This is a long post – a compilation of several recounting my visit to Pakistan in January, 2011.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 20, 2011
Pakistan – Kinnaird Academy
We also met with the PEB building committee and heard a presentattion by the architects working on the new boys school being considered for land the PEB recently received back fron the government. That’s a long story! The school will serve 2800 boys, for a cost of 2.9 million US dollars. There is such great need for schools in Pakistan – education is the best hope for the future of this country, and for the lives of these children. One of the people we met was the PCUSA property manager, who is an attorney who has worked for years at getting the schools back from the government. He told stories of his children being kidnapped, knives and guns in his back. It is a dangerous place.
In the evening we visited with our PCUSA mission co-workers, Doug and Margie, who work at Forman Christian College in Lahore, where we are staying. We heard from a Pakistani something of the history and culture of Pakistan and some of its challenges and opportunities.
We were going to go to a pre-wedding party after that, but we were all to exhausted!
This morning – back to Forman Christia College to meet with students, administrators, and also to help with student assessments in English.
More to come!
FRIDAY, JANUARY 21, 2011
Pakistan – Forman Christan College
The school faces a lot of challenges, but it is also one of the best hopes Pakistan has for positive change. Numerous meetings with faculty, staff and students today shared one common theme: education is the only hope Pakistan has, and FCC is a leader in graduating students who have been, and will be, positive leaders in Pakistan.
So much more could be said…
- I could tell you about a free program Dr. Armacost’s wife has set up for the poorest women workers on campus, to teach them how to read and write, and how 2 years after the program began, the mothers were coming to her asking for them to educate their children. They didn’t know how important education was, until they began to get some themselves.
- I could tell you about how FCC is developing programs to train teachers in other schools, to increase the quality of edcuation beyond FCC
- I could talk about how FCC models peaceful interfaith harmony
- I could talk about how it is the only place in Pakistan where Christians can come to learn the Bible, Christian theology, and grow in Christian leadership
- I could talk about the dedication to Christian faith and Christian mission the faculty has, in the face of real danger for Christians in today’s Pakistan.
I could go on, but suffice it to say, God is doing amazing things here, and so much more still needs to be done. Keep the college and their leaders in your prayers!
One last thing – we particpated in the assesments of students as they did the English exams, and it was a joy to be a part of their educational experience!
SATURDAY, JANUARY 22, 2011
PAKISTAN – MARTINSPUR AND SANGLA HILL
After that we visited the girls school and the boys school in town. Also founded by Presbyterian missionaries (the boys school in 1915), when it was denationalized in 2002 (see my previous post) the Presbyterian Education Board (PEB) received it back in terrible shape. Parts of buildings had to be torn down, some classrooms were unusable, others, barely usable. They also did not, and still do not, have enough classrooms to handle all the enrollment requests. Basically, the whole school needs to be reconstructed and enlarged, but they are doing the best they can. And they are doing well. During the nationalization period, student test scores plummeted. Now they are almost back up to where they were before the government took over all the schools. So in spite of very inadequate conditions, the teachers and administrators are doing exceptional jobs. They are what makes the school what it is. We heard several former students stand up at their welcome for us, and talk about how their education at this PEB school changed their lives, gave them confidence, and gave them a future. Because of the work of PEB in Pakistan, new worlds are opening up to students who may not have had any hope before. The PEB schools really focus on reaching out to the poorest of the poor with education, scholarships, and resources, to give them a chance at a bright future, and to help them be good citizens, with good values.
The Principal of the boys school shared some comments about the needs of the school, and in addition to reconstruction, he said that the biggest need the school has is a photocopier! They have to travel 15 km to make a photocopy, something many of us can do in our own homes.
We then visited the girls school and boarding house in Sangla Hill. Another impressive school, much work has already been done there to reconstruct the school, and with the help of the PW Birthday Offering, to build a girls dorm. It is a beautiful facility! We participated in the dedication of two classrooms there, made possible by the donation of a very generous individual.
Another ministry that PEB has at the girls school is SHE – a project that helps poor women learn skills so they can sell their crafts to help support their families. They also have a women’s shelter on campus for abused and battered women and their children. There are currently 8 families there that the PEB is working with.
