Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! I thank God, for all his grace, mercies and provision amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the many challenges, pressures and difficulties, the ZBS team were able to set four goals towards setting up online theological education:
Firstly, we wanted to complete the Spring semester, as it had been interupted by lockdown. Then, secondly, our goal is to complete our M.Th, M.Div, B.Th, Diploma and evening summer courses. The third goal is to start our fall semester in September with both residential and online classes. The fourth goal is for next year and years to come. We want to set up a proper system of online theological, pastoral and missional training alongside our residential classes.
We offer courses in two languages - Urdu and English. We want to extend our reach to Urdu-speaking people (especially in the Middle East and other parts of the world) by offering online-Zoom classes. We also want to give those who speak English, wherever they are, the opportunity of online theological education. We need your prayers and support to fulfill all four goals.
Every year when our new academic year starts, we give a special welcome and orientation to our new students. It is also an opportunity to get to know one another, spend time in prayer and fellowship, and share ZBS’s vision and ministry. This year we have 33 new students in B.Th. and M.Div. and about 45 students in our modular programmes. We also have 22 new students in our evening classes.
We started the semester with a wonderful module on Pastoral Theology taught by Gerico from the Netherlands. Modules run alongside our regular courses and last six days. The second module, on Church History, was taught by Freda Carey, the third, on Comparative Religion Studies, was taught by Dr. Paul Kim. We had to close ZBS on March 14 but we thank God that we were able to complete the semester through online classes (using Facebook live, WhatsApp, Skype and Zoom).
Every year we offer summer modules to help our students get more credits, especially our part-time and modular students (who are increasing in number). We have completed two modules - one M.Div. module taught by Miss Jean Brand, the other at B.Th. level taught by Rev. Ashkenaz Asif Khan. This year the modules are being taught online via Zoom and we praise God for the positive and creative impact of these courses. We are planning a series of different online modules/courses from Diploma to M.Th. level for the rest of the summer and into the fall.
God has blessed ZBS with seven and a half hectares of land at the new campus. We have cleared two fields to grow wheat and vegetables to generate income to support the ministry and development of ZBS. God has blessed this and our organic vegetables were sold to staff and others. We also bought two sheep and hope to buy other livestock to help support our ministry.
We thank God that the first cohort of our M.Th. has completed their coursework and students are writing their two major papers and then their thesis. The last module was on the People of God, taught by Dr. Sunny Tan from Malaysia. Before that module we had a thesis writing workshop and leadership seminar (taught by Dr. Allan Harkness, Dr. Harold Clark, Miss Liz Giller and Rev. Ashkenaz Asif Khan). We have 28 new students in our MAOL course and we are hoping to have their first residency in September, if the situation is suitable.
We want to thank God for our staff member Mr. Timothies Yousaf who has been promoted to the post of Admin Officer. He is a man of competence has a teachable attitude.
Every year in mid-December we hold our convocation. Last year 28 people graduated with diplomas and degrees. Our speaker for the occasion was Dr. Ifrahim Mathew, director of Potohar Ministries. The chairman of the ZBS Board, Professor Pervez Dean, awarded certificates to all those graduating. This year three special awards were presented: The first lifetime achievement award was presented to Dr. Barkat Pervaiz, the former Principal, for his founding and developing vision of ZBS. The second award was a preaching award presented to Miss Martha Youhana (Diploma Graduate). The third award was a ministry award, given to Mr. Qaiser Riaz (B.Th. Graduate) for successfully completing three years of fieldwork arranged by ZBS.
ZBS offers different leadership seminars and conferences to encourage, uplift and train existing pastors and new leaders. This year we are not able to offer in-person seminars but we did hold an online seminar via Zoom. It was led by Rev. Ashkenaz Asif Khan (ZBS’ Principal Emeritus) and Rev. Shahbaz Boota, the current principal. 47 Pastors and leaders took part in the two-day seminar. This was an amazing experience to be able to encourage our leaders in a time of a pandemic.
As usual, from January we started our regular evening classes with different teachers being assigned to different classes. The classes went well until 13 March when lockdown started and we had to close ZBS but we thank God that we were able to complete our semester. We have over 70 evening class students, from many different backgrounds: doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, government servants, ministry workers - all without theological training.
Because of the pandemic and lockdown, people were starving: daily wagers who live hand-to-mouth, even our students and graduates. When churches had to close, pastors had no way of earning. In response, ZBS decided to help pastors, needy families, widows, laborers and Muslim brothers and sisters who were in need.
Our first step was to help the 50 most deserving and marginalised students and graduates. This was a small initiative funded by the donations of faculty and staff. Our second step was to help laborers who had become totally paralysed. We distributed food to them without regard to what religion they were. Staff went to serve food in the streets, bazaars and on the roadside.
Wanting to reach deserving families in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, and with support from some of our friends and partners in and outside the country, we distributed ‘rations’ to 200 families. To help our graduates who are living all over Pakistan, we sent token gifts of money to encourage them to trust in God and as a way of saying that we are with them in this situation. We also extended our financial support to 80 rural pastors who were suffering severe financial crises.
ZBS’ new campus is being used for not only staff and their families’ accommodation but also for accommodation for our students, and for small retreats, camps and quiet time activities. We were able to install different facilities in the new campus, including two guestrooms, a small gym, a common room with LCD screen, different prayer points, two lawns/ gardens and a cricket pitch. We have updated kitchens (indoor and outdoor), a trained cook and a recently installed Desi Tandoor oven for fresh rotis and naan. We also installed lights and CCTV Cameras for security and safety. We are praying that the next phase of the ZBS building project can start soon.
Rev. Shahbaz Masih Boota
Download this letter
Download April 2020
Crosslinks enables Christian mission opportunities
t: +44 (0) 20 8691 6111
t: +44 (0) 28 9079 6028
© Crosslinks 2020
Registered charity no: 1164474