“We don’t want to leave,” the children said, half smiling and half complaining. Despite the cold, their skin was slick with perspiration, their breath catching from the fast-paced games they were playing.
Before the August 2010 floods the Christian children in this community hardly knew each other. Most families had lived isolated from one another in a predominantly non-Christian area. Even for those families who had lived in a Christian community, it was safer for their children to stay indoors, as their parents were too afraid to let them to play out in the streets. But, though the floods have taken away so much it also brought them a new family. Now the children have new friends. Living together in a Christian tent village in northern Pakistan, one child tells his mother, “It does not matter if the flood took away our fridge and things. At least we now have friends and family, which we never had before. I think we should live here like this forever!”‘
After the floods, relief organizations came and helped Muslims get back on their feet. But Christians were either forced at the end of the relief lines or not invited into the process at all. One Christian woman said; “If I changed my faith, I would get food for my family.” Pausing she reminisced about those early days after the flood, when for several days they had nothing. All they could do was sit under the open sky, sing psalms and tell stories.
“Miss Reena* taught us many stories,” one boy says, “she and Miss Kanwal* told us stories about Jesus, and about Noah and the big flood and other prophets. We knew about Jesus only a little before that.” His eyes grew wide as he mentioned Noah, “We lived so far away from church it was difficult to get there on Sunday-so Miss Reena and Miss Kanwal took advantage of us being together and taught us Bible stories. We became like a children’s church.” The truth is that none of these Christian children ever had so many friends. Never before had they been able to play in a safe environment. Never before had they been able to talk about God so freely with one another without fear of being accused of blasphemy. Their life became much more carefree.
Living in the makeshift tent village had become home to so many, but the time came for them to go back to their villages. Relief agencies were on hand to begin the transition process of relocating families back and closing down the temporary tent village. For some Christians they preferred to remain in the camp because in their community they were a minority, often unwelcome and unaccepted.
The caretakers in the relief village had taken great efforts to prepare the families and the children for this day. On their faces were smiles of hope; knowing for the first time in their lives that there were thousands of Christians praying for them. Their world, in regards to the oppression and persecution that they face daily in Pakistan, may not have changed much-but for the children of the Christian tent village, their lives have been transformed.
Father, what a gift it was for these Pakistani Christians to be blessed with a new community and new friendships. Through the huge devastation of the floods, You brought beautiful outcomes. We thank You for the mutual encouragement of these Christian families and children, and we pray that as they transition back into their homes and normal lives, they would continue to regularly meet, encourage, and pray for each other.
*pseudonyms were used to protect their identities
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“We don’t want to leave,” the children said, half smiling and half complaining. Before the floods last August, the Christian children in this community hardly knew each other. Now, after living months in a refugee tent city, they have friends. Their parents are grateful that they have been able to fellowship without fear in this close-knit community.