Ernest Crocker’s book, The Man in White, promises “extraordinary accounts of the intervening power of the living God”. This is an edited version of one of the most exciting.
Reg, a doctor, had treated more than 7,000 Taliban Mujahideen in a mission hospital in Afghanistan. He thought that he and his wife Rebecca, a dentist, were safe. He was wrong.
Captured by the Taliban - My times are in his hands
‘We encouraged our staff to commend to each patient the love of Jesus, and they did so. The Taliban told me that when they entered the hospital, they would see crosses everywhere. Even the windows had crosses on them. “We are going to the Christian hospital,” they would say. “We don’t know how they will treat us.” But they would be welcomed, and after a few days would feel right at home. So, I honestly felt that we had nothing to fear … But I was wrong.’
Each Saturday, Reg would travel with his driver, Khalid, in their grey Toyota van t0 a clinic in Dera Ismail Khan, 140 kilometres south of Bannu. On any one day he would treat 60 to 70 patients. They would commence by reading the word of God and explain who Jesus is and how he heals. Then Reg would pray for each patient before taking a history and treating them. ‘We have done this in the name of Hazrat Isa‘, he would say, as they believed that Jesus was a prophet and healer.
On 8 December 2007, Reg and Khalid set out early. A call from the clinic warned that there were extra patients that day and in the rush of it all, Reg forgot to take his warm coat. ‘There were seven police checkpoints on the road to Dera Ismail Khan,’ he said, ‘We had t0 stop at each one. The police knew us as they would see us each Saturday. “How are you, doctor?” they would ask. On this particular day, however, we became aware that a car had been following us since leaving Bannu. This had us quite concerned. lt overtook us several times, would then slow down and we would pass it. But between the fifth and sixth check points it veered across our path, forcing us into the bushes.’
Five men emerged from the car wearing shalwar kameez (Islamic dress). Their faces were covered, and they brandished Kalashnikovs. They seized Reg and Khalid, blindfolded them and pushed them roughly into the back seat of their vehicle. Two of the men jumped into the front seat, one sat beside Reg and Khalid and one behind. Reversing from the bushes at speed, they headed back towards Bannu. The fifth man followed in the other car. ‘They played loud music from a cassette player … pushed us down between the seats and covered us with a sheet.’
‘If you make a sound,’ said one, ‘we’ll blow up the car.’ He warned that they were wearing suicide vests, and to make his point, pressed a grenade against Reg’s hand.
The cars passed through five checkpoints without being stopped.
‘I had never imagined that this might happen to me.’ – Reg.
From the first checkpoint they turned left, away from Bannu, then for two hours sped through streams and up mountain trails to a point about 2,400 metres above sea level. ‘It was bitterly cold,’ said Reg, ‘and I was wearing only a sleeveless cardigan over my shirt. We were then bundled into the boot of a smaller vehicle. I had no idea whether Khalid was with me, as we were blindfolded and warned not to speak. At approximately 8pm we arrived at a mud-brick dwelling high in the mountains. Here we were locked in a darkened room.’
After three hours, a man entered the room and seized Reg by the shoulder. ‘Kneel,’ he said. ‘I am going to remove your blindfold and give you something to eat. Don’t look around or I will shoot you dead.’
He gave Reg a flour and water pancake which was raw in the middle, and some rusty water which tasted of kerosene, then replaced the blindfold. Now, for the first time, Reg became aware that Khalid was with him as they fed him also. Then taking them both to another room, they chained them to iron bed frames by their ankles. ‘Sleep,’ they said, ‘In the morning we talk.’
‘I had never imagined that this might happen to me,’ said Reg. ‘I had worked in the region for 25 years. Taliban were my friends. Many even knew me by name.’
That afternoon Rachel became concerned. Police search parties turned up nothing.Other kidnappings resulted in people being returned in body bags.
All of that first night Reg wrestled with God. ‘I am a good man,’ he said, ‘A good person, a good Christian. I’ve preached the gospel in and out of the hospital. I distribute tracts. I pray. Why, why God has this happened to me?’ Khalid, a devout Muslim, who was a little younger than Reg, heard his every word.
