Aram: A place of rest for Christians in Pakistan
Posted on: 26th June 2017
Editor’s Note: Since writing this post, David & Georgina Newmarch have had to return to Australia for an indefinite period of time due to visa issues. Please give thanks for their time at Aram and pray that a new couple would be found to be hosts at the rest house in the interim. Pray that the visa issues would be resolved so that the Newmarches can return to Pakistan.
David and Georgina Newmarch are hosts at Aram, a rest house for local and foreign Christians living and working in Pakistan. Georgina writes about how Aram was established and the important role it has in ensuring that Christian leaders and cross-cultural workers are spiritually nourished and refreshed to continue doing God’s work in Pakistan.
Back in 1995, a 42-year-old Aussie woman in Pakistan was having a three-day, life-changing experience. That was me, attending a quiet retreat led by Joyce and David Huggett from the UK. I lapped up what they gave us – mostly time alone with God as well as some wonderful input for our spirits, hearts, minds and bodies. At the time I thought: This is just what I needed but I didn’t know it. I would love to run a retreat house for cross-cultural workers one day where they can find some space to rest and connect with God.
That dream of mine, to run a rest house, was shelved. I just couldn’t see how it could be possible. In the meantime though, I became more and more involved in caring for workers from many different countries, using and developing the gifts God had given me. After some years, the Member Care Foundation was formed in 2002 by foreign missionaries in Pakistan so we could network together to provide the experiences and resources to better equip and nourish those coming into Pakistan to serve the Lord. A rest house was one of the resources we were hoping and praying for. However, God led our family back to Australia long before that became a reality.
Now here I am, back in Pakistan again – doing my dream job. I realise now that it wasn’t just a crazy idea of mine, but a desire put there by God, one that he would bring to fruition in his own time. His time ended up being about 13 years from the time we first outlined a vision for a rest house at a Member Care consultation.
There were lots of pieces of the puzzle for the rest house that God put in place, as well as our part in it. The money to buy a house came from Northern Ireland: a couple who had given generously to God all their lives wrote in their will that after their death, they wanted their house to be sold and the money used for a rest house. A married couple came to set up and run the house but had to return to England due to the wife’s serious illness. So in 2012, after nine years back in Australia, Dave and I were invited by the Member Care board to come to Pakistan to find a suitable house and be the hosts. They knew nothing about my long-held desire to run a rest house. But God did.
Our search for a house took us all over Islamabad with many property agents. But we found nothing good within our budget. We were sure God wanted us to have a garden and a house that people would enter with a “Wow, this is lovely!” We had looked at 60 houses and all were too old, too small and had no garden. Then we met a man at church who told us that he’d just heard that a friend of his was selling his house. Perfect timing. Perfect house and garden. Perfect price. Obviously, it was God’s house for us.
The guests at Aram
So now Aram (meaning ‘rest’ in Urdu, the national language) has been open for nearly four years. Some days there may only be one guest staying, other days four or five, and occasionally eight or nine. We can sleep eleven in four rooms and we have several living rooms. There’s always a spot for quiet reading and time for a conversation or badminton on the lawn. And our cook/cleaner, and Dave and I keep them well fed, of course.
Let me give you a glimpse of some of our guests:
There is a remote Christian hospital in a town where security needs to be very high. The expat staff are not allowed to leave the hospital compound. If they do leave, it is under police guard for their protection. They like to ‘get out’ every six weeks or so and they often come to stay at Aram for their break. Islamabad gives them the freedom to go shopping, eat at restaurants or go for walks in the parks or hills.
Expectations on Pakistani pastors are very high. They work very hard so we are always delighted when one chooses to come here with his wife and children for a few days’ break. Or sometimes a few pastors will come for a prayer retreat together. As small groups come, Dave is getting opportunities to train people in one of his passions, Bible story-telling.
In early May 2017, one of our dear friends miraculously survived a mini bus accident in which 15 died. This young man was in the bus when it went off the narrow mountain road and rolled down a ravine. But after two or three rolls he felt a shove from behind (an angel?) and he fell out the door relatively unharmed. After his broken elbow and wrist were operated on in a good hospital here in Islamabad, he and his wife and baby spent a few nights at Aram. Their strong faith and service to their community always encourage us. Since returning home, everyone in town wants to hear his story and he is relishing the opportunity to tell them how God rescued him.
On another weekend in May, eight ladies and three breastfeeding babies came for a two-day retreat. They lapped up the relaxing time together. There was input from me and plenty of time in solitude with the Lord, who met them and ministered to them.
There is one thing in common with all our guests: they love staying here and they tell us what an important job we are doing. We all need space in our lives for rest and we are delighted that we can be part of the rest and refreshment God is providing for his children.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
Psalm 23:2-3a (ESV)
Thank God for the ministry of Aram. Pray for Christians living in countries where security issues or hostility to the gospel take a significant emotional toll. Pray for opportunities to find rest and refreshment in the Lord.