Lahore, Pakistan

September 2016

You never know when a phone call or an email will change your life.

It started out like any other day until I opened my email.  There were two letters. One, from a friend at the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (IMB) and the other from the Director of Operation Mobilization (OM), in Pakistan, a worldwide Christian organization.  They both wanted to know if I knew of anyone who might want to come to Pakistan and coach the Pakistan Men’s Baseball Team, for two or three weeks, to prepare them for the World Baseball Classic Qualifier in New York City.  I though a minute and then called a friend of mine who was a baseball coach.  He could not go.  Then God “suggested” that I go.  I though about it, prayed, came up with an excuse or two, and then I asked my wife what she thought.  She emphatically said, “Yes.  By all means, GO!”  So, I was off and running.

First, had to get my money together.  I would need about $2,000.00.   I sent out a letter and the largest response to any contribution request letter I have ever sent occurred.  More than the needed amount was given.  Praise God.  It was a good thing, as I needed every extra penny/rupee of it.

Also, needed a Pakistani Visa.  I was to go to Lahore, Pakistani to train the team.  Lahore is the base for the Pakistani Baseball Federation. It normally takes 4-6 weeks to get such a travel visa.  However, the Lord moved in a very fast way and got me mine in 10 days.  Another miracle, praise Him.

The invitation to coach and prepare the Men’s National Team for the World Baseball Classic Qualifier came originally from the Pakistan Baseball Federation.  The winner of the Qualifier will go to the World Championships in California, USA.  The Pakistani National Director knows I am a Christian.  He said I can talk to the players about Jesus, just so I also teach them Baseball.  I responded, “No problem.”  I am the first American ever to be invited to coach their team.  Father is really at work in this.

Now it was a fast few days of more praying, packing, and planning before I boarded the plane to fly to Lahore, Pakistan.  Between applying for the Pakistani Visa and buying a plane ticket I had to rework my flight schedule several times.  Usually a rather expensive project, but the Lord worked it out so that I would up saving one hundred dollars on the ticket price over the original cost.  Amen and Amen.

Arrived in Lahore, in the middle of the night.  Imran,* the head of OM in Pakistan, met me at the airport.  It was his job to keep me out of trouble while in Pakistan, (An impossible job.) The temperature was hot, almost 100 degrees.  They took me to where I would be staying and I promptly went to sleep.  The next day, baseball practice started.

My first meeting with the team was an event.  All the players stood, clapped, and cheered when I got out of the car and headed toward them on the field.  Then they stood at full attention, in front of me, and each introduced himself.  Discipline and respect toward your coach is important and enforced.  In fact, one day three players did not give me their full attention.  Immediately, the team’s regular coach pulled them out of the line, told them to get on the ground, and then caned them.  

I worked the players hard and they responded well.  They really love the game.  This team is the only baseball team in Lahore.  It is one of only thirteen in the country.

The team was made up of 28 players. In addition, there were 12 players in training taking the full squad to 40.  Practices were just over 3 hours and covered strategy, hitting, fielding, specialty drills, pitching, and lots of basics.  The team is ranked number 23 in the World.  They hope to make a good showing in the Classic Qualifier so they can move up in the rankings.

The field was in good condition.  It had a very large backstop, set of bleachers, full-size infield, manicured grass, and a moveable outfield fence.  

The weather was hot and dry.  One day it was 105 degrees.  However, the next day it cooled off to 104 degrees.  There were few clouds in the sky.  We drank gallons of water.

I met almost daily with the Pakistani Baseball National Director.  (NOTE: This time with the National Director was a great relationship building time, as you will see later.)  He told me that the team’s weakness was hitting.  So we worked on hitting twice each practice.  Their hitting got better, but you must practice hitting constantly.  Spent lots of time on strategy and just learning how to play the game.  We also played a practice game every day.  Since they are the only team in town, I felt it important to actually play the game as much as possible.

The players were all Muslims.  The Lord gave me several opportunities to tell about His Son.  Here is one.

Every practice began with prayer, payer to Allah. I did not participate. After one such practice, I asked a group of players about the prayer. They told me about prayer and praying to Allah. That opened the door for me to talk about Christians praying to God.  They had never heard of that.  I told some of them about how I pray.  They were very interested and asked to know more.  I filled them in on how Christians pray.