Today was a day that really emphasized the lives that PEB is changing through their schools and other ministries. It is not often you can say one particular organization will have an unmistakable positive imprint on a people, but I think we can say that in this case.
If any of you reading this are interested in helping with some of the needs at the PEB schools, so that more children can be empowered and educated, you can find out more at the Friends of PEB website: www.friendsofpeb.org.
We ended the day by attending a Muslim wedding. This was day two of a three day celebration, and we all had a great time! The Pakistani people have been wonderful and welcoming to us all, and a real pleasure to get to know.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 23, 2011
PAKISTAN – NAULAKHA PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
One of our ministries that they were very interested in was our Leadership Development for Ministry program. They are interested in building leadership within their own congregation, and were excited to learn about what we are doing in the US.
One of the purely fun parts of the morning was having the church children ask to have their pictures taken with us, I guess this was our brush with being celebrities!
Lunch at a local restaurant with the pastor and his family, a relaxing afternoon, and dinner with the executive director of PEB and friends, and a round of “Who can top this?” rounded out the evening. In case you were wondering, 2 men and 3 goats on a small motorcycle trumps 8 people on a small motorcyle!
MONDAY, JANUARY 24, 2011
PAKISTAN – PASRUR SCHOOL
When we got to Pasrur school, we discovered why Ed Morgan didn’t want to miss this school. The entire school turned out for our arrival (that part was normal), and started yelling “Ed Morgan!” Who knew we had such a celebrity in our midst? Ed’s Iowa congregation had adopted this school and had given a significant amount of money to rehab the school and build the girls boarding house.
This school is a model of what can happen with the other PEB schools with the right investment. Even then, we saw classes meeting in the hallways because they are still short on classrooms.
Each class we visited welcomed us warmly, and gave us homemade cards. Most said something like “welcome.” One said “we welcome you with zest and zeal!” That was fun. A sobering one from one girl just said “do not foregt us.” Looking at the kids it is easy to forget that utter proverty most come from and the sacrifices their parents have had to make so their children could attend a good school. Without the help of churches like the Iowa City church and others, many of these kids would not have much of a future. Let us not forget them.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 27, 2011
PAKISTAN – DAY ?
FRIDAY, JANUARY 28, 2011
PAKISTAN – WAGAH BORDER CROSSING
This afternoon we were able to keep to our original plans and visit the Wagah Border for the flag lowering ceremony. This is a unique event, that takes place on the border between India and Pakistan. It is almost like a half time pep rally at a football game – rally songs, flag waving, orchestrated cheering, offiers marching with exagerated steps, and finally the Indian and Pakistani solders meeting at the flags, a lot of posturing, throwing their ropes in each other’s faces, and lowering their flags in unison. Obviously well reheresed! And fun to watch. Apparently about 5000 people attend each day, although the crowd was a little spare today. Apparently that is not unexpected on a Friday.
So a little disappointing that we had to miss the historic tour, but a good day nonetheless.
Tomorrow is the culmination of the trip – a drive to Sargoda, to dedicate a classroom funded by Minnesota Valleys Presbytery, and to participate in the groundbreaking of a new boys dorm for the boys school. Usually there is about a dozen of us when we’ve gone out to visit schools, tomorrow there will be about 35 of us going up in a bus for the four hour dive to the school.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 29, 2011
PAKISTAN – SARGODHA
We did have a bit of a bump on the way home – most of our people were in a bus, a few of us were in a van and we had to pull over on the motorway because it was overheating. After numerous phone calls, we reunited with the bus and another car, and transfered over, and were on our way again, leaving a few faithful PEB staff people to deal with the broken down van.
This was a great end to the trip – and it really highlighted what PEB is about – giving hope to children, and building hope for the future of Pakistan, by educating children and teaching them the values that will help them be good students, good citizens, and good people. I have been so impressed to see during these two weeks the work the Presbyterian Education Board in Pakistan is doing here, and the lives that they are already changing. If we want peace in the world, it will begin with educating our children, no matter who they are, or where they are.
Tomorrow we worship in the morning and spend a little time at the PEB office in the afternoon. Then we will take the entire PEB staff out to dinner, then off to the aiport for our long flight home. It has been a good visit! If anyone ever wants to see first hand what PEB is doing here, I would recommend you come and visit. You will be amazed at what they are doing, with so little!