Creative Christian Moments
“Reviews of up and coming Christians in the arts community.”
Blog Article 27: Email Interview with Dr. Sonia Gill and Her Dance Ministry of Pakistan
What can God accomplish with a young Pakistani woman and her talent for worship dancing? How about transforming the broken youth of a nation crying out desperately for the unconditional loving Gospel of Christ! I am pleased to introduce to you Dr. Sonia Gill, a dentist from Pakistan using her gift of worship dancing to share the Gospel with the youth and children of this nation.
I originally met Gill through LinkedIn (where I meet many of these artists) and immediately I could sense the power of the Holy Spirit with her. After a few email exchanges to build rapport, she shared with me that she leads a dance ministry in Pakistan. My initial reaction was excitement; not only would this be a chance for a potential blog review first about Christian dance ministry but the fact that it was IN PAKISTAN! So many questions circulated in my mind about how this was possible in such an oppressive and depressed nation portrayed by the media in the West. So I did what I always do with this blog, I prayed, asked the Lord to lead me to artists He wants to share, and hoped Gill would be one of them.
In my initial email conversation with Gill, she told a story about how South Korean missionaries had traveled to Pakistan and shared the Gospel with her family. I immediately got excited about this news because a few years back, I attended a missionary conference in the Seattle area known as Missionfest; one of the seminars described how God had been empowering the Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, and Brazilians to take the Gospel back through the old Silk Road traveled centuries ago. With this information lingering in my mind, Gill’s tale of Christian salvation for herself and family was real fruit about the success of these missionaries. So many questions came to my mind. I am a details guys, so I wanted to learn EVERYTHING I could about what God was accomplishing in Pakistan.
Barry Irwin Brophy: Tell me a bit about yourself.
Dr. Sonia Gill: I am Sonia Gill from Pakistan. I am General Dentist and working as a Dental Doctor in a hospital. I am also Dance Instructor. I did my Diploma in Dance Instruction (DDI) From New London Performing Arts Center. I work as Youth and Children worker in Pakistan specially in slum areas and villages of Pakistan. I preach the Gospel to youth and children through mediums of different arts like dance, music, sports, etc. I got Diploma in Sunday School Training and serve my children and youth ministry .
Barry Irwin Brophy: What do you think is the biggest misconception the west has about Pakistan and its culture?
Dr. Sonia Gill: The biggest misconception about Pakistan is Terrorism. The west thinks all Pakistanis are terrorist s and extremists but this is not true . There is a group who do terrorist activities and they belong to different countries like Russia, Chachania, Afghanistan, and others. We cannot blame the whole nation. In every society there are good and bad people but we cannot say the whole society is bad due to a few persons same thing with Pakistan.
Pakistan is an ideological Islamic State. Its very existence is due to Islam, so the Pakistani culture is primarily based on the Islamic way of life. All other ingredients of culture are inspired by Islam. Pakistani culture is highlighted by its grandeur, simplicity, firm convictions, and noble deeds and ideas.
The West thinks that Pakistani culture is backward, extremely brutal. They thought people are really ignorant, illiterate, selfish, fundamental, and poor. But Pakistani culture is a mixed culture.
Barry Irwin Brophy: Describe the Christian community in Pakistan. What is a character trait of your Christian community that other Christians could learn from?
Dr. Sonia Gill: Pakistan is a country which is rich in culture and religion. Islam is the major religion but along with it, there are other minorities like Christians, Hindu, Sikh, Ahmadis, Chitrals, and Afghans etc. Christians are the largest minority community in Pakistan. They constitute about 1.6% of Pakistan’s population. The present constitution, political system, and government are undemocratic. No more Democracy. Theocracy is prevailing in Pakistan. Under this system, the Christians of Pakistan have neither equal political, socio-economical status, nor the equal access to available opportunities in playing a leading role in the national set-up. Though Christians believe and consider themselves to be first class citizens of Pakistan, the present political system believes that Christians are second class citizens and are practically at the lowest level. They are constantly reminded at every level that it is not their country. Constitutionally, no Christian has the entitlement to become President, Prime Minister, Chairman of the Senate, or the Speaker of National Assembly (Parliament) of Pakistan. Under the Constitutional bindings, the policies and practices have been adopted by all government and judicial functionaries to ignore and neglect the Christians every time, everywhere at all levels. People at lower level have adopted this as a law that no higher position or rank is given to any Christian.
Christians are deprived of their rights under this law because a Muslim can report an outrage against Islam without providing witnesses or proof. The law on “blasphemy” demands that the accused should be immediately sentenced. Recently the death sentence for Asia Bibi – who, asked about her faith, replied that she was a Christian and was accused of ‘blasphemy’ – was reconfirmed. As of February 1, 2012, over 580,000 people in 100 countries signed an appeal to the Pakistani government to release Asia Bibi. At present, her health is in critical condition.
Before independence, Christian educational institutions were run by Churches but they were taken over by force and nationalized by the Bhutto government in 1972. Now, no more Christian character is being seen in these Islamized Christian Institutions. After Bhutto government, many of non-Muslim institutions were denationalized and given to their owners but no Christian institution was denationalized. These institutions were the basic centers for learning, social and cultural gatherings, and spiritual development for the Christians. Christian teachers, professors, or students are not seen there.
