Adventures in the land of Queen Esther

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“Are you okay back there, Trudy?” asked ‘Uncle’ Les.

“Doing fine.” I whispered.

I was just getting over a bronchial infection, but no way was I going to miss this trip.

As we bumped along Route 21 from Kermanshah to Shush, my thoughts went to Queen Esther.

It was December 1976. What an exciting thing to live and work in the world of Queen Esther, Daniel and Cyrus the Great. I chuckled to myself. Who would have thought that being a missionary could be so much fun?

There was a lively discussing about Esther, “star” in Persian – the foreign orphan girl forced into the biggest beauty contest in the kingdom.

She had three strikes against her.

1. She was an orphan. Her older cousin Mordecai raised her. Orphans and widows were third-class citizens.
2. She was female. Women in the Persian Empire had little value or respect. Even in the 1970’s women in Iran made few decisions. As I walked into any bank I would get the strangest looks. Who would trust a woman with money! It sounds pre-historic but it’s true even today in places.
3. She was a foreigner, a stranger in a strange land. But God had a plan. He used her influence to save the Jewish nation. …”for such a time as this.”(Esther 4:14)

It was 5 p.m. when we reached Shush, where the ruins of Shushan the palace beckoned us. This sure isn’t interstate! Over 7 hours to go 250 miles?!

As we stopped at a restaurant, the aroma of “Chelo kebab” (rice and lamb strips) tickled my nostrils. We were all worn out from the trip and sure enjoyed the lovely meal set before us. Dr. C and his lovely wife had been to Shush a number of times. How great to have someone on our team of missionaries who knew the area.

Then we checked into a somewhat classy rinky-dink motel. ‘Somewhat classy’ means the sheets were clean and there didn’t appear to be any bedbugs. Yes, Dr. C. had done his homework!

The next morning dawned cloudy. Rather strange for this desert town. After breakfast we headed to the ruins of Shushan the place. It was a sticky 80 degrees when we left for Shushan, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities. It was the Persian winter capital from 675-330 BC.

After climbing up the mound it was really sticky! Dr. C gave us a “tour” of the palace. Then, as we stood where the throne room use to be, he began to read portions of Ezra, Esther and Daniel. It started to rain. Just as Dr. C. read Ezra 1:1 “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia….” The heavens opened up and it poured!

That ended the Bible lesson; we scurried down the muddy slope as best we could and ran for cover!

After a cup of tea, we headed for an indoor spot, the alleged tomb of Daniel the prophet. We do know that Daniel lived in Shush (Susa). Whether this is his tomb or not is debatable. This is a very holy place for Muslims, and I wondered if all the pilgrims had chosen this day to visit the tomb. The three of us ladies were given black chadors (full body coverings) before following the crowd downstairs. If it was sticky outside, it was hot, stuffy and sticky inside. The chador didn’t help any.

A year ago I googled a tour website that plans trips into Iran. I shook my head in disbelief. Who would be traveling to Iran today with world conditions the way they are? When I checked out the ruins of Shushan the palace there was this notation about the ruin. “This site will be closed after heavy rains.” I chuckled as I remembered slipping and sliding down the muddy slope and running for cover.

Two weeks later I checked out the same website. All I found was a travel warning. The information on Shush was blocked out. It is no longer possible to visit the land of Queen Esther. How sad. Yet, with the damage done because of the conflicts, there really isn’t much left to see.

What a privilege and blessing to have made this trip before things fell apart. God is good, all the time.

Trudy Newell – Retired Christar missionary. Served in Iran, Kenya. (among Muslims/Hindus) England (among Hindus) and now reaching Hindus in NE GA. Married to Mike Newell – the best ever! A member of Faithwriters.

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