Pakistani Couple Recovering from Trauma of Terrorist Bombs

Jean Bonk with Insar Gohar and Uzma Insar

Jean Bonk with Insar Gohar and Uzma Insar

The lives of Insar Gohar and his wife, Uzma Insar were shattered September 22, 2013, when two suicide bombers discharged their deadly weapons in the courtyard of All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan, killing some 130 worshippers including their two young children and his mother.

They came to OMSC (March 20 to May 30) as the first recipients of the Jon and Jean Bonk International Fellowship Fund which, says executive director J. Nelson Jennings, was established in 2012 to “enable beleaguered Christian leaders to come to OMSC from high-pressure situations.”

Dr. Jennings spoke with Insar and Uzma on May 15 as they were enjoying the final weeks of their Connecticut sabbatical.

J. Nelson Jennings (JNJ): I am really happy to have this brief time with you to ask you about life in Pakistan and your time at OMSC, (which has been made possible) with a little bit of financial help from the Jon and Jean Bonk International Fellowship Fund to which many people contributed, and in cooperation with the United Methodists. Many people have been working together for you to come here and we’re delighted that you’ve come. Let me ask you, first, if you might just tell us a little bit about the Church of Pakistan and especially the Diocese of Peshawar where you live.

Insar Gohar (IG): I will tell you that Christians are two percent in Pakistan. It’s an Islamic state. Peshawar Diocese, one of eight dioceses, covers the whole area formerly called North-West Frontier Province, but now they call it Khyber PakhtunKhwa, (a region) that includes the tribal areas of Pakistan.

The Peshawar Diocese, we can say, is the most dangerous area in Pakistan nowadays, especially since there is a war against terror going on. (We) work for the spiritual and social development of the Christian community in that region (and) for the education of the Christian youngsters. And we have a few mission hospitals and clinics where we serve the majority community.

JNJ: What about you in particular? What sort of ministry responsibilities do you have in the diocese?

Insar Gohar led games in February for teenagers in Bannu parish, which is near North Waziristan, a mountainous region of northwest Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan, where the U.S. military conducts drone attacks.

Insar Gohar led games in February for teenagers in Bannu parish, which is near North Waziristan, a mountainous region of northwest Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan, where the U.S. military conducts drone attacks.

IG: I am the youth coordinator for Peshawar Diocese. My responsibility is to work for the spiritual and social growth of youth. In our country the youth receive Islamic education in schools and colleges, so we try to provide them as much as we can with Christian education through Bible study programs, seminars, and other activities. We organize summer camps and in those camps we work for their spiritual growth and understanding (of) the Bible. We also organize sports activities. In this way we can bring youth to church and to Christ.

JNJ: You’ve come here to OMSC. What’s the background for your coming here?

IG: (You know about) the incident at the All Saints Church in Peshawar, the bombing at the church. All Saints Church is our mother church, where I have been going from age three. (This has been our church) for the last three or four generations of my family.

Some terrorists attacked our church. There were two suicide bombers who attacked the church and because of that about 122 people were killed, and more than 250 people were injured. Among those, we lost our two kids—one boy and one girl. We also lost my mom in that blast.
We were in a big trauma condition. We were very much in tense situation there, very much fearful.

We are thankful to OMSC and our friends in the United Methodist Church, and for the donors. Everyone worked for us so that we could come here for a time of rest and restoration. It was very hard for us when we lost our kids and other relatives. We were in shock and trauma.

On May 17 Insar and Uzma explored Connecticut’s Thimble Islands archipelago on a tour boat, which they described as a trip “to paradise.”

On May 17 Insar and Uzma explored Connecticut’s Thimble Islands archipelago on a tour boat, which they described as a trip “to paradise.”

JNJ: So, you’ve had some rest and restoration here so far. How else has your time here been helpful? I know you have some medical needs and other sorts of things. How has your time here been helpful so far?

IG: Yeah, it was very much helpful for us. We both are feeling very much relaxed here and it’s a sort of change for us (to have) some short time for change and restoration. We are feeling very much blessed here. To get out of that trauma seemed very difficult to us while we were in the same fearful environment (Peshawar) there. So, we found this place (OMSC) very much helpful for us. The seminars we attended were very much helpful to us (as were) the counselors who are providing us counseling. They are very good. They help us a lot. They are trying to help us to get out of that trauma.

We are receiving (medical care) here, especially when Uzma got injuries in her arms and hands. When we go to the doctor, they treat us very nicely. All the arrangements made by OMSC to visit those (doctors is) very much helpful to us. We are feeling very much good.
We are receiving spiritual counseling, as well as physical healings.

