In 2004, I traveled to Lahore, Pakistan to visit Forman Christian College.
Founded in 1864 by Charles Forman, a Presbyterian missionary from the U.S., Forman grew to be known as the Harvard of the subcontinent for the rigor of its academics and its history of educating leaders of the Punjab. But when I arrived, the school had gone through 30 very rough years.
My reason for being there was pre-planning for a trip by a group of individuals who could provide the necessary resources to jump start a recovery.
From Lahore, I made a trip to Gujranwala to meet with the President of the Seminary and head of the Presbyterian Church in Pakistan. On the way to Gujranwala, I got a glimpse into the depth of poverty in which much of the country lives. People doing their washing in open drainage ditches. Housing that could barely be described as such. Air thick with the smoke from open cooking fires.
It was near Christmas and I remember sitting in the living room in the home of the seminary president listening to stories about his wife, a teacher in the local elementary school, and children who attended that same school. In this school with nearly 5,000 students, they were the only Christians. They were forbidden to talk openly about Jesus. I heard about the struggles of training clergy to serve the church in Pakistan.
The Christian community in Pakistan was under constant threat. Officials advised the President of Forman to have armed guards, but he refused. The community gathered for Christmas worship in spite of threats of violence. These men and women and their families lived under constant pressure and threat but their love for those they served, love in the name of Jesus, was writ large for anyone to see. They lived Jesus’ new commandment “that you love one another as I have loved you.”
The following Christmas, I received a message from the President of the Seminary, asking me to call my community to prayer. On Christmas Eve, the Vice President of Forman, Dr. Christi and his family were attending worship in a small house church when Islamic extremists tossed grenades into the small congregation. Many were killed. The vice president was gravely injured and near death. And we prayed.
By the grace of God, Dr. Christi recovered, though he was left with permanent and significant damage to one side of his body. What did he do? He went back to his work at Forman, educating Muslim and Christian alike.
“God spared me,” Dr. Christ said, “to continue the work of loving and serving these young men and women in the name of Jesus.”
Jesus told us, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Do you want to tell people Merry Christmas? Do you want people to know Jesus? Then love them as Jesus loves you. Especially if you think they are a threat to you.