Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

As we Orthodox Christians begin a new Church year with the celebration of the birth of the Theotokos, whose miraculous birth was the first indication of the way that God was to bring salvation to the world, we ask you to remember the suffering but vibrant Church in Pakistan. In this unlikely place, founded as an Islamic country with Islam claiming the allegiance of over 96% of the population, and where Christians frequently lose jobs, educational opportunities, status, and even their lives for the sake of Christ, this outpost shines as a beacon of light and hope to the tiny portion of its 225 million citizens.
Led by the servant of God, Fr. John Tanveer, who has been shepherding this small flock since 2009 as the first Priest in the modern era in Pakistan, and under whose leadership the very first Orthodox Church in Pakistan was consecrated in 2013, another great step is about to be taken in the maturing of this growing body of believers. As of September 2021, Fr. John’s son Nilab Ghauri has been accepted as a student at Holy Cross Seminary in Boston, and has successfully secured a US visa in an era where relations between our two countries are very tenuous. He begins class virtually this week, and will travel to Boston around the middle of the month. The Orthodox Christian Missions Center (OCMC) was instrumental in arranging for his acceptance as a student, and in making many of the necessary arrangements to allow this to happen. Nilab is a bright young man, 24 years old, and with almost 4 years of university study completed in Pakistan, where all of his classes have been conducted in English. As he has grown up in the Church, not just as an observer but as a full participant,  it is now his desire to serve the Church with his life. The photo below shows him acting as a reader in a service in the church in Wazirabad. This is the first time a young Pakistani man has been identified and selected by the Church for theological education in the Orthodox faith, another sign that God’s blessing is certainly with this mission. And it is a great blessing that he will have the benefit of having been raised in an Orthodox Christian home, by parents who are totally dedicated to the service of Christ. Please remember Nilab and his education in your prayers.
Even though the Orthodox Church in Pakistan operates on the tiniest imaginable budget, a large portion of its ministry and expenses are in provide a minimal level of sustenance to those in need. Most of this assistance comes in the form of food, which is purchased in bulk and distributed by the Church in person, and in the name of Christ. Through the years, this ministry to the physical and spiritual needs of the people of Pakistan continues, through floods, drought, suffocating heat, the ravages of the covid pandemic, and widespread poverty. The photo below shows Fr. John and other parishioners distributing food after a service. It's worth noting that this food is sometimes consumed on the spot, and at other times packaged in bulk to take home. In the western world, we may be used to our Priests distributing small portions of bread after the Divine Liturgy. We are not used to seeing priests routinely serving meals to the hungry or distributing sacks of rice, but this is a big part of Fr. John’s ministry. He is a careful and shrewd manager of the Church’s meager resources, and knows where to get the best prices for various types of food that will provide the most nutrition for the greatest number of people. This is not something that Nilab will learn in seminary, but perhaps he can teach his fellow seminarians what it is like to truly minister to the full needs of the whole person, as Christ did.
While Fr. John and other members of the Orthodox Church in Pakistan are the hands that reach out to bring food to those who are in hunger, others of us are blessed to be just outside that photo, a few steps down that service line. Through our gifts, we are literally handing food to Fr. John and his flock to distribute in the name of Christ. Without your constant and faithful help, the line would stop, and the hungry would be turned away, still hungry for physical food, and for salvation and spiritual growth.
We are so blessed to be able to serve by telling this story, and in watching as Christ moves in the hearts of his people so that they respond.

In Christ,
Orthodox Mission in Pakistan
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