2020 OFF TO A GREAT START
We had set a date for Bangladesh during the first part of 2019 and, what seemed like something very distant, suddenly arrived. The team would consist of three people from the U.S., three from Japan, and three from the Philippines. This is one of the smallest groups we had ever had. As time moved closer, I felt God saying to anticipate something different. “Don’t think it’s just another trip.” Just a few weeks before we were to leave, the doctor going with us suffered a heart attack and couldn’t make it. We were quite concerned as we know this is an important component, but our host missionaries, Vijay and Apa Balla, were confident we could find help locally.
Upon arrival, we reviewed our schedule for the seven days of clinics. With an experienced team, we could rise to the occasion. We soon realized why Vijay was so confident. The landlord of the building, housing the ministry’s guest apartment, was a retired army surgeon and gladly said he would help out.
Our first location was the Holiness Academy for two days of clinics. On a previous trip, a building team had joined us and worked on the second floor as we conducted clinics. It’s now a beautiful three-story building that stands as a beacon of hope. Located on the outskirts of Dhaka, it hosts a school that is open to Muslim children in the area and boarding for Christian families living in remote areas. Around 180 children attend.
Our next stop was a two-day clinic at a garment factory. Bangladesh is the second-largest garment exporter after China and employs 4.5 million people. The social landscape has changed so much in this nation. During my first visit, a decade ago, I was shopping at a four-story bazaar with small individual stalls selling one specific item. What grabbed my attention was that I didn’t encounter one woman working at any stall and didn’t see one woman shopping. You seldom saw women in the streets, and if so, they were with their husbands. The women who came to our clinics were brought by their husbands. On this trip, as we drove to the clinics daily, I was astounded by the large numbers of women commuting to work, mostly in factories.
This factory is owned by a Christian Indian and a close friend of our missionaries. He told us the clinics serve as a wonderful opportunity to bless his employees and for them to receive compassionate responses to their physical needs. They also added another area called the “Prayer room,” and after their health check, they were asked to go there. One of our teams from the Philippines made this observation, “I was assigned to help pray for those who were willing to be prayed for. Though most of them could not understand English, there were a few who could. I observed that the Muslims have the concept of prayer in their religion, but Hindus only know about appeasement through offerings to specific idols for a need. Many of the women would have tears in their eyes as the prayer concluded. I felt led to pray Eph. 2:12-13 for them. ‘At that time, you were apart from Christ. But now, in union with Christ Jesus, you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.’” Pray with us that those prayers will open their understanding of their need for a Savior.
We were blessed to attend the dedication of a new building, encourage another church by blessing their community, and attend a new church plant ministering to rice mill workers. They were the poorest of the various groups we encountered, living in substandard housing, and many were malnourished. I’m so thankful for this pastor’s heart to reach this community.
SOWING INTO A NATION
The work in Bangladesh began in 2002. At that time, Bangladesh was one of the poorest nations in the world and is now considered one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. I’m grateful there are Christian businessmen there, and God is using them to bless their workers. The new church building dedication was through the donations of another Christian Indian businessman. The Ballas’ 18 years of labor is bearing fruit as a network of churches are being established. The fruit of the Holiness Academy is evident in the lives of the children living there, as well as in those who have graduated, pursuing careers.
As our time ended, team members shared their thoughts on how wonderful it was to see God’s provision of health, peace, and order in all that we did. God chose a Muslim doctor to step in and fill a need, and by the way, he also hosted us for an afternoon tea in his home. God again reminded us that His agenda accomplishes His purposes.
Thank you for sowing into my life and calling. It’s wonderful to serve a God who provides opportunities to sow into nations and have the assurance a harvest will be reaped.
the Gospel in Asia