04 April 2006

From the heart of Pakistan to life as a minister in Witney

The Revd Asif Karam has travelled almost 4000 miles from his home in Lahore, Pakistan to serve as a Methodist minister in Witney, Oxfordshire. In September last year, Asif joined the World Church Partners in Britain programme, through which ministers from other countries have the chance to live and work as a Methodist minister in the UK for five years. He arrived in Witney six months ago, but he says 'I hardly had time to draw breath until now we have been so busy with adjusting to life here, learning about the town and most of all in meeting people and making friends.'

It's quite a change from the teeming city of Lahore, with a population of over 8 million, to the market town of Witney. Asif and his family have had to adapt to very different weather (the summer high in Lahore is often over 40 degrees centigrade), culture and environment. But, he says, 'we have a lot more in common than you'd think. As soon as I saw a cricket pitch and some kids playing football then I knew I'd feel at home.'

Joined by his wife Rohama and their three daughters (know as the '3 Zs': Zarah Edwin, Zoya Edwin and Zeenia Edwin), the family has found life in the UK quite different. Looking back on his first six months, Asif said; 'It has been such a big adjustment for our family to make but we're so pleased to have the opportunity to be here. At first we found the language and 'mind reading' a little difficult but we have been overwhelmed by how loving and caring people are. It is wonderful to see that Christians have such freedom to worship here Ð at home, churches have a very tense time and even have to worship under police custody for their own safety.'

Ordained into the Church of Pakistan, Asif served as a Youth Co-ordinator to a lively and involved congregation of more than 200 and brings with him a passion to see more young people becoming involved in the life of the Church; 'Young people want to come to a church with change, a church that has fresh ideas and is willing to take risks. A church that does not move with the passage of change cannot grow'.

'Although I'm only here for a short period of time, I want to make the most of this opportunity to both learn and contribute to the Church and community. I offer myself, saying 'Lord, use me as you can'. It's better to burn out than rust out. When I return, I hope to use all that I have learnt to set up an English-speaking Christian community in Lahore.'

Asif's wife, Rohama, is also an ordained minister who served alongside him in Lahore, and although she is not serving full-time here, she is now on the preaching plan and has become very involved with the life and work of the church. One of their initiatives for helping Long Hanborough Methodist Church to become more involved in the community is a special celebration of Pentecost. It will look at how people from various nationalities and cultures were able to hear Jesus' disciples talking in their own languages at the first Pentecost after Jesus' resurrection. They will explore the 8 or 9 languages spoken in the local community and how these can be used to communicate the Gospel message.

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