We are on our way to Pakistan! After 23 years, World MAP returns to conduct seminars for pastors. Joining me on the ministry team are Pastor Vic Torres of Reach Out Church in New York (also on the World MAP Board) and Jorge Lara, World MAP’s media coordinator, who will take photos and video-record teaching sessions.
Ministry trips are not without obstacles. As we leave Prescott, I get bumped from the overbooked 2-hour shuttle trip to the airport. After some tense minutes, a kind passenger gives me his seat so we won’t miss our first flight. Then, as our final flight approaches Pakistan, the airport in Lahore is fogged in, so our plane is rerouted to Karachi. We sit in the airport for 12 hours waiting to re-board.
Though it ends up taking 45 hours to get to Lahore, we are grateful for safe arrival and to finally meet up with our gracious hosts and seminar coordinator, Pastor Haroon Bhatti and his wife, Aster.
It is Sunday morning, and Pastor Vic and I will each minister at a different church. Jorge goes with me, and we are escorted by guards with automatic rifles. We drive to a Christian neighborhood (known as a colony) surrounded by tall walls with a large cross at the entrance. Stationed about is armed security, and even church greeters hold automatic weapons. Though unusual for us, this is the way of life for believers in this volatile Muslim nation.
Once inside, it is great to worship with the Pakistani Christians. I find them very genuine and responsive. The Lord has me bring a word on being people of destiny (Esther 4:14). I conclude with a ministry time, and the church is very open to, and touched by, the Holy Spirit.
We learn that most Christians in Pakistan are born into Christian families, descended from generations of Christians when Pakistan was part of India and under British rule. Once Pakistan became an independent nation and primarily Muslim, it became punishable by death to convert from Islam to Christianity.
“The church in Pakistan is under persecution and discrimination, yet it is strong and vibrant” notes Pastor Vic. “Though many Muslims are coming to Christ, they are reluctant to confess their conversion under fear of retaliation.”
On The Road
It is afternoon, and the team, our hosts and armed security pile into vans for a five-hour drive to Rawalpindi/Islamabad where our first conference will be held. We arrive to palatable tension in the city with a sizeable presence of armed soldiers and police.
We maneuver the gauntlet of bomb-sniffing dogs, hydraulic iron blockades that allow only one vehicle to pass at a time, security checkpoints with x-ray and metal detectors, and a long courtyard walk with armed guards in towers looking down on us – all of this just to enter our hotel! We are all so glad that people are praying for us and this trip.
The first seminar is held at a large church situated across from the GHQ (national military headquarters) with armed and watchful soldiers all around. Once inside, we are given a warm Pakistani welcome, complete with drums, bagpipes, traditional dance, ribbon cutting, confetti poppers, and floral bouquets.