January 06, 2020

Reflecting on 2019: lights, camera… action!

2019 was a huge year for PAK7… in many ways it was our first full year of operation and I am amazed to see what God has done.

Building a Production Capability

One of our biggest challenges is finding enough Christian film producers who can make the kind of programs we need to make and with the right level of quality. Our strategy to address this was and is to work with partners and to train talented young people.

In January 2019 we had just 2 staff, myself and Naina Mall (a 25 year old British Pakistani who is heading our programming), but within a few weeks we had been joined by a British Pakistan filmmaker and four excellent Pakistani partners who came on board to help us run our Video Star Reality TV show. It was surprising and wonderful to see how God brought this team together.

As you probably know, over the summer we ran our Video Star media training programme, and as a result now have ten young Pakistani interns working with us as well. These interns are now working as two small production units to make short programs for PAK7 and to continue growing their skills.

In addition to this we have grown our network of Pakistani Christian media professionals, some of whom would be available to produce programming for PAK7.

Video Star: Media Training Program & Reality TV Show

In many ways, the year was dominated by Video Star – our big plan to help identify and train young talented Christian media professionals and to produce a ground-breaking reality TV program about their journey that would help change the way Christians are perceived in Pakistan.

My great plan was to delegate this to my 23 year old Production manager who had never actually made a program before… it seems rather foolhardy in retrospect. But I am a strong believer in empowering young people, and I believe that they are capable of great things if we release them and encourage them… so that’s what we did. By March Naina had assembled and was leading a team of about 30 contractors to run the 10 day Selection Phase and had recruited 20 young people to take part! Wow. I’m not saying that everything went perfectly, it didn’t (perhaps you’ll get to read about that some time :-)), but it went really well and I am immensely proud of her and the team, and thankful to God for his hand on the project.

In the Summer, 11 of those young people came for a 10 week training course and we were joined by two German volunteers who helped to lead the training. That was a gift from God too – bringing together, at just the right time, people with a common vision and heart to see young people trained. And what a great bunch of young people – we really came to know and to love them over that time and are excited about how God is going to use them in the future.

When the course finished we offered all of the young people the chance to participate in a 9 month internship programme where they would be paid to continue their learning and to make programs for PAK7. One went on to University, but ten joined us on this phase, and we are excited to be working with them and watching them grow as they work on two short TV series for PAK7.

And the Reality TV show? That was being edited in November/December and in fact that’s stretching on into 2020…. It’s going well, but I think our lack of experience showed here a little as condensing all the footage we took into sixteen 40 minute episodes has taken quite some work. But we are close – and I am confident that this is going to be a fantastic production.

Growing our Development Capacity

Another wonderful area of progress in 2019 was the maturing we saw in terms of our development capability. It might not sound as glamorous as making TV programs, but without support and resources we can’t make PAK7 a success… we need the help of the global church.

In June we appointed Mark Hausfeld as the president of PAK7 US, tasked with the responsibility of leading our work in North America. He came with a wealth of experience in Christian ministry, fundraising, and Pakistan (where he lived and worked for several years). It has been exciting to see how God has brought us together and how Mark is able to use his relationships and skills to share the vision of PAK7 and to bring funding partners into the work. We have a strong board in the USA and are building a staff team to grow our capability.

Our communications also improved (although not as much as we perhaps would have liked). We produced a number of promotional videos to talk about our vision and our programming, we grew our use of Facebook and YouTube, wrote a 30 day prayer guide, produced a number of printed deliverables, launched an online giving platform, and ran multiple events to talk about the work. We had been praying for a Communications Manager to come and join us, but two well-qualified candidates we had identified dropped out and so we sadly faltered in this regard. However, right at the end of the year we were able to engage a part time writer to help us with the work, and are looking forward to better and more frequent communications in 2020.

We’re a start-up, so it takes time to get known and to build a reputation as an organisation that can deliver. We’ve made a lot of contacts and made good progress, but there is lots more to do. We pray that 2020 will be a year where God helps us to continue growing so that we can see the vision he has given us come to fruition.

We made some other programs too

Yes, it wasn’t all about Video Star! We also finished the production of our first children’s program called Stories Jesus Told and are well underway with the two intern-led programs: Zavia and Point of View.

In addition to that we have mostly completed our pre-production on a second children’s program called Bedtime Stories modelled on SAT-7’s highly successful program of the same name. As well as that, there are a number of excellent program proposals from partners that we are considering. Funding is of course the biggest challenge and many of these are on hold until we have the resources to make them happen.

All in all I am so encouraged at what God has done in us and through us in 2019. There was undoubtedly much more that happened (including 3 trips to Pakistan for me which I thoroughly enjoyed) but I hope that this article has given you a sense of what happened. Don’t get me wrong, there were highs and lows, but we have made enormous progress this last year.

I’m thankful to God for his grace and favour as we seek to serve his church and the peoples of Pakistan. Thank you too for the part you have played!