Date: July 2, 2016
By Mark Ellis, Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (ANS - July 2, 2016) -- Nestled in the coastal foothills of Southern California a church of 400 people undertook a big project – to build a school in Pakistan. But one thing led to another and on their fourth mission trip to the turbulent nation in South Asia, two church members negotiated with a Taliban leader to free 4500 Christian slaves working at a dozen brick factories.
They also participated in an evangelistic outreach that saw two Muslim clerics and several hundred others receive Christ. One of the imams had a powerful vision of Jesus as the Great Physician in the middle of the night following the outreach, which resulted in his miraculous healing and salvation.
It may have been the most productive short-term mission trip since Paul’s visit to Macedonia.
Coincidentally, the man taking the lead on this trip was an unassuming 73-year-old retired barber, also named Paul, aka “J.P.” He had trouble finding another person in the church to go to Pakistan with him, but at the last minute, another self-effacing congregant, Mark, agreed to accompany him.
Their Christian connection in Pakistan, Pastor Tariq*, is the leader of a large network of house churches in a major city.
A few years ago, “Pastor Tariq had a bounty on his head from the Taliban,” J.P. recounts. “His best friend was martyred. The Taliban shot and killed him and burned his body, put it into a 55-gallon drum and took it back to Pastor Tariq, and told him they would do the same to him.”
Taking this warning to heart, Pastor Tariq traveled to the U.S. at the behest of his church and on that visit made his first connection with the church in Southern California.
“We gave him the second service to preach. He started bawling like a baby. He has a wife and three kids at home and wanted to go back, but his church wouldn’t let him. But after a few weeks, a U.S. drone killed the terrorist who put the fatwa on his head,” J.P. reports.
Shocked by Christians enslaved in brick factories
After Pastor Tariq returned to Pakistan, the lead pastor at the California church made his first trip to visit Tariq and was impressed by the pastor’s vision for Christian education and his desire to free slaves working at brick factories. The pastor visited one of the brick factories and was touched by the sight of an eight-year-old girl named Miriam making bricks.
“Every brick in Pakistan is made by a Christian slave,” J.P. notes, because Muslims will not do that kind of work. Pastor Tariq told him there are approximately 56,000 brick factories in Pakistan – all functioning with Christian slaves.
“It’s been going on for generations, like the Indian caste system,” J.P. says. “The slave owner has phony books where he charges them for food and shelter. Not only do they stay enslaved by his books, the debt grows and passes along from generation to generation. They inherit the debt of their parents and grandparents.”
While it is against the law to have slaves in Pakistan – these Christians are considered indentured servants – their harsh reality becomes a functional enslavement.
It is also against the law for a child under 14 to work, but the brick factories are full of underage children making bricks. Apparently, the government looks the other way at many of the abuses that go on.
J.P. discovered a typical family of four has a quota to make 2000 bricks a day, working seven days a week from sunup to sundown. There are no days off. “They can do it but they have to work very hard. If they don’t meet their quota they don’t eat.”
The church in Southern California agreed to partner with Pastor Tariq to start a school and help free some of the
slaves. Initially, they inquired about paying the debt of the little girl named Miriam and her family, so they could leave the brick factory.
“It was too late,” J.P. laments. “She had already died from the terrible working conditions. She was 8 or 9 years old.”
After the vision to help Pakistan was planted in the church, one woman gave $40,000 to start the school building project.
After they broke ground, Pastor Tariq informed them he needed another $36,000 to continue. The lead pastor put the need before the congregation on Sunday and noted the money had to be wired by the following Thursday.
“That’s when miraculous things happened,” J.P. says. Someone walked up to the pulpit and announced they would give $5000 and asked if anyone would match it. Another person stood and said they would match the gift. Eleven people raised their hands to say they would give $5000 each.
On that remarkable Sunday in 2014, between two services, $296,000 was raised. “We built the school and paid for two years operating expenses,” J.P. says. The K-12 Christian school accommodates 2000 students.
J.P. had never wanted to go to Pakistan, but decided he must see the new school. He got turned down twice for a visa and finally went to the consulate in Los Angeles and shared his heart about the school. A consular official appreciated his compassionate desire to help kids and J.P. got his visa.
After his arrival in Pakistan, the first thing he did was go to a brick factory. He noticed “they treat the Christian slaves worse than animals.” He learned the overseers will chop off fingers if a worker is not meeting a quota or tries to run away. “They constantly do things to put fear in these slaves,” he notes.
Photo captions: 1) Young Christian girl working at brick-making factory. 2) Newly freed slaves board buses to take them away from brick factory. 3) A worship service after being freed. 4) Dan Wooding welcomes Mark Ellis to the set of their TV show, "Windows on the World".
About the writer: Mark Ellis is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net), and also founder of www.GodReports.com, a website that shares stories, testimonies and videos from the church around the world. He is also co-host for "Widows on the World" with ANS Founder, Dan Wooding, which is airred weeekly on the Holy Spirit Broadcasting Network (http://hsbn.tv).