Captured by the Taliban - My times are in his hands
The capture by the Taliban of Reg, an Australian doctor working in Afghanistan, is told in Part One of this story. Here, in Part Two, he is now held prisoner in the mountains with his driver Khalid. Reg’s wife Rebecca, a dentist, has not heard from him, but from their mission hospital a worldwide chain of prayer has sprung up. This true story is one of many from the book, The Man in White, by Ernest Crocker.
The Friday deadline to take Reg and Khalid to the mosque to forcibly convert them approaches.
Captured by the Taliban
On The Thursday evening, the Kaari [a teacher of the Quran] came. again. ‘Doctor’, how are you?’ he asked. But Reg ignored him and pretended to slecp. ‘God,’ he prayed. ‘I really don’t want to talk to this man.’ To his relief there was soon the sound of snoring, The next morning, the Kaari woke early and rushed out without saying a word. Around midday, a young man 13 or 14 years of age from the Islamic school entered the room. ‘Doctor,’ he said, ‘the Kaari is calling you to the mosque.’
Reg shouted at him, ‘You can tell him for me that I am not coming.’
‘If you don’t come,’ he said, ‘they will kill you.’
‘Get out!’ said Reg.
Lying flat on his face, he prayed as he’d never prayed before.
‘They’ll come and take me to the mosque,’ he thought, ‘and force me to accept lslam.’
But nobody came. Then, around 6pm, a boy came with the evening meal. But the Kaari did not return that night.
Before him were ten men in black with Kalashnikovs pointed straight at him. A man stood behind him to the right with a long dagger.
The next day was 15 December. It was the Saturday following the kidnapping. The next day would be Rebecca’s birthday and Reg just wanted to go home. But that night, the kidnappcrs returned. They shone torches in their eyes and took Khalid away. After ten minutes they brought him back, blindfolded Reg and escorted him to another room where they made him walk in circles as they fired questions at him.
‘Why do you wear a suit? Why do you wear a necktie? they asked.
‘These are my normal clothes.’
‘No,’ they replied. ‘The necktie is a sign of the cross.’
‘Many Muslims wear ties,’ said Reg.
‘They are not Muslims,’ was the reply.
After 30 minutes Reg became so lightheaded that he could barely stand.
‘Take off your shirt,’ they said. So, he removed his shirt. They looked to sec if there were scars on his chest from self-flagellation. In other words, was he Shia? ‘Now take off your trousers. You must wear shalwar kameez’ (Islamic dress).’
‘No,’ he said. ‘I won’t do that.’
They sat him blindfolded on the floor without his shirt. He shivered from the cold. And then they removed his blindfold. Before him were ten men in black with Kalashnikovs pointed straight at him. A man stood behind him to the right with a long dagger. He tapped it repetitively against his hand, then brushed il menacingly against Reg’s neck.
At the centre of the group sat the Amir [Head man]
‘Why don’t you accept Islam,’ he said.
‘l have my own religion.’
‘No, you must accept Islam, otherwise I will behead you here and now.’
He questioned Reg about Jesus: ‘Why did he call him the Son of God,’ and other questions as well.
‘Jesus Christ is our Saviour,’ said Reg.
‘Explain. How is he our Saviour?’
The man shouted at him, ‘You have a corrupted gospel. Jesus did nor die. He was taken to the cross, but another was brought. His face was changed to that of Jesus and he was then crucified instead of Jesus, who was taken directly into heaven.’
‘That’s not true,’ said Reg. ‘That’s not true!’
But the man shouted back, ‘I won’t listen to you. This is your last chance. Convert now. Say the kalima. [The six Kalimas are texts which are memorised for learning the fundamentals of Islam]
‘l won’t do that,’ said Reg.
‘Then we’ll kill you.’
‘God has given me this life,’ said Reg, ‘and he alone has the authority to take it.’
‘No, l’m going to kill you tonight.’
‘I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit in Urdu.’ – Reg
Reg’s reply was simply this: ‘If God has given you permission to kill me, then I am ready. But if you are going to kill me, I have questions that I would like you to answer. In the Quran it clearly states that there are steps that you should take with non-believers to help them accept Islam. Have you followed those steps? It also says that you should respect and take care of the minority. Do you know your Quran?’