Government has reserved some seats for non-Muslims but it is a harsh reality that these seats are occupied by non Muslims. At present, more than 5,000 jobs, which were for Christians are now held by the Muslims. Because of this the 5,000 or more Christians have been forced to be unemployed and thousands of dependants have been deprived of their livelihood.
Due to the nationalization of Christian Educational Institutions and abolishing of the reserved seats for minorities in the government institutions in 1972, there has been an increase of the Christians in illiteracy and poverty.
Character Traits of Christians: Christians are really peaceful, courageous, God fearing, and patience is their character traits.
Barry Irwin Brophy: How does your dance/music ministry spread the Gospel? Any stories of salvation experiences?
Dr. Sonia Gill: I started preaching Gospel to children and youth in 2012. I usually hire big grounds of schools and colleges in the evening to teach worship dance to children and youth free of cost. I do this work in the slum areas of Pakistan where youth and children are illiterate and unaware about Christianity; its values and rituals and God. As dance and music are two mediums which attracted every age, I chose these mediums to spread Gospel and preaching. Children and youth learn worship dance and then they perform in different churches and organization to express their love for God and told others about Gospel through their performances. This is the way we spread the Gospel from one place, church or organization to others. As churches use old approaches to preach Gospel which is really difficult for youth and children to understand and adopt specially for illiterate people so this is the way through which we can express and transform our message easily to them.
As far as salvation is concerned , Pakistan is a country which is popular for corruption and crimes. Here, children and youth are indulged in different sort of street crimes and drug addiction, smoking, gambling, and other wrong activities. Same is the case with Christian Community in Pakistan. They keep themselves far away from Church. They stay away from church, worship, conventions, and crusades. I use my artistic skills to attract such youth and children in order to aware them about Gospel, preaching, God, and to refrain them from wrong activities. I started with 7 – 10 youth and children but after two and half years, I got great strength and succeed in attracting youth and children towards Christianity, Gospel, and preaching. Now to date, 30 – 35 youth and children want to become preachers, pastors, and evangelists. I think this is one of the biggest victories and salvation as far as I have seen which is God has done through me. All credit goes to GOD.
Barry Irwin Brophy: What are some of the current projects your ministry is working on? Please be specific.
Dr. Sonia Gill: At this time I am running two projects both for youth and children. These are mentioned below:
1). Worship Dace Project – I am running this project for the last two years among youth and children who are not educated and need someone to make their faith on God, stronger. Through worship dance I teach them the Gospel and preach the Word of God to them so that they may easily understand about Christianity, its values, rituals, and about God. Secondly, worship dance is new and an innovative activity for Pakistani Christians so they are influenced by it greatly. The aim of this project is preaching Gospel and to connect the youth and children with the Church. Secondly, try to keep them away from wrong habits and activities like, street crimes, addiction and smoking.
2). Gill’s Handicraft Center for Youth and Children – This is my new project which I started in June 2013. I got Diploma in Arts and Design, so I use my skills to train youth so that they may able to earn their livelihood and support their families instead of putting their potential and energy in wrong activities. I have two teachers with me who teach students different arts like embroidery, sewing, stitching, paper work, scenery making, pillow covers, bed sheets, and other things. Our first batch has been passed out and now we are working in boutiques and sewing centers. We also teach this art to children in summer vocations so that they may learn healthy activity and become fruitful citizens. The aim of this Project is to make youth confident, especially girls, and make them feel that they are not a vulnerable part of society and deprived class but they are skilled workers who have potential to earn their livelihood and support their families.
Barry Irwin Brophy: How do you think your ministry will influence the coming global revival?
Dr. Sonia Gill: As I am doing ministry work by using arts as a medium or tool, so I think my ministry would influence the world a lot. Arts is the way to express what you think, what you want, what you want to do. For me, arts is the best way to increase globalization. Through arts we can reach anywhere in the world .
My Ministry will influence the Global Revival as:
We will promote Interaction of International Youth and Children Ministries and Group with our ministry by organizing social and religious conferences, workshops, camps, and worship concerts in order to educate and aware youth regarding the situations of Christianity all over the world.
We will invite international youth and children workers to come in Pakistan and work with us to promote evangelism which will minimize the global distances and boundaries and help in promoting globalization. Also it will clear the image of Pakistan around the world when they come and join us, support us, and work with us.
Barry Irwin Brophy: How can Christians around the world help further your goals for ministry?
Dr. Sonia Gill: My first and foremost goal is to open a dance academy in Pakistan so that youth and children may learn worship dance without any hindrances and worship God daily. At this time, I am working with very large group of youth and children more than 200. I usually hire school grounds every weekend to teach worship dance to youth and children which is really costly and I have to bear all expanses by myself. I have also a rented building with three rooms, one room is used for youth seminars, meetings, conferences, and workshops and other two rooms are used for Gill’s Handicraft Center. so it’s really difficult for me to further expand my work without settling my present group strength. I bear all the expanses by myself but now difficult for me to bear more burden as the strength is increasing day by day and to handle such a big strength is not easy without having proper land or place.
