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Islamabad church bombing leaves Pakistani duo resolved to minister

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Ghazala Amoon arrived at the Protestant International Church in Islamabad, Pakistan, 15 minutes late for the regular Sunday morning worship service. She had left her twin sons in the basement for Sunday School and sat down with her husband just a few rows from the back of the church.

The service had already started, and everything was in perfect order, she said. Then her husband, Amoon Sharon, went to the car to treat a sinus infection, and Ghazala suddenly felt uncomfortable. She felt a pain in her legs and had a strange feeling of uneasiness. For no particular reason, she said, she worried that her children were alone in the basement. The pastor began his sermon, and everyone was silent.

Suddenly, the silence was shattered last March 17.

“We heard noise like a cracker in the foyer,” Ghazala said. “I thought it must be some short circuit or something. After a second, a tall man came inside the church. He was wearing a pouch on his waist and had something in his hand. He started throwing grenades at the congregation. There was confusion and the people got so scared and didn’t know what was going on around them.”

Ghazala recalls seeing the church windows break, sending glass into the congregation. The chandeliers broke, and the curtains ripped and flew out. Blood splashed on the walls and ceiling.

“Two rows ahead of me a man was killed. I made a narrow escape by heading toward the door. The shrapnel hit my back. I slipped on pieces of glass and lost my shoes,” she said. “I was feeling so helpless because Amoon wasn’t with me, and the children were in the basement. I just didn’t know what to do. Suddenly I started calling, ‘Jesus, Jesus, please have mercy.’ I felt his presence there and I was sure he would not leave us or forsake us.”

At the car, Amoon heard the blast.

“I was in shock. I couldn’t control myself. I knew my sons were in the basement for Sunday School, and my wife was in the very back rows of the sanctuary,” he said. “I saw people coming out, but I didn’t see my wife. I rushed to the basement, but my sons weren’t there. I ran back up to the sanctuary, and it was all filled with smoke. I was walking slowly so I wouldn’t step on people who were laying on the floor. I didn’t find my wife. I came out and saw her crying for Daud and Suleman.”

The 8-year-old sons, whose names when translated are David and Solomon, were not hurt because their Sunday School teacher had led them out a back door to safety.

“Usually the door is locked and never used. It is usually stuck, so that we have to try three or four times to get it open. But it opened at once as the teacher tried to get the children out,” Ghazala said. “Several days after the bombing, the teacher tried to open the door again, but he tried three or four times before it would open. My children tell me that Jesus and the angels opened the door for them that day.”

When Amoon, Ghazala and their sons were reunited, they took a deep breath and praised God.

“Then my wife pushed me toward the church and told me to help people. I had a vehicle, so I was able to take them to the hospital,” Amoon said. “I didn’t know at the time that my wife was injured. I don’t know how she took the pain.”

After taking others to the hospital, he learned that his wife had shrapnel in her back and sought treatment for her. The operation lasted three and a half hours to remove the glass and other debris. Four pieces still remain in the back of her legs. One of them is painful and may be removed in the future, but the deeper ones will stay.

“The glass still in her gives us remembrance of the day we suffered for the Christ in that land where he put us,” Amoon said. “That makes the purpose of life more clear. We are to serve God and use the mission he has given us to reach many more for Christ. I sometimes feel guilty that I was not with my wife at the time because she suffered everything by herself. But I could help the others who were injured so they could get medical attention.”

In all, five worshipers, including two Americans, were killed and more than 40 were injured, including four Southern Baptists. Protestant International Church is an evangelical, nondenominational fellowship popular among expatriates in Islamabad.

Ghazala said the incident left her and her family confused and traumatized for about two months, but then God gave them courage.

“Now we see that God is really merciful and faithful. He really took us out of that valley of the shadow of death,” she said. “… God spared us and we believe that he wants us to testify to his love and faithfulness to other people. He saved us from that place and really gave us a chance to experience his faithfulness and love.”

She added that sometimes God lets bad things happen, but from those bad things he opens new doors for good things.

When the boys went back to school after the bombing, they told the other children how Jesus had sent the angels to open the door and let them out of the basement. When Amoon and Ghazala went to a parent-teacher meeting several weeks later, the parents of the children mentioned the story and asked about Jesus.

The family now focuses their attention on Alpha Missions, a carpet-weaving ministry started in 1994.

Amoon explained that he and his wife had an arranged marriage in 1991. In Pakistan and other Asian cultures, he said, if a couple does not have a child after one year, relatives start to question.

“During that time of three years, we came to know each other more,” Amoon said of his marriage. “We prayed and became closer to God. We prayed for the pressure that was building so much. In September 1993, we came to know that my wife was pregnant.”

The twins were born June 17, 1994. Amoon and Ghazala presented the boys to the Lord and, with thanksgiving, said they would serve God in whatever way he wanted if he would give them a vision.

God soon gave them a vision to start Alpha Missions in order to minister to unreached people in Pakistan. Amoon is a third-generation carpet weaver, and he was able to organize a group of weavers in Punjab, Pakistan, to support and uplift the carpet-weaving community in a number of villages. Alpha Missions reaches seekers and non-believers through healthcare centers, schools and community centers, which are used for worship on Sundays. They prayed since 1995 for Alpha Missions to become a registered aid ministry in Pakistan, and their prayer was answered in June.

The carpet-weaving community of about 5,000 people in different villages of Pakistan where Alpha Missions works is mostly non-believers, with some Christians.

“We need partners and supporters who can be a part to help on a large scale,” Amoon said. “The Lord has opened doors” to share with nonbelievers, he said. “We have been spared [from the bombing] so we can serve him in a better way.”

In addition, Ghazala teaches a Bible study to the women in the community, and her father, a pastor, helps as well. They have a team of believers who work there and support the ministry by weaving carpets, but more help is always needed. Amoon explained that they conduct the ministry on faith, but they need resources.

The couple, who can be reached via the Internet at [email protected], request that believers join them in praying for Pakistan because “the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few.”

“We are part of the army of God to reach the unreached,” Amoon said. “We are on the battlefront, and we would like those in the back to support us.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: PROVIDENCE IN PAKISTAN.

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  • Erin Curry