On a rainy Wednesday night in Pakistan, thousands are transfixed by a woman named Marilyn Hickey. The crowd sways, prays and cheers as she exclaims “Jesus loves you, repent of your sins!” and “God Bless you, Pakistan!”
Hickey is an 86-year-old evangelical Christian with a worldwide television ministry based in Denver. Over the last 40 years, she has traveled to 136 countries to spread the gospel. Her special mission has been to build bridges in Muslim countries like Pakistan, Egypt and Sudan.
“These people are very open and very hungry. And I think I laid a basis for this years ago and I began to say, ‘I love Muslims and Muslims love me’,” Hickey says.
She invited “CBSN: On Assignment” to join her on her eighth visit to Pakistan in July. Correspondent James Brown traveled with Hickey on the 20-hour trip that began in New York, stopped briefly in Dubai and landed in Lahore at 3:30 a.m. local time, two days later.
Brown asked Hickey why she’s been so accepted in Muslim countries. Hickey responded, “I think it’s a God thing. Years ago, I started praying over every country in the world, every day. And when I would hit the Muslim countries — I had such a warm feeling for them.”
When she arrives in Lahore, she is greeted like a matriarch by members of a local Christian church. The parishioners give her flowers, hug her and call her “mom.”
Despite the greeting, Hickey says she likes to keep things a little bit low key. “I don’t want to draw attention. I want to look very simple, very harmless. Here’s some lady, you know, she’s stupid, she’s a woman, she’s old, what can she do? And you get to do everything. I don’t want to look big, but I do advertise big. When I get in the country, I do big time advertisement.”
Pastor Anwar Fazal is hosting Hickey’s visit. He’s like the Billy Graham of Pakistan, and leads its largest evangelical church of 30,000 members. Fazal says he owes his success to Marilyn Hickey because she impacted him so deeply during her first visit in 1995. He became a Christian and followed in Marilyn Hickey’s footsteps in 2006 when he started an international TV ministry which today reaches over 200 countries.