Kathreen Shabaz, a nurse and an Authorised Lay Minister at St Barnabas, Oldham, was brought up in a Catholic family in Pakistan.
“I wouldn’t count myself then as Christian. We are three brothers, three sisters and I am the youngest. My Dad wanted us to go to church but I used to look at my watch - to be honest I wasn’t listening, just waiting for it to finish.
“I became a nurse and also a dancer. I was in charge of an intensive care unit in Karachi aged 20 and teaching dance. I became selfish and proud. On 16 September 2001, a girl came to work with the bible and I said ‘why do you have the Bible?’ as I was senior to her.
“She invited me to come to her bible college. I was fun-loving, just enjoying my life, but I went. I saw the teacher at the front, students on the floor, he was teaching 1 Peter 4 - if it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will it be for the ungodly and the sinner? He said ‘This is college for people who really love God – if you are just playing at it, you can go, there’s the door.’ So I went!
“That night, I was sharing my room with my sister, and I couldn’t sleep, lying awake thinking ‘are you righteous, godly or a sinner? All of a sudden I realised everything in my life was worthless, it didn’t matter. I rang the teacher and he said ‘this is God’s calling to you’.
“My family tried to stop me going to the college. But I decided ‘what God likes is what I’m going to do.’ My teacher told me ‘just love them; they don’t know what they are doing.’
“I didn’t want to come to England, but being a Christian was difficult and I was told there would be more opportunities here. In 2005 I came, and I was married four years later. I want to live for God and serve God. My husband and I have been blessed with two children, Jeremiah and Joshua.
“I started education in Nazarene college in Didsbury in 2007-08, then I was ordained as a pastor serving the Asian Christian community. One day they told me I was not allowed to preach because I’m a woman.
“I discovered that the Church of England might be a home. I met Pastor Paul [the Revd Dr Paul Monk is team vicar responsible for St Barnabas] - such a nice man.
“Pastor Paul put me forward for ALM training. I now preach and lead prayers and feel encouraged. I truly love what I am doing. I cannot be silent, I want to serve God, who never departs from me; Jesus who loves me more than anyone can.”