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.”
Communion
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.

How Big is Bahrain?

We haven’t been to Bahrain yet. We know it is a small constitutional monarchy in the Arabian Gulf, an archipelago of 33 islands,  just east of Saudi Arabia.

Lately I’ve been thinking of that descriptor “small” and how it relates to my idea of a geographically small area. As a geography major, I’m always curious about things like that.

According to the CIA’s World Factbook, Bahrain is 3.5 times the size of Washington, D.C. I have seen this statistic in other sources, too. In fact, I’ve repeated it to other people who asked about the size.

The size of Bahrain was still something I couldn’t picture, though. I have been in Washington, D.C., twice. It seemed big to me because we got around by public transportation and walking, lots of walking. Some of you know what I’m talking about. You, too, have visited in the summer and walked the two miles between the Lincoln and Washington Memorials. To hear that Bahrain was 3.5 times the size of Washington didn’t make it seem small at all.

Knowing that one fact didn’t add to my understanding of  the size of Bahrain, so I decided to do some math and get a better idea about the relative size of the Kingdom of Bahrain.

First of all, I would like to suggest a correction for the World Factbook. Bahrain has a strong land reclamation program, and is growing in land area. Washington, D.C., is not really 100 square miles, as it was at the beginning. Some of the land was given back to Virginia in 1846, so our nation’s capital is officially 68.3 square miles (177 km2). Since Bahrain is 294 square miles (762 km2), it’s really more than 4 times the size of Washington, D.C.

Anyway, closer to home.

Again, the total land area of the Bahraini archipelago is 762 km2. Total land area of Sioux County in Northwest Iowa, where we live, is 1,990.6 km2. So, I discovered Bahrain would fit into Sioux County 2.5 times with a little room in the Iowa county to spare. That gives me a new understanding of what “small” means when I describe the Kingdom of Bahrain.

People around here can understand that because we drive in and out of Sioux County on a daily basis. That is going to be a big change for us.  In Bahrain, we’ll only be driving in, not out of Bahrain.

Sioux County with Bahrain Map