“You’re off on holiday? Finally!” A colleague said to me shortly before I left (apparently short breaks in the UK don’t count as holidays anymore). “Pakistan?! Why are you going there?” was a common response to my destination. I suppose it’s not too surprising, it’s not your usual holiday destination. Welcome to Pakistan. The fourth most persecuted country for Christians; 5th most dangerous country in the world; and considered the “most dangerous country [to the] world” by a former CIA agent.
I was heading to Pakistan for two weeks with a friend from City Life Church in Portsmouth. Our goal was simple to invest in local pastors and to teach/encourage people in the city and surrounding villages. It was similar to some of the work I did in Uganda before. This mainly composed of 12 evening meetings, a few in churches, others in the open air, blasting out music in the centre of a small village (it’s a good thing everyone seems to go to sleep rather late). During the day we spent time investing in our host, Pastor Zeeshan and visiting Isaac TV and the Brick Kilns (see Part 3).
Pakistan’s culture of honour
Pakistan has a fantastic culture of honour. At each meeting, we were greeted in various ways. These included flower petals being thrown over us as we arrived (imagine confetti at a wedding, except thrown only by small children, all aiming for your face); drum processions as we drove down the street; Hawaiian style garlands; 48 red roses; and Pakistani turbans. The turbans made us look a little like the three wise men from every Christmas nativity ever made (they were a sign of great honour/respect).
Evening outreach events
Evening meeting usually started around 18:30; although it was very rare that we would leave the house before 19:30. Just like Uganda; punctuality isn’t a top priority and timing is alot more relaxed. The meetings started to let people know something was happening. Music played, the worship team sung.
Around 19:00/19:30, depending on the distance to the local village, we left the house. We travelled for over an hour to some villages, others were only 15-30 minutes away. In Pakistan, it was customary to insist you continued eating well beyond the point you were full. So we would consume a large, late lunch, at around 16:00, only to receive with more food on arrival at the venue. We did our best to eat as little as possible during round two. Partly because we were already stuffed, and partly because the food wasn’t adjusted to our English tolerance levels.
The meeting would officially start after everyone had gathered (250 – 1000+ people), and we would be allowed to arrive shortly after. A set of worship songs were sung in Urdu by the local pastors/worship teams to start the meeting (“officially”); then our host pastor and his worship team would sing a few songs before inviting one of us to teach from the Bible.
To negate the effect of nerves, I usually preaching on an empty stomach. It’s safe to say I learnt to preach not just a full stomach, but a full, slightly upset stomach; having had very little sleep (the first night) and often needing the loo. Wherever the Lord may place me in future, I think I am well prepared for most situations.
What has your experience been after landing in a new mission field? Let me know in the comments.