So there I sat in a little cozy room at the Royal York hotel in downtown Toronto, chatting to Franklin Graham and his entourage about Eliza Doolittle. Yes, Eliza Doolittle.
Part of my very sophisticated pre-interview warm up strategy involves small talk. Small talk is hard with Franklin Graham. I was trying to relax myself primarily. This straight shooting Southern guy who I’m sure has been interviewed by a million people, did not seem in need of relaxation. But as I set up, I explained how I would be taping the interview using an iPhone app I had learned about from a journalist, Eliza Doolittle, who had travelled with Graham to South Sudan. I had heard her speak and asked her about the app. And now I use it. (And isn’t that the most amazing coincidence, I chortled).
It was hours later, after my interview, after Indian food at the Eaton Centre, after a delightful romp through the Alex Colville exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario, after the Festival of Hope event, after interviewing a bunch more people, after taking the Go Train and just after driving through the town of Myrtle Station — when the thought slowly bubbled up into my consciousness that the odds of the journalist having the name Eliza Doolittle were very, very slim.
As I walked into our bedroom where her book, The Tenth Parallel, sat on my beside table, I prayed “Dear God, let her be named Eliza Doolittle.” But of course she is not. She is Eliza Griswold. photo
This is now my best “worst interview moment” story.
The other day I interviewed Andrew White, the vicar of Baghdad, the quirky, warm, fearless Anglican minister who leads St. George’s, the only Anglican church in Iraq. He is head of a foundation that serves the poor and dispossessed in his church and beyond. Today, in and out of Iraq, that is a countless amount of people.
He shared what it is like to be a Christian in Iraq, his views on whether the Church there will survive and what he and his church are learning in their exile. He defined reconciliation for me in a way that I understood. I used my iPhone app again — but decided not to mention the journalist who told me about it. I’m taking a better safe than sorry approach with the name Eliza from here on out.
What could have been the big bad moment in this interview came when I asked this man, who has a price on his head, who has told the world about the deaths of Christian children in Iraq, who has been pulled out of the country he loves because it is so dangerous, if he felt sorry for us. That’s what I asked.
“Oh yes,” he said, “I feel so sorry for you!!” And he laughed. I immediately explained what I meant, although I think he knew. He had just been talking about experiencing miracles and seeing angels. He even showed me a couple of pictures. He had just told me that even though they have nothing, they have everything. He had just told me that when everything is stripped away, God shows up in a very Almighty kind of way.
I thought about my Christmas tree that had fallen over on Sunday and that I had really felt that was the end of the world. And that when I broke the advent wreath 10 minutes later I almost had to take to my bed. And then Andrew stopped laughing at my dumb question and said, “No, I really do feel sorry for you.” And I know he really meant it.
On a happy note: This blog won third prize in the 2014 Canadian Church Press blog awards.