Greetings from Bangladesh!
Teams of pastors and other mission-minded folk from the Churches of God have traveled to Bangladesh to celebrate 125 years of ministry there. That’s right. 125 years! It's a tremendous amount of time. Really, a daunting amount of time to consider and appreciate.
The mission in Bangladesh was founded by Clara Landes from our Iowa Conference in 1898. Clara, only a young woman at the time, heeded God’s call on her life. It was her faithfulness, along with the faithfulness of several other women missionaries like Viola (Hershey) Cover, Evelyn Shuey, and more, that produced and sustained our ministry in Bangladesh during much of the last century. Now though, in this century, our Bangladesh churches number 175, with 72 Bengali pastors leading them. It’s an immense ministry, and that’s not even counting the schools. As of 2023, there are 74 nursing students in our nursing school, 21 schools that we operate, with more than 450 children enrolled. Likewise, the Bogra Hospital and Khanjanpur Health & Eye clinic collectively serve 120,000 patients every year. Khanjanpur is also home to a Boy’s and Girl’s Hostel operated by the Mission.
For this 125th celebration, an ACTS team arrived last week, meanwhile the president of the CGGC, Dr. David Odegard, and the vice President, Bob Fall, (along with myself and Travis Helm), have all traveled to Bangladesh to celebrate together. The celebration itself has seen all the pastors and some of their families gather in a beautiful Catholic mission house for worship, messages, encouragement, history lessons, and fellowship around an amount of food that has us all overfull. This celebration marks a rare occasion where all our pastors in Bangladesh can come together, refresh themselves, and be encouraged about the importance of their work.
A mixture of pastors from India and the U.S. have been welcomed as special guests and speakers, to encourage the pastors here, and to help train them for the challenges they are facing in this field. The Christian population in Bangladesh is not even 1% of the total, and +90% are Muslim with the remaining being mostly Hindu. While Bangladesh isn’t the most dangerous field for Christians, the cultural climate can still be quite demanding (and the normal climate too, for that matter).
Our Bengali brothers and sisters here are so grateful for our partnership and support. But the pastors and travelers from the US find ourselves learning from the Bengali pastors just as much as they learn from us. Their experience preaching God’s love from a minority position isn’t easy, but as one pastor said, “You can trust that if they become a believer, it’s genuine.” Americans in particular are interested to understand and learn from the way that Bengali pastors do gospel ministry. In many ways, American pastors need to relearn how to reach out. There's wonderful sense of mutuality between us.
The hospitality, as always, is overwhelming. Whether it’s second and third helpings of food that’s sneaked onto your plate before you realize it, or cups and cups of coffee and tea, there’s no beating the kindness and consideration our Bangladesh leaders give to those who come and visit. So, let me make a clear petition. If you’re interested in experiencing some missions work, come to Bangladesh on an ACTS team some future year. Meet fellow Christians who are doing God’s work here, sharing the love of Christ, teaching children, healing the sick, and creating community. It’s a genuinely beautiful thing.
There’s an apathy toward religion in the United States, even among Christians, that can be quite disheartening. That kind of apathy can even settle on pastors, but coming here and seeing the significance of each act, the importance of the work, it really does reinvigorate your perspective (or at least it has mine). It’s exciting to see a ministry that has lasted for 125 years, and which seems positioned well to last for another 125. Our Bengali pastors have a strong conception of their own history and their continuity with those Bengali pastors and American missionaries who came before. They haven’t lost touch with their mission or their purpose, and they continue to prioritize not just building churches, but potent community development. Our Bengali churches don’t only build churches and hope people come. They go to where people are, and begin to transform their communities, in the same way that missionaries like Clara Landis did 125 years ago. We have the utmost faith and confidence that our Bengali pastors and leaders will keep alive this legacy of mission, and that they will carry on the great commission of Christ.
Will you join me in praying for our Bengali brothers and sisters?
You can read more about our Bangladesh ministries HERE. You'll also find ways to directly support the mission, the pastors, the hospitals, and the children too.
Farewell from beautiful Bangladesh,
CGGC eNews—Vol. 27, No. 43