Torn Emotions: A Visit With Nabeel Qureshi

I do not ever recall being part of a meeting like this one: the love, the healing, the soul-wrenching heartache, the unstoppable tears, and finally the hugs, the prayers, and the farewell. My colleague Stuart McAllister summed it up in one sentence: “It was a moment in church history to remember.”

It was the RZIM speaking team’s preliminary goodbye to our teammate Nabeel Qureshi.

I had recently been with Nabeel in Malaysia where he preached with such anointing and power. People were moved and lives were changed. After we came back, he asked me if he could attend our annual itinerant team meeting, as he viewed us as his family. I was torn by the request because with each passing day, he was hanging on by a more slender thread. The last thing I wanted to happen was for his final breath to be taken while he was away from his precious wife and daughter. But he was confident he would be fine to make the trip.

Our itinerants all gathered, about seventy of us from every continent. Nabeel spoke to us on the opening morning. He told us that the doctors have given up hope and that there will be no surgical intervention (which was to have happened only if the chemo and radiation had worked). Medicine feels it has done all it can. It has been the privilege of RZIM to cover Nabeel’s medical expenses and carry him and his family through this entire treatment since the discovery of the cancer. RZIM’s generous donors have been more than willing to help us bear the financial cost, which is small in comparison to the emotional and physical agony—to say nothing of the shock of it all—that he and his family are facing.

To his fellow itinerants Nabeel came to say, “Thank you. I love you all and if I have hurt anyone, I ask for forgiveness. Most important, my faith is stronger than ever in my Savior and whatever lies ahead, I will take it as God’s will.” Then he said, “You will probably not see me speaking in public anymore and I bid you all goodbye.” He then looked in my direction to share his final words of affection to me and bid us goodbye. I was too overcome to say anything.

Our meeting was not without scriptural precedent. It brought to mind the farewell address to the Ephesian elders from Paul, one of the greatest evangelist/apologists the world has ever known, and I shared that scripture with the team. Acts 20:36-38 tells us that after Paul finished speaking to the elders, “he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.”

Is our Lord still able to heal Nabeel? Yes. With his winsome smile he himself said, “Yes, he is, even after I’m in the ground for three days.” At the same time he realizes that his body is giving way. He is torn between what seems imminent and what is always possible with God.

Recognizing that tension myself, I didn’t want to wait to write this because I wish to pay tribute to probably one of the finest preachers I have ever heard. I love him as a son and have walked with him as a colleague.

My dearest Nabeel, I love you, dear friend, and my heart aches to see you leaving this world so soon. But if it is of any comfort, you have so far lived the same number of years as our Lord and Redeemer. What is more, the world is a mess. We are still trapped by the fears of living in a world immersed in hate and living for matter, greed, pride, and violence. You will be freed to the joy of life where there are no more fears, no more tears, no more hate, no more bloodshed, because you will be with the One who has already shed his blood for you, where love is supreme, grace abounds, and the consummate joy is of the soul. The smile of God awaits you: “Well done.”

“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, the things that God has prepared for them that love him,” 1 Corinthians 2:9 promises.

Your eyes will now see and your hands will now touch that which is the only Real estate.

My heart goes to a hymn I heard at my grandmother’s funeral; I was only nine years old then.

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;
the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away.
Change and decay in all around I see.
O Lord who changes not, abide with me.
I need your presence every passing hour.
What but your grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who like yourself my guide and strength can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.
I fear no foe with you at hand to bless,
though ills have weight, and tears their bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, your victory?
I triumph still, if you abide with me.
Hold now your Word before my closing eyes.
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks and earth’s vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Farewell my dear Nabeel. If we don’t see you in the near future, we will see you in the eternal pasture.

With our love,

Ravi and the entire RZIM team

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