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Real meaning of Christmas deepens Anny's passion for her fellow-Pakistanis

Real meaning of Christmas deepens Anny's passion for her fellow-Pakistanis

Real meaning of Christmas deepens Anny's passion for her fellow-Pakistanis

24 December 2017

Anny, right, with a little orphaned girl at Christmas time, sitting in the wheelchair bought with funds from Australia.


The stark contrast between the observance of Christmas in Pakistan and in Australia has been experienced first-hand by Pakistani-born Salvationist, Anny Sayers.

Anny, the daughter of retired Salvation Army officers in Pakistan, Majors Shafqat and Perveen, now lives with her Australian husband, Nick, in Lismore, NSW. She was not long back from visiting her parents when news came through earlier this month, of a bomb blast at a gathering of Christian worshippers in Pakistan. Some of those caught up in the atrocity were her relatives.

The bombing happened on the same day that Anny was addressing a carols service at the Casino Salvation Army, in northern NSW, where she spoke about the hardships encountered by Christians in her home country, comparing Christmas celebrations here in Australia and for Christians in Pakistan.

Anny and her husband, Nick.

Life is very difficult for Pakistani Christians, Anny says. Churches are not safe, however Christians always trust in Jesus and celebrate Christmas despite all the problems.

Christmas trees are decorated and put up inside houses, but there are no lights or other Christmas celebrations outside.

Despite these restrictions there are opportunities to share the joy of the season with the many orphans under the care of Anny's family, thanks to gifts that have been purchased for them with funds donated by Lismore Salvationists and friends as well as support from other parts of Australia. One special gift was enough money to purchase a wheelchair for one of the disabled orphans. Fundraising has also helped give the orphans a Christmas lunch and some gifts.

Christmas in Australia for Anny and Nick involves home prayer with family and friends, time with Nick's family and of course some Pakistani food prepared by Anny. To her, the real meaning of Christmas is not about food, lights and presents, but accepting Jesus into one's life, with heart, mind and soul.

A youth worker and Sunday school teacher, Anny's vision is to see the establishment of a school and orphan centre in her native country and is confident her faith and trust in God will see such a vision materialise.

The children who attend Sunday School enjoy their classes, and love the gifts at Christmas time!

Her parents and brother, Saqib, conduct Sunday schools attended by more than 300 children in four village locations, many hearing about Jesus and praying for the first time.

“We found that many knew nothing about Jesus and how to pray," says Anny. "I felt inadequate at the start but God is good and has helped me. Bibles have been distributed amongst the children and some are being trained to be Sunday school leaders."

Anny and Nick moved to Lismore soon after their wedding. She keeps in touch with the children in Pakistan via the internet. Anny is also a popular guest speaker and is busy raising funds for the children of Pakistan.

A block of land has been made available for the school and orphan centre to be run by her parents and brother. It's a daunting project given that Pakistan is a Muslim country, with only 3 per cent of the population professing to be Christian.

Asked how can this vision come to fruition, Anny is quick to say that God can do anything. “God is a provider. We have faith to believe that the money will come,” she says.

And why wouldn't Anny and her family have such trust and faith after seeing what God has done through the Sunday schools they operate?

Orphaned children are delighted to share a Christmas meal, and receive gifts at this special time of year.

With an ambition to be a schoolteacher, Anny believes it was God's calling for her to teach Sunday school. “God put into my mind that I need to teach them, to guide them," she says. "He assured me that if I do his work he will provide.”

The first Sunday school started in 2012 in a village, in response to an approach from the local Christians who were concerned about their children not receiving any biblical teaching.

“We found a little room where different pastors had church meetings and we were told we could have Sunday school there," says Anny. "I asked the children did they know about God and prayer and they said 'no'. These kids were Christians but knew nothing about God and prayer.

“I would travel with my brother on the back of his motorcycle because it is dangerous for a girl to travel on her own. People questioned me about being a single girl and teaching and my reply was I know who it is within and giving me the power to do it.”

It was God's Word that brought Anny and Nick together. A Bible translator living and working out of Lismore, Nick responded to a Facebook appeal for funds for the work among the children of Pakistan. Nick agreed to help but with one condition - Anny and her brother would need to assist with his Bible translation work.

“We agreed and Nick and I became good friends," she says. "When he proposed marriage I told him he would have to get my parents' permission first. Nick did it and they agreed.”

A few months after arriving in Australia, Anny delivered her first sermon, at a Sunday worship service at the Lismore Salvation Army Corps. Her chosen topic was 'the love of Jesus' based on the story of the prodigal son. Anny compared the love of the father for his son with Jesus looking for us. “His arms are open wide all the time, waiting for us, waiting to give us a wonderful hug,” Anny told her congregation.

Anny is keen to share her story with anyone interested in helping the minority Christian population of Pakistan via the children so eager to learn about Jesus. She is relying on God to give her the words to share. “I asked myself how can this happen, but God can do anything; he is a provider.”


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