JNJ: So, you’ll be returning to Peshawar soon. What are you anticipating there? And how can people best be praying as you return?

IG: Things are getting better there. The people who were injured are getting better, but still there is very much a need of counseling (especially for) those who have lost their loved ones. When we go back our church and our diocese will expect us to help others who are going through the same situation as we were before.

They (also) are passing through trauma, so we are preparing ourselves here to help them when we go back.

We want the people to pray for the whole community of the All Saints Church, the whole congregation, especially those who got injured, and who lost their loved ones. They need to come free, and they are still struggling to overcome all those things. We want you all to remember us and our whole congregation in your prayer.

JNJ: Well, I’m sure that will be the case and if I may close by saying how much of a blessing and encouragement you have been to the OMSC community, and to others, simply by giving testimony to God’s faithfulness and goodness in the midst of challenges that many of us find it difficult to understand exactly. And, so, God is good, and you give testimony to that. That’s been a tremendous blessing and encouragement. Thank you.

 

Indian Evangelist Persecuted for His Ministry

Jonathan Bonk met Smita, Lamuel, and Angel, from Odisha, India, in May at OMSC.

Jonathan Bonk met Smita, Lamuel, and Angel, from Odisha, India, in May at OMSC.

More than fifty years ago in the quiet of her home’s windowless worship room, with an incensed candle flickering, a high-caste Hindu mother prayerfully dedicated her unborn child to the family’s god, much as the biblical Hannah did many years before when she vowed (as written in 1 Samuel 1:11) to dedicate her son “to the Lord all the days of his life.”

The “Lord protected me from that other god. Then and there the Lord called me to the ministry,” to become a Christian evangelist and pastor, says Lamuel Pattniak, 52, who is the second Jon and Jean Bonk International Fellowship Fund resident at OMSC, with his wife, Smita Nag, and daughter, Angel Grace.

As Lamuel tells the story, his mother later asked the Hindu deity for a healing, did not receive it and questioned the god’s power to heal. She converted to Christianity after Jesus Christ, “a foreign god,” appeared in the worship room and with assistance from two evangelists delivered the healing she had been seeking.

After his mother’s dedication of her son his parents’ discovery of their own Christian faith, Lamuel commited himself to Christ on November 3, 1973, when at age 12 he attended an evangelistic meeting. “The Lord touched my heart and, while prayer was going on, I committed myself and gave my heart to the Lord.”

To prepare for his lifelong calling, Lamuel studied at several colleges including Ebenezer Bible School in Madhya Pradesh, and at Asian Institute of Theology, Bangalore.

On April 15, Lamuel baptized a convert in a stream in Deogarh, India.

On April 15, Lamuel baptized a convert in a stream in Deogarh, India.

Raised in rural India, Lamuel and his family now live and minister in the city of Sambalpur, in the eastern state of Odisha (formerly called Orissa) the second largest city by population in western Odisha. For thirty years he has been the pastor of Dayasagar Prepsana Bsewan or “The Ocean of Mercy Prayer House.”

Persecution for Christianity has been a constant theme since Lamuel began actively ministering as an itinerant evangelist. He visited a family in April 1986 on Good Friday in the village of Deogarh. Rumors about his allegedly evil intent flew around the village.
As he was leaving the area some 300 Hindu fundamentalists surrounded Lamuel on the road and threatened his life. While a half dozen of the prime agitators pummeled him with rocks and  hit him with sticks, Lamuel was given a choice: “deny Jesus, and if you will not deny him, we will kill you.” Suddenly three policemen, responding to a report about a noisy crowd, arrived and pulled him from the violent circle.

Lamuel says he was “happy” about the attack because it reminded him of Christ’s suffering on the cross. He smiles and quotes Jesus (Matthew 5:11), who said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.”

Angel, Lamuel, and Smita attended OMSC’s Community Ministries Forum on May 8.

Angel, Lamuel, and Smita attended OMSC’s Community Ministries Forum on May 8.

In January 2012, the children’s home that Lamuel and Smita oversee for twenty-five poor children was bulldozed by government decree because a rumor had spread around the region that they were “converting people in the name of an orphanage.”

He leans on his rock-solid faith for comfort. “I am joyful although I have been persecuted many times. Hindu fanatics are targeting me, but thank God that I am alive. I’ve had so many wounds that I have had to rest for many days.”

Lamuel’s wife, Smita Nag, is president of Transformation Trust, their organization that manages the “Birhor Ashram” orphanage. His daughter, Angel, 14, is preparing to become a medical doctor and has been learning to play guitar while at OMSC. The family arrived at OMSC on April 27 and will depart for home on June 5. —Dan Nicholas