There was little sleep to be had that night. It was freezing cold up there on the mountain. There were no pillows, not even a mattress, only filthy bedding. Their legs were chained t0 the foot of the bed, preventing them even from rolling over. Early next morning they were startled by a loud noise as a latch was thrown back on the huge metal door. A man entered with two pitchers of water, closed the door and secured it with a rock. ‘Get up,’ he said. ‘Cleanse yourselves for prayer.’
‘I’m a Christian,’ said Reg. ‘I have my own faith.’
‘No,’ he said. ‘From now on you are Muslim. In two days, you will obey.’
‘I have this confirmation from the Lord, that Reg will be OK and that he will come back safely to us.’ – Rebecca
The police found no trace of the missing men. The hospital staff were devastated. Rebecca took charge.
‘I went into the hospital chapel.’ she said. ‘I prayed and read my Bible looking for some direction. In Psalm 118 verse 17, I read these words, ‘I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.’
She shared these words with the staff.
‘I have this confirmation from the Lord,’ she said, ‘that Reg will be OK and that he will come back safely to us.
‘This is God’s promise to us.’
Each day the Kaari [a person who has memorised the Quran, to teach it] lectured to Reg and Khalid from the Quran. He would then play hour-long cassettes while he went about his business, and when he returned would ask, ‘Well, did you listen? What did you learn?’ This upset Reg greatly. He would come early morning, afternoon and evening. He even slept on a cot in the room and would preach for an hour on rising and again before sleeping.
‘I couldn’t stand the man,’ said Reg, ‘and really wished that he would go away.’
The conditions were dreadful. They remained chained to iron bed frames in a small room of the mud house. Soot from the straw roof fell on them. There were no toilet facilities and they would be released for five minutes morning and evening to relieve themselves in a bucket behind a sheet draped across the corner of 1he room. They were given a three-litre pitcher of water daily for drinking, washing and cleansing. There was no soap. And no toilet paper. But there were rats and lizards …
On the Wednesday, which was Reg’s fasting day, the Kaari came in the evening. ‘Today,’ he said, ‘You must accept Islam. Otherwise you will go to the Taliban prison. Here at least you have bedding. But they will strip you of your clothes, you will have no bed, no water … nothing at all.’
On the Thursday morning, Reg realised that Friday ‘would be their day of prayer and assembly’ – They would take him to the mosque t0 present him as a Muslim convert. This had already happened with some Christians and Hindus who had been forcibly converted. He fell to his knees. ‘God, forgive me for everything that I’ve ever done that was wrong,’ he said. ‘All my life I’ve been a Christian and I will not accept Islam. Please God, give me courage.’
‘Why do you pray for the Taliban?’ – Khalid
Since the kidnapping, Reg had prayed that the Lord would protect him with the blood of Jesus and that he would give him a double anointing of his Holy Spirit. He had also prayed that he would speak only the words that God would give him. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘you have said that l am the apple of your eye. So please, protect me.’ He sang psalms in Punjabi which were of great comfort t0 him. One hymn in particular, which he sang again and again was:
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a provilege to carry
Everything t0 God in, prayer!
Khalid heard his prayers. ‘Why do you pray for the Taliban?’ he asked. ‘You are a Christian. If I had a Kalashnikov, l would kill them all.’
‘Khalid,’ said Reg. ‘That is the difference between Islam and Christianity. My Jesus said if someone strikes you on the left cheek, turn your right also.’
‘Why do you call him the Son of God?’ Khalid asked.
Now Reg had a lot of Bible knowledge but little experience in explaining his faith. So, during the sleepless nights he would turn his mind to the Scriptures and by morning he found that he would have answers to Khalid’s questions.
Reg continued to challenge God, ‘Why am I here?’ But there was no answer. He felt helpless and began to feel quite weak. It was then that a strange phenomenon occurred. ‘A bright glow like a large globe appeared before me,’ he said. lt was filled with the faces of people from all over the world that he had never seen before. He knew that they were praying. ‘l believe,’ Reg told Khalid. ‘that people all over the world are praying for us.’
‘Who would bother to pray for us except our families?’ said Khalid.
In Part Two, the deadline for being taken to the mosque approaches. My Times are in His Hands is here.
The Man in White: Extraordinary Accounts of the Intervening Power of the Living God
Ernest F Crocker
Paperback, August 2020
$19.99 at Koorong