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Pakistani Christian Refugee builds restaurant business from scratch


A family in the dark.  Stephen Maqsood sits in a room without electricity praying for the next pay day.

A Pakistani Christian refugee in Greece is seeking contracts from Charities helping asylum seekers to help him continue feeding his family and gain electricity for his home.

Stephen Maqsood a married father with two children had to flee Pakistan after a man jealous of his success as a qualified nurse accused him of a blasphemy.  

To avoid arrest Stephen rushed to another city where he stayed with a friend for a month while friends and his church helped him raise the money and organize a travel visa for a flight to Turkey. Stephen stayed in Turkey for five months and then with 12 friends bought a small rubber dinghy by which they all paddled to Greece over two trips. Stephen said:

"I had no option open to me but to tray my luck at sea.  I had never done anything like this before but could not afford the extortionate fees of the agents for whom I probably would have had to sail the same way myself anyway.

"It was the most frightening time of my life but it was also the day that I found a new found freedom in Europe.  No Islamic nation is safe for a Christian despite what western governments say."

In Greece he immediately registered his case with the UNHCR who at first seemed reluctant to hear his case, but eventually after an initial interview granted him an asylum seeker registration.

Stephen found his first few days in Greece tough and spent two nights homeless till he gained help from local charities. However the charities only provided food and shelter and he needed to earn money to support his wife and two children at home.

Stephen remembers several difficult moments including the day he gave his phone as security for water bottles.  He agreed that he would pay for the bottles with a wholesaler friend after selling them near the Acropolis World Heritage site.  God blessed him that day and by paying 20 cents for bottles and selling them for 50 cents he was able to repay his debt and retrieve his phone which was a gift from a charity volunteer.  The phone was his only way of communicating with his family so as you can imagine it brought great relief.

Stephen started buying larger quantities of bottles to make more money, and eventually was able to buy a second had moped.  However, two parking tickets later he realized he would have to park for free quite far away and carry the bottles a long distance by hand.  He used to hide the stack behind some bushes and only carried two bottles at a time after a police officer almost arrested him, until he explained he was a Christian asylum seeker.  The Policeman took away the bottles Stephen was selling which was a devastatingblow.   As an asylum seeker he was not legally allowed to work so he had few other options, however one day he was able to give up selling bottles of water after he met Pastor George a local Baptist Minister, on his way home from Omonia Square.

Pastor George started the process of evangelizing Stephen but was totally shocked when he discovered Stephen was a Christian.  He had not known that Christians lived in Pakistan so he invited Stephen to his church.  Stephen attended the the church and bible studies and started to occasionally cook food for after meeting fellowship.

Pastor George and the church loved Stephen's food so much that when the churches project for help of asylum seekers grew, Pastor George asked Stephen cook the meals for the Syrians and Pakistanis.  Stephen earned 2 euros per food package for around 30 meals a week in the initial few weeks but soon was making 120 meals a week.

For Stephen the income was life changing and he was able to put money aside for a future business.  God blessed him richly in 2013 when Stephen received a letter in the post telling him he had successfully been approved as a refugee.  No longer was he working illegally and he immediately tried to bring his family across to Greece. Sadly despite being an official refugee he was not granted reunification status for his family and so he paid for his family to come to Greece and they have applied for asylum.

Stephen then started to plan opening a restaurant business but discovered that as his refugee visa length was limited to two years he was unable to legally form a business.  Taking a risk he has partnered with a local Sri Lankan man with a business visa however and they both have invested 50% each of the cost for starting a restaurant.  They now employ an essential two cooks and one waitress and Stephen undertakes all the food deliveries for the take away element. 

Stephen delivering food.

The business is barely meeting its costs and the struggle is taking it's toll on Stephen.  When Wilson Chowdhry Chairman of the BPCA met with him and his family they were sitting in pitch black and were using mobile phone lights to find things in their home. Stephen asked him to help by contacting local charities that feed homeless people if they might allow him to take on the contract, as they would be helping an additional refugee.

Mr Chowdhry spoke with Hilda a volunteer with a charity called Helping Hands and she agreed to try Stephen out for 50 meals.  If the service and the quality is acceptable this could become a long term commitment for Stephen and will help him to get out of his current difficult position.   Mr Chowdhry will be contacting a further individual who is known for his personal donations of food vouchers in hope of creating a stable income for Stephen, a man who has proven to be resourceful and blessed by God.

Hilda Orr is helping Maqsood by purchasing food for asylum seekers from a refugee.

Stephen Maqsood said:

"God has given me more than I ever thought I could have.  Every time I faced difficulty he crated a pathway out for me. I thank him with every ounce of my being he is the most Holy and High God.

"My wife and I thought we would be evicted from our home, we have not paid our electricity bill for 8 months.  But I believe that our business will succeed now.  It has been consecrated through prayer and God will protect it.

"I thank BPCA for all they have done for me. They have given me hope again, may God protect them all."

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:

"God has given Stephen a new life in a country that unlike many has been extremely welcoming and caring to the vulnerable refugee community within them. 

"Many like Stephen need are prayers and support, we were glad that it was easy to make an inroad with his financial position so quickly.  But many more are struggling.  

"The Greek economy is the weakest in Europe but the heart of the people is generous beyond measure. Many throughout Europe could learn a lot from this wonderful nation."

If you would like to support the work of the BPCA which helps millions of persecuted Christians in Pakistan and asylum seekers across the globe, then please donate by clicking (here)

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