I made sure that the players knew my room, in the guest units, was open to them 24/7.  One of the baseball director's sons, Hasroon,* is in training on the team. He is 12 years old. When I introduced myself to the team I mentioned Kyle, my grandson, and his age as 12.  Hasroon,* came to me and said he and Kyle are the same age, so could he call me Grandpa? I told him Kyle calls me Big Dad. So, everyone on the team called me Coach Rick, except Hasroon,* who called me Big Dad.

One day several players took me to one of the four zoos in Lahore.  Interesting experience.  However, I saw it as another chance to deepen our friendships.

That night I ate supper with a few from the baseball team who wanted to discuss Islam and Christianity. It was good. We talked about father's son and belief in Him.

The next day was also lots of fun and interesting. Right after lunch two players came and took me around Lahore. Lahore is a very beautiful city. It is also a big city. (10 million people). The people are very friendly.  We visited another one of the four zoos in the city. Then, went to the largest capacity Mosque in Asia. There have been as many as 100 thousand people, at one time, in the Mosque for prayers (That's right, 100,000 people). Finally, we visited the city Cricket and Soccer venue.

That night, ate more Pizza. We had planned to talk about Islam and Christianity, but it did not develop that way. The sharing was not as deep as it was earlier that afternoon. However, the person who is most interested told me he will contact me tomorrow and we can go someplace and talk more about many things.

The next day was Sunday, August 14. I preached in a church. It was Pakistan Independence Day (like our 4th of July). The city was really decorated with the colors of Pakistan, green and white. I preached from John 3:1-21.  There were about four-hundred in attendance, (300 adults and 100 kids). We met indoors.  It was over 100 degrees and no air conditioning.  No visible results, but there were several good comments make to me afterwards.

In the afternoon, we ate lunch in a restaurant and visited Victor's family in their home. In late afternoon they took me to my guest unit and said I should stay inside during the Independence Day celebration that night.

The next day was Monday and baseball practice resumed.  This is my last week here and time is moving fast.  The players are sure I am the best player and the best coach in the United States. They are sure that any team I play on wins and I pitch and win all the games.........I didn't tell them any different.

Much is happening. Received word today that a baseball coach, also a Christian, will arrive here in a few days. He is from California, and a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  He will take over the coaching when I leave to return back to the U. S.

In addition to everything listed above, Imran,* had me teaching classes on Church Leadership in the Seminary/Bible School in Lahore.

The first class "Christian Leadership for Christian Workers" had about 30 in attendance. The second class, "Living A Life of Holiness" had about 25. Both went well.

A third class I will be teaching will be for five hours on Wednesday and Thursday and will focus on topics such as:

1.   What happens to people when they die?
2.   How to explain the death of a family member to a child.
3.   Why is there evil in the world?
4.   Do people die and go to Heaven and come back?
5.   Can we trust the Bible to be accurate and reliable?
6.   What about charismatic gifts?
7.   When you are to preach or do a Bible Study how do you make up a Sermon or Bible Study?
8.   And lots more.

After this class, my days here were about finished and it was time for me to go back to the U.S.  

My schedule was such that I had time to meet with the Baseball Director for one more time.  This meeting was special.  We talked about many things and at the end he hugged me and asked for me to pray for him and come back someday.  I said I would and then we parted.

Tonight, was my last night in Pakistan.  Ate with the Ming* family. (Mr. & Mrs. Ming* and their four very young children.) They are a new missionary family and are from Korea.  They have been in Pakistan for three weeks.  The whole family is super excited.

As dinner was ending and I was preparing to leave for the airport they asked me to pray over them, their kids, and their work.  They asked me to pray that their kids would become missionaries. They asked me to put my hand on each one of them as I prayed. I did.

Wow!!! What privilege.

God did another great job this week in Pakistan.  Many doors are opening in this country.  Please, let’s all keep Pakistan in our prayers.

I am well aware that without your prayers for me I could not be here to experience this and report it back to you.

I thank you for this privilege and I thank you Father for letting me come.

Names with an * after them have been changed to protect the person's privacy.

NOTE: On September 22, Pakistan played Brazil in the Qualifier Baseball Game.  Brazil beat Pakistan by a score of 10-0.

FINAL.  Printed in September, 2016, newsletter