Bangladesh Adventures

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Enjoying Durga Puja

One of the most important Bengali Hindu celebrations is that of Durga Puja. According to the Hindu solar calendar, it falls on the first nine days of the month of Ashvin; this year the celebration began on Sep. 23rd and ends with the biggest day of revelry on Oct. 2nd. The best place to observe this year’s festivities in Bangladesh are in Dhamrai or in Old Dhaka at Shakhari Bazaar, otherwise known as ‘Hindu Street.

During Durga Puja, god in the form of the Divine Mother is worshiped in her various forms as Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Though the goddess is one, she is represented and worshiped in three different aspects. On the first three nights of the festival, Durga is worshiped. On the following three, Lakshmi and then Saraswati Devi on the last three nights. The following tenth day is called Vijayadasami. Vijaya means "victory", the victory over one's own minds that can come only when these three: Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati are worshiped. Today's most authentic form of the Durga is that of a ten handed goddess modeled out of clay astride a lion. Each of those hands carry a separate weapon in them except two, which holds the spear which has been struck into the chest of the demon, Mahishasura. Look for these clay icons and follow the sound of drum-beats as on the tenth day from the new moon, the image is immersed in a pond or river. (Picture at left:The goddess. Hundreds of clay icons, like these from
Shakhari Bazaar, are worshipped during Durga Puja.)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Four Days of Non-Stop Rain

20 – 23 September we had four days of non-stop rain! Life across Bangladesh was severely disrupted for the fourth consecutive day yesterday due to incessant rain brought on by a low-pressure system over Bangladesh. Heavy rain (we don’t have a rain gauge so I’m not sure how many inches but there is a lake around our apartment building), tidal surge, tornadoes and high winds have wreck havoc across the country.

More than 1,000 fishermen are missing in the Bay of Bengal. Even after four days since the violent storm lashed the coastal belt, the government has yet to undertake a comprehensive rescue missions for the missing fishermen. Relatives of the missing ones are still waiting on the beaches for their dear ones in different coastal areas.

We took a walk in the rain but other than that, we stayed indoors for the weekend. We watched two movies “Hercules” and the new “Pink Panther” movie; and played “Pictionary” the hot game of the house this month.

Just for the record: I estimate 15" so far in four days.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Continuous Rolling Black outs

Electricity is on its way out in Bangladesh. Last spring was the worst I have experienced in Bangladesh with the electricity turning off. It averaged two to three times a day for an hour each time. However, its beginning to be obnoxious now. So far in August and September its averaging 4 to 6 times a day for an hour to three hours each time. The boys are fed up, as also most Bangladeshi are. You can pretty much count on the electricity going out every evening when you sit down for supper or when you want to play a game. Of course without any fan going it gets hot. So we are taking more showers because of sweating so much. In August we tried to get by with candles but they made you hot so we have invested in a 24 inch rechargeable automatic light-up tube light that has a four hour duration time on its battery. We only have one in the living room but it makes a big difference.

The current government decided 8 years ago that it didn’t need to invest in new power plants. Well, talk about short sightedness- now there is a huge deficit in power, which the present or future government may never be able to catch up. The problem is the government does not want to spend foreign currency on paying a foreign company to produce electricity in Bangladesh. I believe that the reason the government doesn’t want to use foreign (hard) currency on power plants or anything else that would help the regular citizen is that the government is to busy putting all the hard currency they can get their hands on in their own foreign bank accounts. Before you say that I’m just a electricity starved foreigner- remember that for five years running Bangladesh has been rated number ONE in the world for corruption by Transparency International.

Some apartment buildings have big generators but to the boys chagrin our does not. So as you sit in your house filled with electric light think of 150 million Bangladeshi and some of us foreigners sitting in the dark. The only positive think about the continuous rolling blackouts is that every time the electricity comes back on we all say, “Halleluiah!”

Friday, September 15, 2006

Ten Project Visit in Southwest Bangladesh

From 11-14 Sept I visited 10 local church child sponsorship projects in Southwest Bangladesh. It was an incredible week of seeing how God is working with His precious children in Bangladesh. We started Monday morning from Dhaka at 6 a.m. in a torrential rain pour, part of a last gasp of the Monsoon season, which will be finished by the end of Sept. The rains have been relatively light this year, without any widespread flooding. We reached the ferry crossing in two hours. We rented a van for this trip. Sajal and Simon, Program Facilitators and my self made the visits this week.

