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.
More than 500 pastors have gathered. Though it has been 23 years since World MAP has held pastors’ seminars in Pakistan, we have distributed ACTS and Shepherd’s Staffs to multiplied thousands in recent years so World MAP’s ministry is readily accepted.
My first session is an overview of what God is doing in the world today, letting pastors know that they are a vital part of something grand and supernatural! I teach on the Kingdom of God, and invite them to be Kingdom-minded pastors. The response is powerful, followed by an awesome ministry and prayer time. God is really moving! We are off to a great start.
We enjoy dinner with key area leaders, and learn of the need for spiritual fathers who are committed to disciple the next generation. Jesus, how they need You to work this in their hearts! We arrive back at the hotel to learn that a terrorist bombing took out a gas main, so no hot water for the next few days. Giving thanks in all things, we remember that a cold shower can do wonders for jet lag!
Day two of the Rawalpindi seminar. The pastors are eager to learn and spiritually hungry. Pastor Vic teaches a great word on confidence in your call and hearing God’s voice. I teach on anointing – what it is and what it is not – and feel prompted to also speak about unity. I have a prophetic sense of a kairos season for Pakistan, and that disunity will greatly hinder what the Spirit of God desires to do. Much nodding of heads and amens.
I conclude and invite pastors to freshly receive from the Holy Spirit. The evident hunger of the pastors releases a quick and powerful work! After a time of receiving, testimonies come of new-found freedom in God, long-awaited answers to prayers and more. I teach briefly on the spiritual implications of the clapping of hands, with a strong response and breakthrough. Hallelujah!
Military intelligence is now very interested in us. Pastor Haroon asks for copies of our passports and I need to write for them a brief description of the nature and purpose of World MAP. We are again glad you are praying for us.
As we exit, we notice a much heavier military presence in the area. “They were sent out by GHQ to make sure nothing happens during our seminar” notes Jorge. “Apparently, they don’t like the negative publicity that comes from terrorist attacks.” We later learn that this city has three main Taliban cells.
We spend the remainder of the day fellowshipping and praying with local pastors and leaders.
With the gas main still broken, our day begins with invigorating showers that seemed colder than yesterday. We pack up, in order to be ready at the conclusion of this seminar to drive the five hours back to Lahore, where the next seminar begins tomorrow morning. A full schedule indeed!
It is our final day with the pastors in Rawalpindi. They are so gracious and openly express how much the conference is blessing them. Pastor Vic brings a solid, straightforward word, providing such a sound, godly model for the pastors.
I give the leaders Ten Principles for Kingdom Ministry. I am prompted to have the pastors turn to the four points of the compass and raise their hands and voices in prayer over the nation of Pakistan. What a powerful time of intercession! Vic and I then pray for, and speak blessing over, the pastors as we conclude.
We share a meal with local bishops and priests from mainline denominations. We learn that the Pakistani government has “nationalized” all Christian owned and operated schools, hospitals, etc, and exerts control by holding the properties hostage. Many Christians live in enclaves (“colonies”) and feel powerless politically and economically. May God refresh them in their spiritual calling and their place in Him!
Jorge is told that many calls were made from pastors in Rawalpindi to pastors in Lahore, telling them how great the seminar was and not to miss it. We are encouraged as we load up and drive five hours in the dark back to Lahore. Vic is fighting a cold, and we are all feeling the drain of travel and the full schedule. Looking forward to a good night’s sleep.
Day 1 of the Lahore seminar. A warm welcome with musicians, bright costumes and flowers. We are honored and humbled.
Speaking again on the Kingdom and unity, and the importance of relationship among pastors, I conclude by declaring that there is only one Church in Pakistan, one God, one Lord, one Savior, one King, and one Kingdom. The place erupts in shouts of praise and amens!
Vic teaches a very practical and personal word to help pastors deal with internal issues that cause them difficulty. Another strong start!
We arrive back at our hotel to find our room filled with smoke. While choking and with eyes burning, we request another room and move to another part of the hotel.
Another full day of teaching from the team is well received by the pastors. I end the day by teaching on anointing, and the level of hunger is great. There is strong evidence of the Holy Spirit ministering to the pastors as they wait and receive, with physical healings, visions, a new sense of freedom and joy, breakthroughs, faith for miracles and answered prayers. Most of those present signal that they have been newly or freshly filled. A great time in Jesus!
Off to a challenging start, with rain causing already torn up streets to become muddy lakes; snarled traffic makes everyone late. But we finally get started, and the sessions are strong. It’s a great conclusion to this second conference. The pastors seem blessed and there is much positive feedback.
