From Rev Fiona Gardner in Mirpurkhas, Diocese of Hyderabad
On Wednesday, we had a very full programme, but we wouldn't have missed any of it.
We spent our time in Mirpurkhas, and were inspired by all the great Christian life and witness in this town. Our first visit was to St John's school, and it was a delight to visit. We were welcomed by amazing dancers, and in almost every class we visited, the children sang a song or said a poem.
There was a deep appreciation of the value of education, and it was a very bright and happy place to be and to learn, as you can see from these pictures. The children at the school come from Christian, Muslim and Hindu backgrounds, and everyone is taught to respect each other.
Next we visited St John's hostel, which gives teenage boys a good base to get a good education, and to help build their character. Many of these teenagers go on to be in successful careers in the army or the rangers or nurses.
There is an amazing tradition of dance in the hostel, and this was demonstrated at our arrival.
You can see from the next picture, that the land has not recovered from the terrible floods from 2011.
Many houses and buildings, have been built on higher ground, and flood risk reduction work has been carried out, but it is another factor which makes life harder here.
We visited a network of local pastors, and they inspired us with their many testimonies of their work with tribal and marginalised communities. Their faith shone strongly, and they talked enthusiastically about Matthew 28 and the great commission. The church is growing in many parishes, and there are a wide variety of outreach programmes. They asked us to pray for them.
We also visited SACHA-DOH, a medical centre, which works, amongst other programmes, to treat people with TB, and to help prevent it spread. Dr Bill And Dr Ebenezer and his staff work hard and with great commitment in the villages, through 4 different centres in the region, to promote good health care practice on areas of HIV, hepatitus, drug use and child birth.
We were able to meet a lady who had benefitted from a treatment programme.
In the afternoon and evening, we spent time at an Audio Visual Centre, where we were inspired by the vision and energy of Rev Paul and Rev Shamon. They seek to communicate the Christian faith to tribal villages, through resources in their many local languages, through outreach, and programmes of discipleship. They have 20 staff and 63 outreach workers, who have come from local villages, and know their songs and customs well. They write new Christian songs, in similar musical styles, and are often invited to sing them at naming ceremonies, weddings and funerals.
In the evening, we had a cultural evening, where we heard testimonies, and some of these songs.
They were very moving and joyful, and the evening was concluded with a lively, and for some - an acrobatic - dance!
We stayed here overnight, before returning to Hyderbad in the morning.
We have a few more events to attend, before coming home, but this is my last chance to blog. It is too early to process all the information we have gained, the new things we have learned, the wonderful people we have met.
If there are themes emerging from this time, they are about the incredible hospitality and kindness we had been shown by everyone we have met. Wherever we have gone, we have met people who have gone the extra mile to make sure we are safe and well.
The theme of prayer has also very strong, with people consistently asking us to pray for them, and to remember them. The strength of belief in the power of prayer is challenging, and causes us to reflect on our prayer life in the UK.
When Pakistan is portrayed in the media, it is often in a negative way. Yet we have seen another side of Pakistan, the kindness and care of many. In the midst of many pressures, there is a real expression of the joy of the Lord in God's people, and it has been a privilege to share together. The possibilities of twinning with the Diocese of Hyderbad are many, and we pray for God's leading.
We are very thankful to the Bishop of Hyderabad Rt Rev Kaleem John, and his wife Rebecca for their generous hospitality, kindness and thoughtfulness during our stay, and to all those in the Diocesan office and the wider Diocese for their thoughtful planning of our visits.
Thanks too, to Karen and the office staff, for setting this blog up.
An enormous thanks too, to my colleagues, who have been an amazing group to travel with. We have many happy memories, and have a real sense of privilege. We look forward to welcoming a group from the Hyderbad Diocese to Glasgow next year.
Thanks for your prayers, and for reading this blog!