Secondly, my goal is to open a Bible school and college for youth and children who want to be pastors, evangelists, mentors, and preachers. Out of 200 youth and children, more than 40 want to be pastors and preachers. So I really need to open Bible school and college for them in order to trained them as a professional ministers, preachers, pastors, and evangelists.
I heartily request people to help me and support me in building the future of Christian youth and children so that they dare to dream their future. I really need finances to accomplish these goals and without your support I cannot do anything. Thanks!
Barry Irwin Brophy: What do you think are the biggest obstacles within the Christian Church institution in America and how can we change to be more effective in preaching the Gospel? What methods have worked well in Pakistan?
Dr. Sonia Gill: There are following things which I would like to mention according to my point of view.
1). Need to prove the value of the local church as a social institution.
Since the Church is so large around the world, why doesn’t it have greater impact? The reason is because so much of the talent, time, energy, resources, and money Christians have is being used outside the Church instead of through it. We have outsourced the Great Commission to independent ministries.
2). Need to expand our capacity to love at the same lightning rate of technological advances.
Make sure that the technologies we employ to serve people don’t actually prevent us from connecting with and loving real human beings? And as it becomes easier in the coming years to produce impressive worship experiences with new technology, how will we help people cultivate their own indigenous, genuine expressions? How will we avoid the temptation to simply draw crowds? I think we only grow to maturity when we learn to love at point-blank range, where the messy aspects of relationships can’t be avoided.
3). Need to push beyond conventional categories to engage the rise of the “nones.”
1/3 of American adults under 30 state they have no religious affiliation. 88% of the religiously unaffiliated say they’re not looking for a religion that is right for them.
The historic strength of evangelical churches to innovate methods without altering the underlying message will no longer have the same impact. That’s because the cultural shift now underway is not merely about music preferences or the use of video clips in sermons. The problem is deeper, found in the language patterns, and theological categories we use to articulate faith.
Barry Irwin Brophy: I’ve also encountered many struggling Christian artists who have given up on pursuing their calling because of chaotic hardships in every form imaginable. These guys and girls are under immense pressure. If you were speaking with one of them now, what would you say to encourage them?
Dr. Sonia Gill: I will not give them long advise or speak dialogues in order to impress them. I just want to quote the lines which inspire me a lot whenever I am sad, depressed, or gloomy. I want to share these lines with them:
“God created you to live an abundant joy-filled life, regardless of obstacles you might face. Health issues, financial difficulties or any other heart-wrenching circumstance cannot hinder God from working mightily in you and through you.Your fears and your insecurities, your hopes and your dreams matter to God. Vulnerability, trust, transparency, humility, and honesty are the keys that God uses to bring breakthrough in your life. God is good, He is on your side and His intention has always been to bless you.”
That’s all, to bring courage in their lives.
Barry Irwin Brophy: If a reader would like to contact you about assisting your ministry, what would be the best method? Email? LinkedIn? Ecetera? Website? Please provide any other contact information I could share.
Dr. Sonia Gill: I would prefer email to contact me. People can contact me via LinkedIn also. I would also prefer that people contact me through phone.
Barry Irwin Brophy’s Closing Thoughts on the Interview: Gill’s testimony and ministry are an illustration of what happens when God uses an individual with a yielded heart. What is even more inspiring is her answers AGAIN speak about just how powerful obedience to your personal artistic calling is. Just think about it, God placed a desire in Gill’s heart to dance before the Lord like the Biblical character David. She was then privileged with the opportunity to study in London and now takes this passion back to Pakistan as a tool for the Gospel message. God’s compassionate character with an ability to complete the impossible is so illustrated in how He takes people like Gill and can birth societal change through the little things we present to Him.
Like the characters in the parable of the talents, we just have to take that one artistic medium God has planted in us and place it on His altar to be used in powerful ways. A revelation I also came to grasp during this email interview was that God is going to make sure the whole world has heard about His Gospel message; even in the remote parts of the earth. It is an exciting time to be alive because our technology has developed to such a point where we can easily and freely share information. If every Christian were to utilize technologies like email, social media, and the development of apps to share the Gospel message, we could actually FINISH preaching the Gospel to every person in the world! Pause and think about this…in our lifetime, the Gospel may be preached to every nation of the world. As Jesus states in Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” How awesome! We could be the generation that actually finishes this task commanded by Jesus Christ Himself.
The best way you can support Gill’s ministry is to directly contact her by phone, email, or LinkedIn and partner with her goals for the next stages of her ministry involving the establishment of a Bible school, growth of dance ministry, and growth of her crafts store. I will be sharing her information with many other Christians and hopefully in the near future we will see this ministry transform the entire nation!
Dr. Sonia Gill’s Contact Information and Links:
Phone with country code: 0092 322 8942497
Gill, Sonia, e-mail message to author, July 11, 2014.
Creative Christian Moments – Photos of Dr. Gill’s Christian Dance Ministry in Pakistan, YouTube, 2:56, posted by Barry Brophy, August 1, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsc0kvHqCH8 (accessed July 31, 2014)