes where we are experiencing hospitality and amazing meals.
  • It has been a challenge to get to know and remember the names of a large number of hospital staff members, congregants, and teachers and students.


Chaplain Keith

The Journey

We are now in Bahrain!

It was an interesting journey to arrive here.  Our flights were all delayed or canceled along the way, beginning in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where we had a two-hour delay.  This resulted in missing our connection in Chicago.  We were booked on three separate flights out of Chicago. After about a two-hour delay because the cabin of the airplane wouldn’t warm up due to the  faulty external electrical system, we made it to our connection in Washington, D.C.  When we got on that plane, though, we were delayed on the tarmac because of smoke coming out of a vent.  After awhile we were cleared to fly.

When we landed in Kuwait it was determined that there was an oil leak in one of the engines and the plane was grounded.  United Airlines only has one flight a day into Kuwait, and they had no flights the next day (Christmas Day), so we were stranded.  Since there were so many of us who needed an alternate flight, some were able to get onto a flight and some were given a hotel room.  We did not get to the hotel until 1:30 AM and had to return to the airport at 4:30 AM to try and get on a Gulf Air flight to Bahrain.

In this beautiful hotel in Kuwait City we had time for an amazing meal with nine fellow travelers and a shower and then back to the airport.  It turned out that all the morning flights had no room for us, and we didn’t leave Kuwait until 6:30 PM  Christmas day, 24 hours later than our original flight time.

I couldn’t help but wonder what it was like for Mary and Joseph to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem and then to wind up sleeping in a stable and then have  a baby.  We had nothing to complain about.


The good news is, we arrived in Bahrain at the same time as Maria coming from Seattle.  We were warmly welcomed at the airport by Jim Harrison, pastor at the English Language Congregation, and his son, Jonathon, and Appu Varghese, retiring chaplain at the American Mission Hospital.

When we arrived the country was decorated for National Day with many beautiful lights on the trees and buildings.

We have begun to settle down in our new apartment, and I am looking forward to beginning my work at the American Mission Hospital.

More soon. In the meantime, here are a few pictures from our first few days.

Across the Water

Denise and I will be going “across the water” to Bahrain on Monday, December 23.  We will arrive two hours before the Christmas Eve Service on December 24 and will, if all our flight connections are on time, worship our Lord with our brothers and sisters in Bahrain!

This has been an amazing eight months since Chaplain Appu Varghese spoke at American Reformed Church asking if anyone might hear the call of God to come and serve in Bahrain.  “If God is calling, you cannot say no!” he said.  We said “yes” and our yes to God’s call is coming true!  It has been an amazing journey.

Katie and Maria will be coming with us to see this new place God has called us to.  We are deeply grateful and humbled by all your love and support we have received during this process.  Thank you.

History and Hospitality

Denise and I had an amazing time in Bahrain, September 17-22. We kept feeling this deep sense of history and hospitality as we were introduced to this beautiful place.

In the desert in ancient times strangers depended on someone else’s hospitality for provision of food, shelter, and protection. When you were traveling through the desert and needed water, food and shelter, there was no place to go except to the inhabited towns and tents of those who dwelt in the land. Hospitality, the welcoming of the stranger, was deeply woven into the culture.

This sense of hospitality is still deeply woven into the culture of Bahrain. Denise and I were warmly welcomed by Appu and Lali. Our guest apartment was stocked with delicious food. Lali made our bed with her own special blanket. They personally introduced us to the staff of the American Mission Hospital that was started by Samuel Zwemer back in 1903 for provision of healing and shelter.
Enjoying Paper Dosa and Filter Coffee
Families from the American Mission Hospital and the English Language Congregation hosted us for our noon and evening meal every day while we were there. We experienced the food and culture of many different countries and customs of welcome.

Paul says to the Romans, “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7 NRSV). The world needs living examples of what this welcome, this hospitality, can look like. The American Mission Hospital offers such a living picture. This quote is on the wall outside the Samuel Zwemer Chapel at the American Mission Hospital: “The glory of medicine is not its scientific attainments, but, fundamentally, its outlook on all humanity as one family, with medicine as humanity’s universal servant.” -Paul W. Harrison, M.D. 1916

Medical care is a way the people of Bahrain are welcomed and served. The hospital’s mission statement says, “We are here to serve the people in Bahrain in the Spirit of Christ who went about doing good to all who came to him.” We are humbled to be called to serve in this place where this spirit of service has been deeply honored for over a hundred years.

Jesus said that when we welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, and take care of the sick, we are welcoming the very presence of Jesus who is giving us an entire kingdom that we may inherit and possess. (Matthew 25:31-46).

We experienced this taste of the kingdom in worship at the English Language Congregation. People from forty different nations came together to worship. We celebrated the Lord’s supper together. We caught a glimpse of Christ’s church in Revelation 5:9: “…every tribe and tongue gathered before the throne of the Lamb.”
As we go forward, we are grateful for the ministry that has gone on before us, for the rich history and hospitality of the American Mission Hospital and National Evangelical Church. We are humbled and grateful that we are being called to join in this work.

Crossing the Water

Back in March after reading Acts 16:6-9, I asked God how Paul could know so clearly what he was supposed to do.  Especially when I noticed that the word “come over” in verse 9 in the Greek means “cross over a body of water.”  Can I, like Paul, know your will that clearly?

The answer has been “yes” and “wait continually.”  My new supervisor for the Middle East, Duncan Hansen, told me, “Enjoy each mile marker along the way.”

A big mile marker arrives Monday.  Denise and I are flying to Bahrain to be introduced to our new home.  I will give devotions to the staff at the American Mission Hospital on three mornings. Go on hospital calls with Appu.  Meet with the Chief Medical Officer of the hospital, Dr. George Cheriyan. Spend time with the senior pastor at the English language congregation, Jim Harrison. Meet with the leaders of the English Language Congregation.   Denise and I will also spend time with Josh and Alison Perkins and tour the Al Raja school.  I will deliver the message in worship at the Friday morning service and at the Sunday evening service.

Appu wrote me and said that the Indian families were asking if Denise and I liked Indian food.  I responded that we had gone to Indian restaurants three different times while we were in Seattle  back in June, and we were looking forward to eating Indian food with our new friends.  We have lunch and and supper with a different family each day.  It is going to be good!

Denise and I thank our Iowa church family and all our friends and family members for their love and support during this time of transition. Their outpouring of love has been so appreciated and needed as we approach the mile markers ahead of us.

We look forward to sharing with you our experiences from our new home.

In A Little While

“Pray for patience to be willing to wait on God. Wait a little while so that God may work something unexpected beyond imagining.” This was a challenge to us in a devotion we listened to by British Jesuits at pray-as-you-go.org.

Yes, we are willing to wait, and God is already working beyond our imagining.

Here is the sermon I preached on July 28 when I announced our call to my congregation.