They became very quiet. Not a word was said for two to three minutes.
Reg closed his eyes. ‘God,’ he said. ‘I’m ready. Please take me.’
It was then that a most remarkable thing happened.
‘I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit in Urdu,’ said Reg. ‘It was a dear, audible male voice that I cannot otherwise describe: “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.”‘
These were the same words given to Rebecca in the chapel two days following the abduction. And then a strange warmth enveloped him, and his shivering stopped.
The leader spoke. ‘OK, that’s enough about religion. We will accept a ransom of 20 million rupees. ($A500,000) We need money for ammunition.’
‘I am poor man. I work in a mission hospital on salary,’ said Reg.
‘Yes, we know,’ was the reply. ‘But we also know that the hospital is supported by four missions, that you have a son in England and a family home in Hyderabad.’ They handed Reg a piece of paper.
‘Write what we tell you in Urdu. Tell them to send money within one week or we’ll kill you and your driver.’
Reg closed his eyes. ‘God, why don’t you just take my life?’ He knew that the Red Cross would give the money and that this would result in the taking of thousands of innocent lives. Then, yet again, he heard the voice. “You will not die, you will live and proclaim my word.”
This was an absolute confirmation to him of God’s presence and of his intervention into that dreadful situation.
‘God, You are the provider. I pray for a miracle.’ – Reg
When he had written the note, a boy read it aloud. Then, to Reg’s astonishment, the Amir who had been so harsh to Reg, came and sat before him.
‘Doctor,’ he said. ‘Check my pulse.’ He then proceeded to list a series of symptoms that he had been suffering. ‘Prescribe me some medicine,’ he said. Reg wrote him a prescription which was immediately transcribed so that a pharmacist would not recognise the handwriting. He then gave Reg a small cup of the sweet tea and then escorted him back to Khalid in the other room.
Reg told Khalid what had transpired and that they would kill them both if the ransom money was not received within the week. Khalid began to cry. ‘Don’t worry,’ said Reg, and prayed for him, He also prayed, ‘God, You are the provider. I pray for a miracle, that they will not receive the money and that we will go from this place without ransom and with all our belongings.’ …
Two weeks pass.
Back at the hospital, the media pressed Rebecca for interviews. But she refused. Then on 27 December, Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, was assassinated in Rawalpindi and the country was thrown into confusion. Media attention shifted to other matters.
‘I had it in my spirit that Reg would return on a Wednesday,’ she said, ‘and so each Wednesday I would prepare food in preparation and decorate the house with flowers.’ The Lord led her to words spoken by Isaiah to Hezekiah when he had been on the point of death: “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life.” She recorded these words and hid them in her heart, knowing that she would later share them with Reg.
On the evening of Saturday, 29 December, five of the men returned to Reg. But this time their mood was entirely different. They sat down by his bed.
‘Your chains are so tight,’ they said. ‘That was your doing,’ he replied.
They loosened his chains, then one of them placed his hand on his shoulder. ‘We’ve made enquiries about you,’ he said. ‘It seems that you are a good man who has treated many Taliban. So, we have decided that we do not want the ransom, but we do want the money that we have spent on you, 2.5 million rupees. (about $A60,000)
Reg negotiated this down to one million. ‘Write a note to your wife,’ they said. ‘Write her name and phone number. Tell her that we want one million in two days time. When we are assured that we will have the money, we will release you.’
He wrote the letter in English. They took it and left. But Reg was not satisfied. ‘l wanted to see a miracle,’ he said, ‘That I would go out from this place unharmed with Khalid, my car and belongings and that there would be no ransom.’
That night Reg had a dream. In that dream a tall man in white entered the room and stood by his bed. He handed him his mobile phone and wallet and said, ‘You will leave this place on Wednesday afternoon. They will return you to your car with all your belongings. Khalid will drive you on the Miran Shah Road.’ The next morning, Reg told Khalid of his dream. Khalid was highly sceptical.
On Tuesday, 1 January 2008, Reg sat on his iron bed frame. ‘I will never lie here again,’ he thought. During the day and all through the night he stood, sat and prayed. And during that day he had the strangest vision. He saw tall chimney stacks of brick kilns pouring out black smoke and bonded labourers slaving under dreadful conditions. As he watched, God spoke to him, ‘Bring my sheep back to the flock.’ He had no idea of the significance of this vision or or how it might influence the rest of his life.
