Join our Punjabi brothers and sisters this Sunday morning as together we worship Jesus and what He’s done for us. As the song says, “I was drowning in my sins, but He salvaged me.” (see video at end of post)
The following is a lengthy quote from “ Why Persecuted Christians Sing Psalms in Pakistan” from Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. I recommend the whole article:
When United Presbyterian Church (UPC) pastor Andrew Gordon began the Sialkot Mission in 1855, he learned Urdu because it had written grammars, dictionaries, and Bible translations. Few people spoke Urdu as their mother tongue, but they used it in courts, schools, and government business. Punjabi, then as now, was looked down on as the language of illiterate people.
… Influential Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh families sent their children to the excellent mission schools and attended ‘inquirers’ classes.’ Yet after 20 years, less than 200 adults had been baptized.
… Gordon and his peers finally took note of ‘illiterate believers…’ They resolved ‘to get down to the level’ at which Christ labored, and ‘give special attention to the poor….Unless we bring the gospel to them very directly and particularly, they think it is intended only for their superiors,’ he wrote in his memoir, Our India Mission, 1855-1885.
… The UPC was an ethnically Scottish American denomination that sang only psalms in worship. Gordon asked I.D. Shahbaz, a scholar, poet, and Anglican pastor, to translate psalms into metric Urdu, so they could be sung to Western tunes.
Though educated city congregations sang the metric Urdu psalms, they were not a hit among rural Punjabis. But the psalms that Shahbaz translated to poetic Punjabi and set to folk tunes were instantly popular.
‘There are 150 psalms in the Bible, but according to topic and meaning, Dr. Shahbaz divided them into 405 parts. He worked with such a devotion and activeness, day in and day out, that he lost his sight,’ Sarwar says. A helper then read the zaboors (psalms) to Shahbaz in Urdu, English, and Persian so he could translate them. A professional singer helped set them to Indian ragas (melodies) and talas (beats).
A missionary woman traveled to churches and schools to teach the songs. Preachers could gather marketplace crowds simply by singing Punjabi psalms.
… The number of Punjabi Christians soared from 3,823 in 1881 to 37,980 in 1901.
… Soon Anglicans, Baptists, Catholics, and other Christians included Punjabi zaboors in their hymnals. As psalm singing spread across denominations, classes, and borders, the number of Punjabi Christians leapt from 163,994 in 1911 to 315,031 in 1921.
… Eric Sarwar grew up singing 70 of those same psalm portions at home and church. When strangers attacked him in 2009, and his parents and wife in 2010, he took comfort in Psalm 18, ‘the most popular psalm in Pakistan. It represents God’s providence, safety, power, deliverance, and kindness. In our context of living below poverty line and facing discrimination and hard challenges every day, it gives hope and encouragement. Its musical tune and rhythm is simple, catchy, and on high notes with shouts of joy,’ he says.
- Learn about the Gospel’s reach to the mostly illiterate Punjabi on the Joshua Project website. Type “Punjabi” in the search bar and explore.
- Voice of the Martyrs has up-to-date news about persecution and suffering. Type “Punjab” for news.
- Pray for Punjabi Christians. Eric Sarwar, a Presbyterian Church of Pakistan pastor (mentioned in the above quote), is on a mission to restore Psalm-singing to immerse his people in God’s Word.
- I’m adding worship videos in various languages. Find more here.