through Pakistani Sumble Noreen (50) is at home when colleagues of her husband Anthoney suddenly ring the bell and tell them he has been kidnapped. She flees with her four children to a safe place. It has been quiet for six months. And then the phone rings. Anthoney appears to be in the Netherlands. A country she has never heard of.
It is nine years later. Due to corona video calling with Sumble. She sits on the sofa in her living room in Vollenhove, with her 17-year-old daughter next to her who wants to help with translation if necessary. Anthoney is also there and listens.
‘I prayed a lot to God and felt that my husband was still alive’
“He’s alive! That was all I thought when I heard his voice ”, Sumble says about the moment Anthoney called her from the Netherlands. “In the months before, I moved with the children from one place to another. Sometimes at friends’ homes, then at church. Nowhere could we stay long, because our presence could cause major problems. Despite everything, I had hope. I prayed a lot to God and felt that my husband was still alive. That phone call felt like a huge liberation. But now we still had to be reunited. It was no longer safe for Anthoney to go to Pakistan. We also did not have a normal life in our native country. With the help of the church where Anthoney went to the Netherlands, we were able to travel to the Netherlands. It was a lot of planning. We didn’t even have a passport. Fortunately, there was a political leader – who was a Christian – who could help me from Pakistan. A year and a half after that phone call, I saw him again at Schiphol. An emotional moment for me and the children. ”
Sumble says that most people in Pakistan are Muslims. Only a small percentage are Christians. “My great-grandfather became a Christian and with that our whole family has become religious. We have always had strong faith together. I think this is because we have witnessed many miracles. For example, I remember when I was an eleven-year-old girl playing outside and my mother prepared food with the stove. Suddenly it started to rain. She wanted to pick up the stove to move inside, just as usual when it rained. But the stove toppled and my mother was life-threateningly injured. It was terrible. The doctors gave a little chance of survival, but we prayed. She is still alive to this day. I can also remember the time we had a car accident. The car was a total loss, but we got out safe and sound. Just a few examples of the miracles God performed in our lives. ”
AFTER EIGHT YEARS OF MARRIAGE
In Sumble’s family, where she grew up with four brothers, there was a lot of singing and praying. In addition to her work as a teacher, she was active at the church as a gospel singer, among other things. Sumble: “There weren’t many Christians where we lived. It was therefore not always easy. It was often not safe to speak freely about your faith. You were always alert if strangers were listening. ”
‘We always felt unsafe and were therefore constantly careful’
She met Anthoney when she was twenty. They met at one of the church meetings. With a smile on her face, Sumble says: “I saw him and he saw me. My cousin knew both of us and advised us to get to know each other better. He thought we were a good couple. We liked each other, but didn’t get married until after eight years. As the oldest daughter, I had many responsibilities at home and I had my job. I shared the money I earned with my parents. That is why we had to wait a long time. ”
Sumble says they had a good time together. He was good to her and they had children. But they were aware of Anthoney’s dangerous work: “We always felt unsafe and were therefore constantly cautious. Also on that fateful day. ” The organization that Anthony worked for was committed to a good relationship between Christians and Muslims. Sumble says that this organization was monitored by the Taliban: “One day they broke into their office and eight colleagues were shot. They found Anthoney on the street. They took him and tortured him. ” When Anthoney manages to escape by a miracle, life in Pakistan is no longer safe for him and he flees. After a long journey, he arrives in the Netherlands. Sumble: “God was there all this time. We believe He has saved us. At the same time, there was that fear. I cannot describe in words how I felt. ”
TELEVISION PROGRAMS FOR CHRISTIANS
When Sumble talks about her life, she speaks of a time before reuniting with her husband and life afterward. She explains that it was not easy to start a new life without parents and family in a foreign country with a language you cannot speak. And yet: it worked. Their youngest son is born and Anthoney gets a job in a carpet factory. But the most important thing is the establishment of the Be The Light foundation(BTL) four years ago. A foundation with which they make television programs for Christians in Pakistan. Sumble: “Friends of ours, who live in Pakistan, gave us the idea. Christian television stations in Pakistan were closed. Pakistani Christians were no longer allowed to watch Christian programs. But we were able to start a television station from the Netherlands. At first we thought this plan was much too big and complicated. But it did not let go of us. That’s why we started praying for it. ”
‘We believe that God has been preparing us to do this work all along in Pakistan’
The whole family now participates in the television programs that, according to Sumble, an average of four thousand people watch a day. Sumble presents and sings, Anthoney presents and takes care of the administration and all other arrangements, a son does the editing and camera work, all children help with making music and everyone helps with recording a Christian Christmas film, for example. In addition to this Dutch team, there is also a team of people who work for BTL in Pakistan and who organize a lot in practical terms.
The programs have a Christian message, but also expose major social problems. Sumble: “In Pakistan, underage Christian girls are forced to marry a Muslim. Often they are young girls who are married off to an older man. BTL has made a program about this and has focused on the problem. ” In this way, Be The Light stands up for the rights of women, they speak out against blasphemy and also help very practically by bringing messages to people in this Corona year.
Sumble: “We believe that God has been preparing us to do this work all along in Pakistan. He has saved us for this work. ” She laughs and says that she likes to talk a lot about BTL: “In Pakistan, women have to keep their mouths shut. Here in the Netherlands, I am allowed to talk.