Biblical SMS Messages Inspire Recipients

2008-05-02 00:00:00

Asif Nazir gets up just before dawn every day, not to study or to pray but to send text messages to more than 200 contacts.

For the past three years, the 34-year-old evangelist has been sending Bible verses in English and Urdu every day along with references and prayer requests to more than 250 Christians in Pakistan and a few overseas.

He uses the short messaging service, or SMS, available with mobile phones to send a message to many recipients at the same time.

Nazir is studying to be an accountant but helps out at the Jesus Evangelical Church in Lahore, 270 kilometers southeast of Islamabad. His father is the pastor.

The messaging mission began as a way to communicate with his wife, who has been in London for three years studying nursing.

"At first I sent her a few verses for spiritual counseling, and later I sent the same to other relatives. Afterward I got the idea of turning this habit into my communication ministry," he told UCA News. "The list keeps growing as recipients send contacts of other mobile users, most of whom I have never met, for the free subscription."

Nazir claims the daily reminders have prompted many Christian recipients to read the Bible.

Javaid John, a producer at the Catholic Church´s WAVE (Workshop Audio Visual Education) studio, is an example. "By following the references, I adopted the habit of reading the Bible every day ever since I started receiving the SMS biblical verses two years ago," he told UCA News. Nazir´s morning messages give a "fresh start" to the day, he added.

Some of the recipients are Muslim acquaintances. Nazir said they tell him the messages offer "good guidance for life."

As he tapped out a message for a woman who requested prayers over her illness, Nazir called his cell phone a "hotline for prayer requests."

However, not all Christian mobile phone users welcome this free service. "Some do not want their sleep to be interrupted by the ringtone of early morning messages, while others prohibit it, saying they already know about Jesus Christ," he acknowledged.

Nazir´s messaging service may be unique, according to Father Nadeem Shakir, director of WAVE studio. "Earlier this year, a few Protestant churches in Lahore and another in Karachi distributed pamphlets inviting people to subscribe to a similar service," he told UCA News. "Such churches also offer prayer on requests via telephone in the Christian settlements of Lahore, but a daily biblical SMS service is unheard of in Pakistan."

Daughters of St. Paul Sister Magdaline Ishaq said she and others have "really appreciated that such encouraging and powerful messages are being circulated." She spoke with UCA News on April 27 after chairing a World Communications Day seminar at her convent in Lahore. The nuns run three communications centers -- in Lahore, Karachi and Rawalpindi.

Special liturgies were held in various places on that day, for which the National Catholic Centre for Social Communication had printed posters and booklets.

The Daughters of St. Paul also conducted one-hour lectures on communication and its effects in a number of Catholic schools.

The theme Pope Benedict XVI chose for the 42nd World Communications Day was: The Media: At the Crossroads between Self-Promotion and Service. Searching for the Truth in order to Share it with Others. Many local Churches will observe the special day this year on May 4, the Sunday before Pentecost.


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