A long journey it may have been and with some anxiety about whether or not we would be allowed into the country, but we arrived to a bright, sunny Lahore morning and the welcome of our friend and colleague, Dr Gill and two of his team members. After a restful few hours at their home we were taken to see our friend and inspiration, Sister Catherine, formerly of the school at village 36, to offer a slightly belated 90th Birthday greeting. She is staying in a convent/hostel assisting with a group of sisters look after some physically disabled children. She's never heard of retirement!
The two and a half hour drive to Sargodha was largely uneventful although having heard about the 40 miles of wonderful new dual carriageway I was somewhat surprised to see a number of donkeys grazing the central reservation, not to mention one or two carts and rickshaws travelling against the traffic flow!
Since arriving in Sargodha we have received welcomes from a stream of old friends - it is hard to believe we have been away for almost seven years except when we see some of the now not so young children. Many have said that our return to Sargodha is an answer to prayer so we hope we may offer some encouragement in these weeks.
For the churches in Sargodha, this is 'Convention Season'. The Roman Catholic Church began a three day festival for the Blessed Virgin Mary on Friday. On Saturday morning outside the church under awnings, there was a four hour programme which included worship and presentations by the various schools followed by enjoyment at a cross between a church fete and a funfair. I only attended for a short while - in a throng of about 3 thousand people. They tell me there were yet more people at the evening healing service! It was lovely that the news of Milala Yousafzai's Nobel Peace Prize came when it did. There was a huge poster of her next to the stage and many people were praising her both for what she has done for girls' education and for bringing honour to Pakistan.
On Sunday morning we will go a little further down the main road to the Church of Pakistan (it's the only church with pews rather than sitting on the floor), where preparations are afoot for their own convention in a few days time.
Since we don't have our planned transport available for two or three days, Ashi's brother turned up with a car from his workshop to loan us. It's a small, very old and battered vehicle with almost non-existent brakes, no shock absorbers and certainly no power steering. However, the roads in the colony have so many speed breakers ... planned and unplanned, not to mention missing manhole covers, that it is difficult to go fast enough to warrant even second gear. Despite this, I have overtaken one or two donkey carts!!
It is hard to imagine what the days ahead might hold but there is little doubt they will be full to the brim!
Please pray for the safety of the Christian community especially during this time when so many gather together.
Jane and Martyn