We dash to the airport to catch our flight to Karachi for the next conference. Traffic inches along the muddy roads while cars, vans and three-wheeled taxis make their own lanes, horns blaring. Pastor Haroon is stuck somewhere behind us. I pray and ask God to hold our flight. We arrive at the airport and the flight is delayed – hallelujah! We all make it on board.
It is Sunday and we head out to minister in local Karachi churches. I speak on becoming a disciple with destiny in God. There was a strong response and I prayed for many – words, healing and blessing flowed. Pastor Vic enjoys a great service as well. Unfortunately, I am feeling unwell and running a fever.
Karachi, a city of 21 million, is ruled by many criminal elements competing for control and creating violent unrest. The leading group has an ‘overlord’ who rules from another country, but thousands are at his command. A phone call from him and hundreds can be murdered. One can sense the tension and fear in the city. Within the church are challenges of division among pastors, but many desire this to change.
Day 1 of the Karachi seminar. I sense a “divided house”, as if 450 strangers have gathered. We “put in the plow” of God’s Word and get to work. We teach again on the Kingdom and unity. I tell pastors about the source of disunity, the cause, and the cure, declaring again One Kingdom, One God, One Lord and One Savior – we are all on His team! Pastors are responsive and we end with a strong prayer time, dedicating ourselves to work together for God’s Kingdom and glory, and to pray for one another.
I am still feverish and my throat is raw. We are told that Karachi has a lot of sickness, and I feel there are unclean spirits that feed upon and promote the violence. We are confronting strongholds in the spiritual realm and send word home asking for increased prayer.
That evening, Pastor Vic and Jorge head out to share God’s love and Good News with the community at a local crusade. Jorge reports: “We exit the van and are surrounded by ten armed guards who escort us through a large neighborhood. The streets narrow as the roads become dirt. Every corner has armed police while armored trucks drive the perimeter. Cell phones are jammed to prevent bomb detonation.
“Ahead we see a huge crowd of people sitting on hundreds of rugs ‘carpeting’ the streets. We are in Pakistan, in the middle of the street, in the middle of the night, and Pastor Vic is preaching the Word. An alter call is made and many stand to receive Jesus. BEST EXPERIENCE EVER!”
Day 2, and Pastor Vic teaches the first two sessions while I go to the hospital. I pick up meds and head back to the conference. I teach on anointing, and the pastors are hungry to receive. There were healings, visions and a powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. A “spiritual fog” of doubt, confusion and double-mindedness is lifted – fully ¾ raise a hand to confirm they now have clarity of mind. Hallelujah!
We meet with the local World MAP representative and visit the shop where Shepherd’s Staffs are printed. Because of those who give to World MAP, more than 15,000 Shepherd’s Staffs in the Urdu language have been distributed to church leaders throughout Pakistan!
The teachings are very well received on our final day in Karachi, and the conference ends strong with pastors interceding for Pakistan. It is always joy to see the thrill on each face as pastors receive their own copy of The Shepherd’s Staff!
I am still fighting sickness, but we press on. We board our flight back to Lahore, and arrive at our hotel at 11:30 pm. We must be ready at 6:00 am to drive 3 hours to Sahiwal and begin our next conference upon arrival. Thank you, Lord, for Your sufficient grace.
Day 1 in Sahiwal. It’s a smaller community and the pastors are a bit more reserved. But we enjoy a good first day of ministry with them.
It is evening, and we are at a community outreach meeting in a large tent set up on a school yard. There is a heavy police presence, and a senior police official lets us know that “though we are very happy to have you here, we will be very happy when you leave.” Large Christian gatherings cause tension and stress in Pakistan. But we enjoy sharing God’s love with the people who came, and praise the Lord for a great response!
We awake to the news that Pakistani negotiations with the Taliban are not going well. The Taliban kidnapped and beheaded 24 frontier police (laying their bodies in the streets) and murdered an army major. The government responded by bombing several Taliban hideouts, killing 35 terrorists and a senior Taliban leader. Warnings about terrorist outbreaks are issued for 20 provinces, including the one we are in. Our evening community meeting is cancelled.
Day 2 of the conference goes very well. Vic’s sessions on God’s call and knowing His will speaks to the pastors in a practical and inspiring way. I teach on anointing and during the time to receive, the Lord gives me a picture of a dry, cracked desert ground suddenly covered with rushing water that quickly soaks in. So we ask for more and another wave of the Holy Spirit washes over the pastors. All are touched and filled, to the praise of Jesus!
