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Stepping Into Another World

Stepping Into Another World

Stepping through the door in the wall was like stepping into another world. On the far side, the ground was bare and dusty; roads and buildings were crumbling. On this side, lush, green grass filled the courtyards; plants and flowers bloomed in beds. The buildings were painted; walkways were smooth and clean. In the middle of one courtyard, a small table spread with a checkered cloth was surrounded by 3 chairs. This is where I met with Hine Barber, a student in her 10th year at the ARP Mabel Lowry Pressly School (MLPS) in Sahiwal, Pakistan. 

I listened as Hine (pronounced Hen-ay) told her story in quite good English. She is the oldest of 6 children (3 sisters and 2 brothers). Her father works as a laborer, and her mother is a housewife. Because she was born small, and her parents had no means, she has been raised by her grandparents. It was her grandparents who listened to her desire for an education and sent her to MLPS. Hine is the only one from her family to go to school. Her parents are limited in their chances for economic and social advancement by both their lack of education and their status as Christians in a Muslim majority country. Christians in Pakistan exist as the lowest caste of society and have few opportunities for jobs and economic improvement. Opportunities for Christian women are even fewer. The only hope to escape abject poverty is through education.  

Fifty-six girls, ages 5-16, live at the MLPS year-round, save for a 2-month summer break and 2 weeks over Christmas. Hine has studied there for 7 years and will graduate at the end of this school year. Her typical day begins at 6:30 a.m. with breakfast and prayer and ends at 10 p.m., with worship and singing. Her schedule is packed with classes and study time; but on Saturdays, she can sleep in until 7:30 and have free time to watch a movie. Many families visit on the weekends. Hine was looking forward to a visit from her grandparents later in the afternoon. 

The MLPS girls join 175 day students (girls and boys) for classes at the ARP Mission School, within the same walled compound. Like hostel students, day students come from low-income Christian families who live in surrounding villages. Many students, ages 3 (preschool) to 16 years, are members of the ARP church. They study Bible, English, reading, writing, history, art, music, math, and science. Their “high school” ends at 10th grade at which point they graduate and go to “FSG,” a two-year, pre-college program run by the government, and then they can apply for college. Hine would like to study medicine in college and be a doctor. She repeatedly expressed deep gratitude for the opportunity to study and for the hope and new life she has found through faith in Jesus Christ.  

The day before, we visited the ARP Mission school in Chichawatni and were greeted by the school’s 350 students with great fanfare – red carpet, music, and rose petals. Honestly, it was quite embarrassing, but the kids obviously loved presenting songs and scripture recitation. We toured each classroom and, at the end of the day, were treated to a Cricket match by the older boys. At Chichawatni, 40% of the students are Muslim. Their tuition helps off-set tuition costs for Christian students and provides an outreach opportunity by exposing Muslim children and families to the Bible and a Christian worldview. Like the schools in Sahiwal, a sense of joy and hope was pervasive at the Chichawatni school. 

The evening after my visit with Hine, as I prepared for bed, music floated through the windows. It was different from the droning Muslim prayer call that blasts several times daily through loudspeakers mounted on mosques. Listening closer, I realized the hostel girls were singing in worship to close their day. It was beautiful. When I stepped through the wall onto school grounds earlier, it was like walking into another world, and I truly had. The schools, oases in a dark, depraved world, offer love, joy, and hope through Jesus Christ. Good work for the Kingdom of Christ is being done in these places. 

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