Laurie-Ann Copple' ministry visit to Lahore, 19 Dec 2007 - 2 Jan 2008
My Christmas 2007 in Pakistan
I had a very special Christmas season – spent in the Punjab province of Pakistan teaching, doing healing ministry, pastoral care and planting the Alpha course in Punjabi and English in Lahore. Two years ago when I was in Lahore on a much more intense mission, I joined the local ministry of NEWS Outreach, the same ministry that makes those crocheted crosses that we give baptismal candidates here at St. Paul’s. I joined long-time friend Faisal Yaqoob and Bishop Younnis Haroon into a ministry to the downtrodden throughout Pakistan.
Both times in Pakistan I encountered crazy drivers, highly decorated trucks and auto rickshaws, intense pollution, endless cups of chai, hot spicy food and lots of smiles. Ministry last time included speaking before as many as 15,000 or more at one time. This mission had me go to many smaller venues, where I got to meet the people, pray over them and hear some of their stories. Their devotion was deep, hospitality warm and their appreciation of my long journey to meet them very much appreciated. One gesture that really touched my heart was when I was greeting servant leaders with the customary Christian greeting “Salaam,” usually slurred to sound like ‘slawm’. When I greeted them, I was given a smile full of love, respect and a gesture of a hand touching their heart. To me, this was more than a sign of respect; it was a sign that hearts were open to receive whatever God had for them, through me. This was further confirmed by either being showered with rose petals, given real rose necklaces, or silver garlands.
I found that my audiences were hungry to hear my teaching, especially when I used visual aids, such as a sponge to show that we are like dry thirsty sponges needing to be filled with the life of God through the Holy Spirit. I usually soak the sponge in water for a while and squeeze the sponge to show how ‘rivers of living water’ are meant to flow from us when we spend lots of time with Jesus. I also do a talk about living water and re-enact John 7: 37-39 when the priest poured out what would start as the river of God flowing from the temple mentioned in Eze. 47. It was in that context that Jesus claimed that anyone coming to him would have rivers of living water flowing from them (like the sponge).
We also visited the orphanage, and I was given the plans for building another. More children are staying with the Bishop and his wife in the interim. Schools continue their work as well as a new outreach with migrant children with a basic school for their education.
I was taken to visit a family which is blind in a poor area of Lahore. The father used to be a teacher before he went blind and his English is impeccable. His wife is also blind and they have lost three sighted children to some serious diseases. They have one child left, Aqeel (which means candle), and he had some form of meningitis and if he didn’t have corrective surgery in the next six months he would lose his eyes permanently. I ached for the family and listened to the father’s story, and of his grief. He thought that God had abandoned him and must have been surrounded by well-meaning Christian people, but their advice was like the three ‘comforters’ in the book of Job. It took some serious prayer and pastoral care but after spending time with this grieving father, he finally felt understood and not alone. He knew that God had not abandoned him and that he needed time to grieve. Meanwhile we were going to do what we could about his son Aqeel, other than to pray over him. After that time we had political disruptions - such as a bombing in Peshawar that prevented my trip to D.I. Khan in NWFP province, and then Benazir Bhutto’s assassination which caused an adjustment to the schedule during the three day national mourning. I asked if the money we had saved from road trips could be diverted to Aqeel’s operation along with some money we already had in the budget. There was enough, and I have been advised that Aqeel’s operation should be done by January 30, and have some left over for his after-care. This family has been on my heart ever since meeting them, and on many other hearts as well. Please continue to pray for them.
They drank it up like thirsty sponges themselves and asked for more. If ever I had felt love in that land, surely it was in this village. I could sense the true love in the village and in my hosts. I could see their faith deep and true in their eyes and felt that I was seeing Jesus in them.
The one challenge of this mission apart from the political disruptions was my health. I was sick throughout the mission, but I did have a caring doctor within my host family named Yasser. The Apostle Paul was often ill on his missionary journeys so he had Luke with him. So God ministered through Yasser, and I nicknamed him my “Dr. Luke.” God gave me enough strength to minister and to care for others, spend devotional and friendship time and to rest.
The Pakistan mission fundraising dinner, 13 Oct 2007
St. Paul's Anglican Church, Kanata, Canada