Yemen: Heartbreak & Hope
By Peter Crooks
Self Published – ISBN 9781291305319
Available from Lulu.com
Reviewed by John Clark (JEMT Chairman)
Peter Crooks has served the church in the Middle East for much of the last four decades and this delightful, elegantly written book is an account of their experiences in Aden, Yemen, their latest post, which they describe as ‘the happiest and most rewarding of their lives’. Peter met his wife Nancy in Aqaba, Jordan in 1973. After university and curacies in England they returned to the Middle East where he was successively Chaplain in Beirut, Damascus, Amman and Dean of St George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem. Following a break in England they went to Aden in 2004, where they shared the responsibility of running two clinics and care of the small international congregation of Christ Church. Peter also served as Chaplain to seafarers.
By recounting some of their daily varied encounters Peter introduces us to some remarkable individuals from among the international, Yemeni and refugee community in Aden. And through their stories we are gently made aware of the complexities of life in the Middle East, the problems of daily life, the plight of refugees, and the resilience of the human spirit. Their meetings with Muslim friends take issue with the stereotypes of Muslims and Islam and affirm the value of practical Christian presence among them. There is much spiritual wisdom and insight shared through these stories
Although set against the backdrop of Aden the book includes four important chapters on their time in Iran in 2002 introducing us to the isolated Iranian Episcopal Church and some remarkable Christians. Drawing from their experience in Jerusalem and the Levant Peter provides a reflection on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict challenging popular views of Palestinians and Israelis.
Their service was at times demanding and his accounts of being held up at gunpoint on the road to Sanaa, the threats against their lives that led to their rapid departure and the report of the life-threatening illness that struck him down on the remote island of Socotra are reminders of the challenges they faced.
This review is written after receiving their report of Easter 2013 in Aden and gives a flavour of what can be found in the book – ‘Our dawn service was held by candlelight among an artificial ‘garden’ in the chancel. None of the traditional English Easter hymns were sung but each language group contributed and where possible we all joined in. Our joy could not have been matched in any more sophisticated service and it was difficult to bring it to an end. Eventually it was the children’s eagerness for breakfast that brought us down to earth!’
Featured in Bible Lands, Summer 2013