Pakistan #3 - Worship and Forman Christian College
by Rob Weingartner
What joyful worship both Richard and I experienced on Sunday morning. Standing before a couple of hundred Pakistani believers singing psalms by heart from the heart about God’s heart – accompanied by harmonium and finger drums - is a bit like standing in the ocean and having wave after wave knock you off your feet. But these were waves of blessing, and they strengthened us rather than shook us.
Richard preached at St. Andrew’s Church. His texts were Luke 5:17-26, Psalm 103:1-5 and Psalm 107:17-22. I preached on Philippians 1:1-6 and John 17:21 at the Naulakha Church. What a privilege! We know that the sermons were likely better, and at least clearer, thanks to the help of our translators. And the Pakistani practice of removing one’s shoes before entering the chancel properly framed the task for those leading God’s people in worship.
After worship we stood beside the pastors at the main door and greeted everyone as they left the sanctuary. How good to be together in the house of the Lord!
During the afternoon we went out to eat to celebrate the birthday of the Session secretary at Naulakha Church, and that evening we joined the St. Andrew’s pastor’s family and friends in a worship service that celebrated God’s faithfulness in the marriage of a son and the healing of the pastor’s wife. We’re told that Pakistanis have the tendency to wrap family celebrations in worship. It seems like a nice tradition, but I must admit that during the meal after the service, I kept expecting the guests at the evening celebration to break out into a Lollywood dance number. It was a wonderful, joyful time and the pastor and his family were kind and gracious in their welcome to us.
This morning (Monday) marked a kind of experiment as the Presbyterian Church leadership invited youth, especially from more isolated rural areas, to come together for a day of worship, encouraging and helpful teaching, a meal and fellowship. The theme of the day was the authority of the Bible. Using some seed money from The Outreach Foundation, hoping that 400 might come together on a workday for this first-time event, the plans were made. The minivans kept rolling in and the crowd numbered about 550 before it was all over. Moderator Majid Abel noted that some “seniors” came too, also clearly longing for this kind of event.
Our big visit today was to Forman Christian College which was founded in 1864 by American Presbyterian missionary Dr. Charles William Forman. Initially named as Mission College the name was changed to Forman Christian College in 1894 in honor of the founder. In 1902, the college was the first college in the Punjab to admit women. The college was nationalised in 1972 until 2003 when the control was returned to the Presbyterian Church.
Cheryl Burke, chief student affairs officer at Forman and friend from Peachtree Presbyterian Church, made the arrangements for our visit which began with a tour of the campus led by a delightful group of students. Next, we met with a group of the Christian students and heard about their lives, their hopes and their time at Forman. Many of them, Cheryl reported, were the first ones in their family to study at a university. The students were bright, hopeful and grateful for a place to study where they could both practice their faith and develop relationships with Muslim students. They expressed great appreciation for the staff of the Christian Life Program.
We met with Rev. Babar Iqbal, his wife Shagufta and Mr. Amer who are staff with the Christian Life Program on campus, supported in part with gifts that come through Outreach. It was exciting to learn more about how God led them to campus ministry at Forman, especially after hearing from the students about how they have been blessed by Babar and the others.
Our visit and day ended with FCC Rector Dr. Jim and Beth Tebbe, who invited us to join them for a delicious meal and lovely time of fellowship at sunset, sitting in a rooftop restaurant overlooking the Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque. Thank you, Lord, for your faithful people here who bear steady and sure witness to the good news of Jesus Christ!