On that very same day, Rebecca had proclaimed a victory fast for the Wednesday, believing that Reg would return on that day …
‘Your God has done a great miracle.’
The next morning, Wednesday, 2 January, Reg and Khalid ate and washed as usual. Around midday Reg knelt and prayed. It was then that they heard the sound of an approaching car. It pulled up outside and the man who had held the dagger to Reg’s neck entered. But this time, instead of a knife, he carried two sets of clean clothes.
‘Congratulations, doctor,’ he said. ‘You are free to go.’
Reg suspected that the ransom had been paid. ‘How did this happen?’ he asked. ‘I know nothing,’ was the reply. ‘Just wash, change your clothes and come with me.’ ‘No,’ said Reg. ‘I’ll go as I am.’
The man blindfolded Reg and Khalid again, this time apologising for doing so, and took them to the car. After an hour’s drive they were transferred to the care of another who was to take them home. But, instead, he took them to a house and offered them food. It was around 2:30pm.
‘I’ll be fasting until six,’ said Reg. ‘Just give me a place to pray.’ The man led him to another room where Reg prayed and thanked God for deliverance.
At 6pm Reg emerged to find a great tablecloth spread for dining. No carrot stew this time, but wonderful food, biryani and lamb curry. Psalm 23:5 came immediately to his mind: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” …
Six Taliban commanders dressed in white with black turbans were seated waiting for Reg. They stood and embraced him. This was unheard of, for Taliban to actually stand for a Christian!
‘Sit and eat,’ they said. ‘We will join you.’
‘We’ll pray first,’ said Reg. As he raised his hands in prayer, they did also. He finished with the words, ‘In the name of Jesus,’ and they all said, ‘Amen.’ Then another joined them. This was the man from the dream. He was over two metres tall and dressed in white. He embraced Reg and returned his wallet, phone and watch.
‘Your God has done a great miracle,’ he said. ‘You are a very lucky man. No one else has left this place alive.’ Then he told Reg that he was a member of the Council of Taliban.
‘The day you were kidnapped,’ he said, ‘you were healing Mujahideen. Thirty-eight of them appealed to the Council of Taliban. “Find our doctor,” they said. “He was treating us, and they have taken him away.”‘
‘We greatly respect and value Mujahideen, so we agreed.’
‘Just for ten minutes, let’s pretend that you are not Christian and that I am not a Muslim. Tell me about Jesus.’
It seems that Mujahideen had been searching for Reg and his driver for 21 days. Unbeknown to them, their abductors had made a video on the night of the interrogation. They had sent it to to the Council of Taliban saying, ‘We have done a great thing. We have captured this Christian doctor and demanded a ransom of 20 million rupees.’ And so, Reg and Khalid were located and their Taliban captors ordered to release them. They had refused to do so unless a council member attended.
Reg’s four wheel drive was cleaned and returned to him that evening.
‘I’ll drive your car, doctor,’ said the council member. ‘Khalid will follow in the other.’ Then, as they were driving, he said, ‘Just for ten minutes, let’s pretend that you are not Christian and that I am not a Muslim. Tell me about Jesus.’
Reg told him everything. The man was uncomfortable as Reg spoke of the crucifixion but continued to listen. Finally, he stopped the car. ‘l can’t go beyond this point,’ he said. ‘The army is looking for me, Khalid will drive you, This is Miran Shah Road.’
‘Khalid,’ said Reg. ‘Didn’t I tell you that you’d be driving me on the Miran Shah Road?’
There were tears in his eyes. ‘God is Great,’ he said.
So on the very day Rebecca prepared the victory fast, her husband Reg returned to her. As for the vision of brick kilns, after Reg and Rebecca migrated to Australia in 2009, they established a mission outreach to bonded slaves in the brick pits of Pakistan. As Eternity prepared to publish this story, Ernest Crocker passed on the news that Reg and Rebecca were currently in Pakistan, proclaiming the good news to brick kiln workers – and 200 families had just accepted Christ.
The Man in White: Extraordinary Accounts of the Intervening Power of the Living God
Ernest F Crocker
Paperback August 2020
$19.99 at Koorong