It’s easy to understand why Abraham* and his family, upon relocating to America from Pakistan in 2004, heeded God’s calling to continue their mission work in a suburban expanse near New York City. Their home is nestled in one of the most culturally diverse areas in the world, sits mere minutes from a burgeoning population of 300,000 people of South Asian descent, mostly Muslims and Hindu.
It’s not far from the Statue of Liberty, an iconic symbol of freedom that has greeted millions of immigrants for hundreds of years, crying out through silent lips the Christ-like virtues of hospitality, diversity and inclusion:
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning
to breathe free.
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Much like Lady Liberty, Abraham, too, has a lamp — God’s Word — which he openly and passionately uses to bring the light of Christ to the unsaved. It’s a freedom he does not take for granted.
Abraham was born, raised and accepted Christ at the age of 17 in Pakistan, a land where the mere mention of anything related to Christianity could put one’s life in great peril. Yet he and his wife, Deborah, have been serving the Lord as missionaries for more than 20 years. While in Pakistan, they planted six churches in villages a 5-hour drive from Islamabad, established a primary school (grades 1-5), a Christian Bookstore, and trained Christian leaders for Muslim evangelism. They were under constant scrutiny and persecution for doing so.
In 2002, a church in Islamabad Abraham and his family attended was attacked by Islamic militants. Five people were killed and several injured, including Deborah, who was struck by shrapnel — six pieces remain in her right leg to this day. For their safety, Abraham and Deborah established an “underground” church that met in a Christian bookstore in Islamabad. More threats soon followed.
“They threatened us that if we did not shut down in Islamabad, they would kill my family and others connected with our mission,” Abraham said. “We had planted six churches in villages. We did not want to jeopardize the lives of the pastors and close family members. So, in July 2004 we decided to come to America for a short time until things settled down.”
While they were in the U.S., events took a tragic turn back home in Pakistan. In November a family member, was killed by troops that came to his home inquiring about Abraham and his family. After prayerful consideration, Abraham and Deborah applied for asylum to make their stay in the U.S. permanent.
A Family Ministry Continues
They had been staying with friends in various cities around the U.S. but eventually found themselves living in a small hotel in upstate New York. Their children were admitted to a Christian high school on full scholarship. School administration asked Abraham to share his story at an annual Pastor’s Breakfast to a group of clergy of interdenominational faiths, during which he asked for help with locating a place where his family could live and continue their mission work.
Enter Pastor Steve, of First Baptist Church, whose congregation provided a mission home where Abraham and his family have lived for the past 10 years. It’s a far cry from that cramped hotel room, to be sure.
“We praise God that He took us from that place and opened the heart of Pastor Steve,” Abraham said.
Along the way, Abraham and his family have deepened their personal and spiritual roots here in the States. Abraham earned a degree in Religion from New York University. Deborah earned her degree in Culinary Arts and helps lead the outreach and hospitality programs. Their two kids earned undergraduate degrees from University at Albany and are pursuing their master’s in international relations while serving as part-time volunteers in the ministry’s English as a Second Language program and Prison ministry.
Building Friendships & Trust
All facets of the family’s mission work focus on people of other faiths, primarily Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs and Buddhists. It is one thing to bring a non-believer to Christ, but to persuade someone of another faith — someone who believes they are worshipping the right way — well, that requires a special touch. After all, Jesus made it very clear: “No one comes to the Father but through me.”
“My heart and passion is for all of these people; I am comfortable reaching out to them with the Gospel,” says Abraham, who speaks Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati and Persian. “I approach them through friendship and develop a strong bond of trust and share the difference between Salvation by Faith and Salvation by Works,” as Paul tells in Ephesians 2:1-10.
Developing these enriching relationships takes passion, time and patience. The ultimate goal, of course, is bringing people to salvation through Christ. However, even getting a Hindu or Muslim to explore and speak openly about Christianity is a victory in and of itself.
About 10 years ago, Pastor Steve introduced Abraham to an interfaith clergy group, something Abraham viewed at the time as “an opportunity to lead us to a bigger purpose.” There, Abraham met with the Imam of one of the largest mosques in the area, and the level of trust they’ve built in the years since has led to weekly Discovery Bible Studies together — something Abraham says is nothing short of a miracle.
“We meet every Wednesday at Imam’s office inside the mosque — I, my wife, and one or two other very seasoned evangelists from our church. These studies with Imam are a miracle that has opened so many other doors for our work among Muslims,” Abraham says.
‘Hungry for the Lord’
Abraham joined Missions Door in 2018 and his family’s overall ministry in 2018 reached out to 5,707 people of different faiths and cultures. “We made new relationships with 73 people, of whom 47 received salvation through Jesus Christ and seven were baptized,” Abraham shared.
This year, the goal is to reach more than 6,000. “The opportunity is huge. People are hungry for the Lord. They have never met Christ. Many say they have never heard about Jesus.” Following are the ministries Abraham, Deborah and their team serve:
- South Asian Fellowship: Minister to Muslims, Hindus and Jews once a month.
- Prison Ministry: This is “Church behind the Bars,” weekly ministry to the inmates at a local correction center in New York.
- ESL Ministry: Meets twice a week to teach English and share the love of Christ with new immigrants.
- Outreach Ministry: Meets twice a month to distribute evangelical tracts, Jesus gift cards and Jesus film DVDs. They also reach Muslims and Hindus during annual parades, and religious festivals.
- New Believers’ Fellowship: Spiritually nurtures new believers from Hinduism and Islam through Bible Studies and small groups monthly.
- Pakistan Ministry: Since 1997, Abraham and Deborah have planted six churches and a primary level school in the villages to minister to Muslims in Pakistan.
However, to reach his goal and continue growing his ministry, Abraham and his family need your support. A big part of their mission is distributing Bibles in non-English languages, as well as DVDs, gift cards, and evangelical tracts to those who need them. They serve an area where more than 22 different languages are spoken; being able to accommodate people with native-language materials will go a long way toward building trust and understanding.
Abraham also says he needs to build a Hospitality Center where he can “bring all people to one place to learn about God.” That won’t be easy, he said, because “taxes are high. Rents are high. Our current home works for now, but because of zoning laws we could be fined” for hosting large gatherings.
Using other churches is not always the best option, Abraham said, because “sometimes the appearance of the building could make someone of another faith hesitant about coming there.”
Abraham and family also continue to fully support their ongoing ministry in Pakistan. The school they built back in the 1990s is in desperate need of extension and renovation. The roof that has been patched together for years now needs a permanent solution, an undertaking Abraham estimates will cost upward of $59,000.
“In 2017, we visited Pakistan after 9 years, and registered ourselves at the U.S. Embassy due to safety reasons. We visited the churches and school we planted and conducted feeding programs in the villages of Pakistan. Mothers came to tell us about the importance of the education their children receive from school. Many said they converted to Christianity because of the positive impact the school has made on their children,” Abraham said.
Sadly, those parents cannot pronounce their newfound faith publically in Pakistan for fear of retaliation. Abraham dreams of the day when that is no longer the case.
Until then, he will continue carrying the lamp of God’s Word high, taking full advantage of the freedom to bring people of diverse cultural and religious backgrounds to Christ.
Abraham challenges us, “Please don’t miss opportunities to share Jesus Christ with people around you, through friendship and hospitality. Never be ashamed of the Gospel, as Paul tells in Romans 1:16.”
*The names and identifying details of Abraham’s story have been changed to protect the identity of his family and ministry.