Sunday, April 15, 2007

Worlds Converge in Pakistan. Last update.

I'm writing this from the airport in Karachi, Pakistan after 10 days in this country. (Continued writing in transit in Qatar, and in the sky; and posted to my blog upon landing in London.) Wow, I didn't realize what a tremendous trip it would be.

My last update here on the blog was written near the beginning of my trip. Here are some highlights since then:

-Visited Murree Christian School, which I attended from grades 1-4. Was near the earthquake zone, so it was convenient to get to. Arrived after dark and without an appointment Sunday night--and security at the school is *very* tight--but the director (ie, top guy) kindly gave me a fantastic 'private tour'. Lots of memories (eg, playing marbles in the gutter, 'prisoner's base' at 'the court', etc.).
-Spoke to 15 or so cricket players Monday night. Felt the message was weak, but two nominal Christians got born again. Believe it was genuine.
-Visited many Starfish Asia schools. There are quite a lot of nominal Christians in Pakistan, but many of them are *very* poor and are often exploited by the other-faith rich. So a good strategy is to give them free or very-low-cost education. .. If you're looking for a ministry to give to, this is 'big bang for your buck': no Western salaries, all money goes to the field. In these schools it costs no more than $50 to educate a child for a year.
-Also with Starfish, visited a nominal Christian brick kiln community. Those who make the bricks are extremely poor bonded labourers. That is, the wealthy barons (who hire heartless men to manage things) ensure that their workers are paid just enough to survive (ie, not enough to get educated), and are quick to give them loans when they need money (like in the rainy season when they can't make bricks). The cycle of debt never ends, and the people are essentially slaves. Whole families will work in shadeless 45-degree weather (no exaggeration) to make 1,000 bricks for which they will be paid 300 rupees ($6). This may take a week or longer. The owners will sell the same lot of bricks for 5,000 rupees ($100). In order to make enough to survive, the children in the family will work as well. The 10 year-olds will dig the dirt, the 12 year-olds will do fill the moulds, and the 4 year-olds will turn the bricks over so both sides of the bricks get sun-dried.
-16 years ago our (Barham) family left Pakistan after my parents' had completed 4 years of service there. My father left behind a new ministry: a Christian bookvan run by a zealous man whom I consider one of my heroes. Let us call him "John" here (for security purposes). It was a sad day for our family and John's family when we left, but we knew God would take care of John and his family (He did), and we've kept in touch all these years. .. Two years ago John died. (I put up a blog post about it which I have since removed for security reasons.) He had had a severe case of diabetes and had been operated on 14 times. His health was so poor for the last 15 years of his life that one wonders if it was prayer and God's grace that sustained him. .. Anyway, yesterday it was my great joy to visit John's family (his wife, and the five of eight kids that remain at home); it was the first time in these 16 years that anyone in my family could visit John's family. We had a wonderful time. More below, but first:
-Matt Cook and Ruth attended Kawartha Lakes Bible College with my sister Chrissie, and I got to know them when visiting Chrissie there a few times. Three or four years ago, Matt and Ruth married and returned to Ruth's far-flung desert hometown in Pakistan. (Ruth is a Pakistani.) They have since had a child (two-year old Joseph) and teach English in the town in which they live. They each get paid $40/month to do so, and this comprises a large percentage of their support. Amazing how little they live on but, although they didn't say so, they could certainly use more; so I'd like to put a plug in for them here and let you know that you can give to them through MSC ( .. Anyway, I called Matt and Ruth up when I was in Karachi to ask if they could come and see me (eight hours away, and I just had one day left). Very sadly, at first they didn't think they could due to some evangelistic meetings in their town that they were connected to; but after a few minutes they called back to say, darnit, they were coming; they'd take a taxi ($80 for a high-speed return six-hour drive). They had so little fellowship where they were, so this was a rare opportunity.
-Little did I realize what dynamic fellowship would result from seeing these worlds converge - for Matt and Ruth and little Joseph spent most of my day with John family. They really hit it off. The John family found Matt highly entertaining and funny (he is!), Ruth friendly and fluent in Urdu, and little Joseph very cute. Likewise, Matt and Ruth were so encouraged by the John family's committed lives, and very grateful when, right from the start, were invited by the Johns to stay with them any time they came to Karachi. And just an hour or so later the Johns gave them gifts of clothes and Pakistani jewelry. (I got a shalwar-kamiz, a traditional suit of clothes, as well!) For me, it was a deep pleasure to see both families; in fact, with delicious food, much prayer, reading the Word, meeting the Johns' Paul-like pastor (who gets "200-300" cell phone calls a day requesting prayer), it was one of the richest days of fellowship I have ever had. And imagine how humbled I was when, after (sadly but hopefully and thankfully) saying goodbye to Matt and Ruth earlier that evening, the whole John family, insisting they take me to the airport for my 625am flight, got up at 330am to do so. More goodbyes, but with a deep hope that only Christ can bring.

And so ended 10 dynamic days in Pakistan. I left with a greater love for this ultra-needy land, new and deeper relationships, and the joy of having seen first-hand the unfolding fulfillment of Christ's promise that He would build His church.

(You can give to both "Matt and Ruth Cook" and "The J*a*l*a*l family in Pakistan" (minus the stars) through MSC ( and CMML ( Also to Starfish Asia at


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