Pakistan is not often featured in newspaper travel sections. It's far away, exotic, and potentially lethal. A few months back, journalist Deann Alford, after praying with her husband and others, decided to leave her comfort zone in Austin, Texas, to join a ministry trip bound for Pakistan, where 4 million Christians are a living witness for the gospel amid grave persecution.

Deann is accustomed to taking risks in pursuit of a story or, for that matter, following the impromptu beckonings of the Holy Spirit. Last year, she reported for ct from inside Bellavista Prison in Colombia about the ongoing revival among the prison's worst contract killers. She has interviewed the mighty (George W. Bush) and the dispossessed (homeless churchgoers in Waco, Texas).

Looking back, Deann says that from her childhood God was preparing her to listen to the hurts of others and share their stories. Growing up on the wrong side of Shreveport, Louisiana, Deann thought a hard-knock life was normal. She told me, "What finally forced my mother to move from the neighborhood was a drive-by shooter that planted a bullet in my mother's bedroom wall two feet above her head while she slept."

As a teenager, Deann traveled to war-torn Colombia. But that trip was disastrous. On her second day, she felt the hot buzz of a wayward bullet breeze past her ear. Within a month, she decided to cut her trip short. Later in college, Deann received a prestigious Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship, allowing her to study at the University of Costa Rica. "There I was living a dream in Costa Rica. Still I was profoundly empty."

Lonely and stricken with severe bronchitis, Deann stumbled into an evangelical church. The missionaries she ...

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