It’s never easy to leave your job and upend your life to go to Bible college. It’s even more complicated for Imran Maqsood, who has three growing children and whose existing income helps to fund the Faisalabad School For Peace – which he set up in his home city to educate students from low-income Christian and Muslim families.
His rector at Liverpool South, the Rev Manoj Chacko, encouraged him to do the study, as did the parish’s assistant minister the Rev Matt Bales and his father, former missionary to Pakistan the Rev John Bales.
But how could Mr Maqsood feed and house his family, keep the school vision alive in Pakistan and train at Moore College?
“I said to them, ‘Do you think this is my calling?’ and ‘My second language is English – maybe I can’t do it?’,” he recalls. “But they encouraged me. They said, ‘When God chooses you, he will prepare everything... God said don’t worry about tomorrow.”
Mr Maqsood’s wife, Alia Imran, was also confident in the Lord’s provision for them if this was his will, so the family stepped out in faith – and they have since been amazed by God’s goodness and timing.
Thomas Hassall Anglican College, where the children go to school, is helping with fees. Anglican Aid, which was already a partner with the School For Peace, is providing more support. Moore College is helping through its student support fund, and members at Liverpool South are also supporting the family with groceries and the like.
“God is so great how he answers and answers prayers,” Mr Maqsood says. “He goes with us on the journey, and we are so grateful to him.”
Even the family’s need for a larger home has been met. “I was feeling depressed last Saturday because we are living in a two-bedroom townhouse, and my daughter is 13 now and really needs a separate room. The rent [is too expensive], so we said, ‘What do we do, God?”
To his surprise, and great joy, a member of the congregation whose recently built a house nearby offered them their existing three-bedroom home – for the duration of his college studies. “He said God put this on their hearts... It’s one more miracle!” Mr Maqsood says.
Fulfil God’s purpose
Brought up Catholic in Pakistan, Mr Maqsood arrived in Australia in 2008. His priest advised him to take the opportunity to get to Australia for World Youth Day and then seek to remain. He did this, but it was two years before his family could join him.
In the meantime, he was taken in – literally – by Liverpool South Anglican, living in a granny flat on the church grounds while he studied community services and aged care. The whole family, once reunited, also lived with Mr Chacko and his wife Ramabai for six months until they could afford to rent their own home.
By this time, Mr Maqsood had also been taught more deeply from the Bible. “I understood the meaning of the cross and the meaning of the resurrection,” he says. “The second thing I understand after this, is what is the purpose of my life: for the glory of God and the kingdom of God. That’s when the next chapter started.”
This next chapter included taking part in Liverpool South’s ministry to subcontinental asylum seekers, driving to Foodbank each week for food to distribute in the community, serving on parish council and praying for opportunities to give back to his community in Pakistan. This second prayer resulted in the School For Peace, which – as its name suggests – seeks to build harmony between the local Muslim and Christian communities in Faisalabad.
“The problem is when you teach your children hate,” Mr Maqsood says. “We start with the children and put the peace seed in them... we can’t take [away] everything, but we can reduce and prevent the persecution. The community [Muslim and Christian] want the good education for their children and know they will get that from the Christian schools.”
With Anglican Aid’s support the school opened in 2013 with 20 students. It now has 75 – with 110 expect next year – and both faiths are well represented in the student cohort, the staff and on the school board.
Mr Maqsood, with the help of John Bales and a pastor in Faisalabad, has also begun teaching Moore College’s Preliminary Theological Certificate to local Christian community leaders and pastors. It is this more than anything else that has prompted the decision to go to Bible college himself. And although he does not know what his own ministry future will hold, he knows he can leave it in God’s hands.
“My prayer is only that God will help us be faithful – and we ask that people support us in what we’re doing... in prayer or financially,” he says. “God’s plan and timing is always perfect. My heart is for South Asia and Australia and when I finish college I will see what God wants.”