TORONTO, Ontario — A former
Muslim, North American Mission Board missionary Nadeem Qazi’s conversion to
Christianity set his life on a path of sharing his faith no matter the cost.
Born to Muslim parents in Pakistan, Qazi was raised like most Muslim children
in the upper caste. By age 8, he had studied the entire Quran and learned how
to follow the practices of Islam.
Qazi left Pakistan to pursue a Ph.D. in Europe when he was 25. When he met a
group of Christian students in Denmark who told him about a loving God who
meets people’s needs, Qazi heard the message at a time when he felt utterly
hopeless, and he gave his life to Christ.
It took him awhile before he found the courage to write to his family in
Pakistan about his new life. His father became angry and didn’t accept Qazi as
“My family said I was dead to them and to never come back home,” Qazi recalled.
“But I have no regrets. Praise God, He took me from there and gave me love I
Eventually, God sent Qazi back to Pakistan to share the gospel with his people
and help start churches.
“There was so much joy going back with a different mandate and challenge.” Qazi
said. “The people there are very hard, disappointed and disoriented, but you
love them and that makes the whole difference.
“We had a tremendous opportunity to share the gospel.”
He saw many people
convert to Christianity, even his own sister.
In addition to starting churches, Qazi helped start schools for Pakistani
Christian children living on the streets with no means of getting an education.
After many years of ministry in Pakistan, Qazi began to receive letters from
the Pakistani government warning him to leave the country because his life was
in danger. He and his wife Jamila escaped to Canada, where they found “such a
freedom here we never knew.”
Nadeem and Jamila were surprised that a neighborhood of Toronto named Brampton
seemed so much like Pakistan and southern Asia.
“There were more people with the turban and Pakistani and Indian dress who
spoke the same language,” Qazi said. “We started building friendships and
sharing God’s Word with them.”
Toronto is one of North America’s most ethnically diverse cities. More than 50
percent of the population was born outside of Canada, according to Jeff
Christopherson, NAMB missionary and church planting strategist for southern
Ontario. Christopherson is always on the lookout for indigenous leaders from
people groups around the world who have a heart to reach their people. When he
met Nadeem and Jamil he asked if they would help reach south Asians in Toronto
and eventually start a church.
The invitation resonated, with Jamila noting, “I knew God had a different plan
for us in this city.”
Many Pakistanis and other south Asians use public transportation to get to and
from work, so the Qazis began traveling the city by bus looking for people who
speak one of the nine languages they speak.
“We sit next to them and start talking,” Qazi said. “We get their names and
addresses so we can visit them. It’s a good way to reach out.”
Because they speak so many languages, the Qazis are able to connect with many
“God’s words will speak to their heart in their own language,” Jamila said. “It
has much deeper meaning and value than any other language. It’s much sweeter to
When immigrants first arrive in Toronto they are in culture shock and “lonely
and desperate,” Qazi said, so he and his wife help them find apartments,
furniture, even jobs as they adapt to their new surroundings.
The Qazis have been working primarily among Hindu, Sikh and Muslim groups. They
have started a couple of Bible studies in Brampton that they hope will grow
into a church. Many of these people would never be in the same room in their
home countries. One meets in the home of a Sikh family who accepted Jesus two
“We have a such a passion for these people,” Jamila said. “We see them
struggling in the same way as they struggle in Pakistan. Our heart breaks
because they are not free in this country. So we really want to share God’s
love with them that they may understand all this freedom in Christ.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Pipes is a writer for the North American Mission Board.
To view a video about Nadeem Qazi and other missionary and chaplain ministries
through NAMB and its state partners, visit www.namb.net and click on the “Missionary
Focus” gallery. Pray for the more than 3,000 contacts Nadeem and Jamila Qazi
have made in Toronto that they will come to know the Lord.)