BUC Treasurer Leads out in Pakistan Youth Week of Prayer and Evangelism
22nd November 2018
For seven years the Pakistan Adventist Seminary and College (PASC) leadership have been trying to arrange for me to come to their joint school and college to share in a week of spiritual upliftment with their pupils. My family and friends were not too excited by the prospect, the UK home office said don't go, but the British Union Conference (BUC) Executive Committee approved the request. With the support and encouragement of BUC President Pastor Ian Sweeney plans were set in motion to travel.
With great excitement and slight trepidation Dr Petras Bahadur (General Conference Adventist Muslim Relations Director), Aftab Barki (Translator for the event – BUC Senior Accountant) and myself set off on the long journey to Pakistan on 1 November. We landed in Lahore in wonder and awe at our surroundings and with great expectations on a warm and sunny Friday afternoon. However, unbeknown to us Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, following the decision of the Pakistan Supreme Court had just been released after eight years in prison. This sparked violent protests by hardliners who were calling for her execution and making threats on her life.
In and around Lahore, there ensued demonstrations, protest marches, fighting on the streets with the army who were trying to restore calm, and attacks on vehicles resulting in burnt-out buses. The PASC leadership tried to make the normally one hour and twenty-minute journey to meet us in Lahore. After seven hours of trying they finally gave up and returned to PASC. There were simply too many impassable roads given all the demonstrations on the roads in and around Lahore.
At the same time word got back to Britain where Pastor Sweeney was leading out in a Religious Liberty weekend retreat. We give thanks for all the prayers that were sent up on our behalf. We spent Sabbath in the relative protected confines of the Pakistan Union Conference compound which included armed security guards. The armed security is a state requirement. That Sabbath I was able to preach in the relative calmness of the Union church. We were fearful that we would not be able to get to PASC to minister there that week.
By the end of Sabbath, the army had restored calm and peace to the districts in and around Lahore. As we drove on the road to PASC we observed the telltale signs of the demonstrations of the preceding 48 hours. Burnt-out vehicles and continuing army road blocks were in full view and evidence of a troubled few days.
We finally arrived in Farooqabad where PASC resides. The school/college is set in about 35 acres of beautiful scenic land surrounded completely by ten-foot-high walls and an additional two feet of barbed wire. This is supported by 14 armed guards at various points around the perimeter. This may sound quite onerous, but after a while these security measures just all blend into the surroundings.
As we entered the main gates, I was pleasantly surprised to see beautifully maintained lush green grounds, wonderfully manicured hedgerows and tree-lined paths and roads. The PASC leadership finally got to meet and greet us, but before too long it was 6:00 pm and time for the first of the week's presentations with the students. PASC has about 650 pupils of which about 350 board in the grounds. They range in age from 7 to college-age students. The week of prayer presentations were primarily for the 350 boarders, most of whom were from Christian families. Most of the remaining 300 day pupils were from Muslim families.
That first evening, as I stood before the large student body, I prayed for God's intervention and guidance in that week's journey with these impressionable young people. That week became one of the most fulfilling and Spirit-filled experiences of my life. Each morning and evening, after the daily presentations, the students would queue up in their groups to share with me their life journeys and wanting me to pray with them. Especially in the evenings, this prayer time would go on for nearly two hours, as group after group waited patiently for me to talk and pray with them.
During the week I also took time to be with the business studies college students and took a class on financial accounting and then socio economics and how the world around us does impact on us wherever we are in the world. Dr Bahadur also spent time and lectured to the theology students. I felt saddened for the one female theology student as she approached me over the week, as her future seemed quite bleak in such a challenging culture.
The PASC leadership approached us in the months leading up to our visit to enquire if we could find donors to help support a project of installing solar panels at PASC. This would help with providing a consistent power supply (power cuts are a major problem), drastically reduce their carbon footprint, increase the awareness to students of reusable energy forms and lower their energy costs. The £9,000 request seemed quite daunting, but through the kindness of many organisations, churches and members in the UK and around the world, the project became a reality. We thank God for the kindness and generosity of so many people towards a financially weaker sister organisation. The staff and pupils are so appreciative of this kindness.
As we further explored the site, we came across a previously supported project. As we were admiring the wonderful technology building, we noticed the commemorative plaque that read 'opened by Pastor Cecil Perry, BUC President and Raafat Kamal from ADRA-UK' who actually funded it.
The week of prayer period came all too quickly to an end. The PASC leaders had requested if we could also preach for an evangelistic campaign from the Thursday evening until Sabbath morning. Dr Bahadur was the main speaker at this time for the campaign and preached with much fervour and sensitivity in relating Abraham and the Bible to the Koran and Ishmael to both the Christian and Muslim audience.
After Sabbath morning service, this already amazing week finally came to a conclusion with the baptism of 107 precious souls, 40 of whom were from the student body. Pastor Bahadur was blessed to be able to participate in the actual baptism of many of these souls. We thank God for His leading and presence in such a challenging environment.
We also thank God for the opportunity to try to make a difference in so many lives in such a short period of time.
[Earl Ramharacksingh, BUC Treasurer]