Later, we meet with an influential Muslim cleric (Wahabbi) who heads up a large interfaith association and numerous mosques, orphanages, hospitals and schools in the area. I think of the apostle Paul and pray silently for this man’s radical salvation through Jesus!
Though tired, we are determined to press for a great last day in Sahiwal! Vic brings a strong and encouraging word. I am feeling much better and really enjoy my final session with the pastors. The ministry time was powerful. The people of Sahiwal are very precious, maybe less sophisticated but love God and are very loving.
Terrorist warnings and potential unrest lead our hosts to cancel the evening community meeting. So it’s back in the vans for the return drive to Lahore.
The next day we board the flight for home and, praise Jesus, we have an uneventful albeit long trip back to the States.
The 2014 World MAP Spiritual Renewal and Equipping Seminars in Pakistan exceeded our expectations! The pastors and leaders are spiritually hungry and very open to teaching. These brave men and women are sincere and serious about their desire to serve the Lord and His people effectively.
The Pentecostal churches in Pakistan are growing, while traditional mainline churches that once had tremendous influence are unfortunately on the wane. These mainline denominations have lost ground through the nationalization of their institutions that provided community services (hospitals, universities, schools, orphanages, etc.) and gave them a vital outreach at one time. They now seem to spend more time engaged in interfaith discussions and meetings and less time winning the lost.
Pentecostal churches welcome those who are seeking God and His work and power to be actively displayed in the Christian life, as opposed to serving religious traditions, and this resonates with committed believers.
Catholics are influential but stay isolated and did not participate in the seminars. Anglicans and Presbyterians joined with us, and the pastor of the Presbyterian church in Rawalpindi (Dr. Samuel Titus) graciously let World MAP use his facility for the seminars.
There is something of a division between the older generation of pastors who came to maturity in the 1980s and 90s, and those who are younger. There is also a noticeable lack of newer pastors and leaders, which could signal trouble for the future of the church in Pakistan. The older generation is not aggressively raising up or fathering new leadership as they should.
Walls Come Down
A uniform concern/complaint in every city was the existing disunity and division among church leaders. The messages we brought on the Kingdom of God and becoming Kingdom-minded pastors resonated with them, especially with the younger leaders.
“A major success of the World MAP seminars in Pakistan was seeing the barriers of denominational divisions broken down” reports Pastor Vic. “Those who attended the seminars came together as strangers, but left the seminars as co-laborers in Christ.”
This was Jorge Lara’s first time traveling on a World MAP team, and he also saw clearly the work God was doing. “Good, sound, practical teaching came from both Dr. Frank and Dr. Vic, and the pastors loved it. The thread woven throughout was unity. In all four cities, I felt the primary message that pastors’ received was that they are Kingdom pastors: not local pastors, not Pakistani pastors, but Kingdom pastors. The message that we serve One King in One Kingdom really hit home.
“I didn’t need to speak the language to know when something shifted in the atmosphere” recalls Jorge. “When the Kingdom message started to come together for everyone listening, you could feel the walls come down.”
A Clearer Perspective
We found the general Muslim population to be friendly and helpful. They are just like people everywhere else: they want to live a decent life, have a family and enjoy life and relationships. Unfortunately, radical Muslim elements make life miserable for everyone.
The majority of Pakistanis do not approve of the Taliban and their actions, nor do they want Sharia (strict Muslim) law enacted. But they are terribly afraid to oppose either for fear of reprisal. One senses low-grade fear everywhere you go.
The government, military and police are constantly uptight and on guard as they must deal not only with radical Islamists, but also equally violent and vile criminal elements. Pakistan is a lawless society in many ways.
Everywhere we go, in every city, one hears the clerics calling the Muslims to prayer five times a day over loud speakers. “I think it was the most pronounced in Lahore,” recalls Jorge. “Maybe it was the acoustics of the neighborhood, but that call gave me an uneasy feeling. Not like fear, but sort of sad, depressed and definitely oppressive. It sounded like a cry for help.”
The country of Pakistan desperately needs Jesus!
The Time Is Now
The Lord is doing a significant work in Pakistan and is about to do more. I believe He wants to “break out” into the nation and sweep many into His Kingdom, but the church and its leaders must be made ready and united to move with Him.
I thank God for this opportunity to minister in Pakistan. The World MAP seminars were extremely fruitful, productive and timely. The pastors desire our return, and we hope to continue to “work while it is yet day” in Pakistan, fanning the flames of this kairos season for as long as the doors are open.
Thank you for praying and giving to make possible what God is doing!