Pakistan Update - July 2017
In May Rob Weingartner, Executive Director, and Harris Cummings, a member at Western Hills Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, traveled to visit with partners in Pakistan. We left encouraged by their faithful service in Christ’s name in a very challenging and complex context.
At the Pakistan Christian Recording Ministries and Pakistan Bible Correspondence School in Faisalabad, we were warmly greeted by PCRM director Zahoor-Ul-Haq, PBCS executive secretary Rufan Rawar William, and their staffs.
Each of these ministries’ main focus is on reaching the majority Muslim population, but as they do their work they are also strengthening the faith and discipleship of many who are Christians. Pakistan is the third largest Muslim country in the world after Indonesia and Bangladesh. Its total population is about 180 million of whom 96% are Muslims, 2% are Christians and 2% are other minority groups.
PCRM is producing programs for Far East Broadcasting Association and Trans World Radio; they provide training to other ministries and have produced 28 volumes of worship music in service to the church. They’ve undertaken a new project to make worship music for congregations available on video. Please pray for their new radio program “Way the Life” that will air on FM stations beginning on June 15th. There are challenges to going on air with open Biblical values, but they are committed to meeting the spiritual needs of the people. Supporting new believers in their faith is an ongoing opportunity and challenge. Medical camps, Music and Arts camps, and Fellowship Gatherings help to share the Gospel in word and deed, undergirding those new in the faith and introducing them to more mature believers.
The vision of PBCS is “To spread the Word of God and promote its study through correspondence courses so that no one should remain without knowing God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ.” Courses are offered free to Pakistanis and are advertised in local newspapers. Students mail in their work, which is marked and returned to them. PBCS prints and circulates a monthly follow-up publication to graduates of the program and prints the coursework materials for the students. Of 1,500 students who attend courses every year, more than half are non-believers. In addition, more than 1,000 prisoners are now studying the Bible through correspondence courses. The ministry has even gained permission from the government for visits and face-to-face Bible studies with illiterate prisoners. PBCS sees this as a great opportunity to build relationships with prisoners and their families as well, expressing the love of Jesus. PBCS also distributes Bibles and the “Jesus Film” on DVD and has opened six literacy centers for the children of Brick Kiln workers where Bible stories are used to teach reading. The kiln workers are some of the poorest in Pakistani society, mostly Christians.
Each of these ministries struggles to raise funds adequate to the work that God has set before them, and they are deeply thankful for the support that comes from individuals and congregations. Outreach hopes to work with Zahoor and Rufan in the coming months to overcome the visa issues that have prevented them from coming to the U.S. to visit their supporting partners. These ministries are sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ in unique, winsome and effective ways. They are changing lives in Jesus’ name!
We also visited Gujranwala Theological Seminary where the current principal of the seminary, Rev. Nosheen Khan, is also the first woman to be ordained in Pakistan. Although she has been ordained, she still cannot be called to be a pastor of a church, but she expects this to change in the next few years. This part of the trip had a personal connection for Harris because a number of his family members have taught at Gujranwala down through the years.
We had a meeting with the faculty followed by a meeting with the students and then lunch with the board. It was good to meet the students and hear their stories about why they had chosen to go to seminary. While some will end up in large churches in cities that can pay them well, the majority will go to rural churches which will struggle to pay them. The campus is in
definite need of repair, especially the housing facilities for single students. Many of the older buildings are no longer used because they have fallen into disrepair. They currently have 79 students, 20 of whom are women. They have turned students away because they do not have enough room for them on campus. They also do not have enough housing for faculty. Without more students they will not be able to add the faculty that they need to provide the comprehensive academic curriculum they desire. Outreach will send the seminary $17,000 to rehab a hostel which will hold 15 single students, and we hope to send additional funds to assist with repairs to married student housing.
Throughout our visit we enjoyed the hospitality of Forman Christian College, staying on campus each night and enjoying time to get to know the Rector, Dr. Jim Tebbe, and other members of the Forman community, including students. Each year The Outreach Foundation seeks funding for Forman’s Spiritual Life program and for student scholarships.
Dr. Tebbe shared with us the history of FCC, the growth of the student body, the realities of working with the government of the Punjab and his tenure as Rector of the university. We then toured the campus seeing the main academic buildings. FCC has lots of new building going on and is clearly making a big comeback after years of neglect under government control.
The campus tour also included a visit to a new grade school on the campus for the children of FCC employees. A few years ago the administration realized that there were lots of employees on campus whose children would never have a chance to attend FCC because they do not have access to an education of sufficient quality. (We heard the story repeatedly, that education was the way out of poverty for most Pakistanis.) As a result, the Light of Hope School was started on the FCC campus. They were very eager to show off the school. Not only do parents get to have their kids in school on campus with them, the school offers an opportunity for college students to complete their student-teaching assignments there and for education faculty to participate in establishment and organization of the school. It was a very fun school; both teachers and students were glad to be there!
This was followed by a meeting with a group of university students. As it turned out, they were all Christians, although this is not the typical arrangement. The discussion with the students was very interesting. We asked them why they chose FCC and how they liked the school. One of the reasons that they all liked the school is because it is a place where Muslims and Christians can live and work together in harmony. A number also commented that it is also unique because men and women, people from diverse geographical regions and people from different economic levels were able to live together as equals (or without strife, at least). It seems to be a truly unique situation in Pakistan. Throughout their lives, each of the students had pushback from Muslims about being Christian. A typical question would be, “You’re educated, why would you be a Christian?” or simply, “You’re a Pakistani, why are you not a Muslim?” While there are still questions and sometimes pushback from Muslims on campus about why they are Christians, it is much more civil and polite at FCC than it would be in other situations.
One of the highlights of the Pakistan trip was visiting with rural congregations. Churches such as these make up the majority of the Presbyterian Church of Pakistan. Moderator Majid Abel introduced us to four congregations, and in each one we were welcomed with songs, rose petals and garlands. Their joy in the Lord came through clearly, even though we didn’t speak Urdu. One of the great needs for the pastors serving these rural congregations (often the pastors serve many preaching points) is transportation. We heard a lot about the need for motorbikes for ministry!
It was a full trip that included PCP offices and staff, the Presbyterian Education Board, and several large congregations. We were blessed by the faith and faithfulness of those whom we met. In the face of pressure and even persecution, Presbyterians in Pakistan are sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. Thank you for your prayers for these partners and for your gifts in support of their ministries that are changing lives in Jesus’ name!
Read more about the Pakistan Bible Correspondence School by clicking HERE.
Read more about the Pakistan Christian Recording Ministries by clicking HERE.
Read more about Gujranwala Theological Seminary by clicking HERE.
Read more about Forman Christian College by clicking HERE.
This year Outreach is seeking $15,000 for PBCS, $10,000 for PCRM, $20,000 for Gujranwala Theological Seminary and $27,000 for Forman Christian College.