We reached the first project, BD-315 Monirampur Child Sponorship Project (CSP) near Jessore with 100 precious children. This is a new project started this year. We had lunch with the children. I had the privileged to sit between two cute seven-year-old boys. We had vegetables, dhal, and rice. They had a great way of waiting on the children. The children had hand signs for anything they needed once they started eating. For more rice they would raise their right hand in a fist. For more vegetable they world raise their left hand. For salt they would raise their left hand and point their index finger into the air. For more water they would raise their left hand with their cup in it. For more dhal they would raise their right hand in the air in the open position. It was so neat and quiet to see 100 small children in a small tin shed eating without saying a world and having the project staff wait on them without a word.

The main church, which doubles, as the project area is a 20 feet wide by 35 feet long tin shed with a roof and three sides. The open side has an overhang over a porch that gives more room during class time. The floor is brick on dirt. There is no electricity at this project.

From BD-315 we went to BD-314 Ophapur CSP near Satkhira with 101 precious children. This project is over a year old with a very dynamic pastor at the church that is very excited about making an impact in the children’s lives. The children performed songs, dances and small plays for us. It was fun spending the afternoon with them. Both projects are part of Mission of Shalom Churches. I spent Monday evening discussing with the denominational leader strategies for working with children.

We spent Monday night at the Salvation Army Guest House in Jessore. It was a HOT night with no electricity for the ceiling fan most of the night.

Tuesday we visited three projects. We started with BD-312 Mohandi CSP in Satkhira with 100 precious children. Mohandi is an Assembly of God church. They had a very interesting play for us about sin and how to un-stick yourself from the clutches of sin. The children all sat there spell bound by the actors (children from the project). But I’m sure they have seen the play many times before.

From there we went to BD-307 Gonali CSP. This project has 147 precious children in an old missionary compound. We had lunch at this project; they were having goat meat, dhal, vegetable and rice. This was a jackpot for me because I really like goat curry. It is amazing how a proper diet for just 6 months can change the appearance of a child. It is also amazing how project staff get more and more excited as they see children developing right before their eyes.

From Gonali we went to BD-308 Verchi CSP. Verchi has 146 precious children in a picturesque village of Bangladesh. This project has a dedicated team of staff- a project manager, accountant, two social workers, 6 teachers, one cook, two cook helpers and a caretaker. They all just beamed the whole time we where there and you could both see and sense their love for the children. That is one of our major goals that the children are loved. Like most projects, this project is open 6 days a week from 8:30 a.m. till 6 p.m. Pre school children come from 9 to 2 and the older children come after they are finished with school, usually at 12 noon and stay to as late as 6 p.m. All the children eat together from 1 to 2 p.m. The project is closed on Friday but the Church has Sunday school for the children and near 90% of the project children come to Sunday School (on Fridays- remember Sunday is a work day in Bangladesh, Friday is their holy day.) Both BD-308 and 307 belong to Free Christian Churches of Bangladesh.

Tuesday night we went to the mission compound of Bangladesh Free Baptist Churches (BFBC). This was interesting because the mission compound is under 3 feet of water so we had to walk on bamboo bridges to the compound and around the compound. We spent the night there with the denominational leader. His wife cooked us and excellent Bengali meal and we talked late into the night.

On Wednesday we visited two BFBC projects- BD-317 Ataroa and BD-311 Krismotkhona both in the Satkhira district of Bangladesh. The children in these projects are from the untouchable caste of the Hindu religion so they are the poorest of the poor but the children where smiling brightly as we visited their projects. Both of these projects have church schools attached to them. The main reason for this is because up until the late 1990s the Muslims and Higher Hindu caste would not let the untouchables go to their schools. We had to walk through mud, knee deep to get to both projects. It was funny. However, these villagers and their children have to walk in this mud four months out of every year. Since they are untouchables the government does not make roads to their villages. The villagers couldn’t believe that I (a foreigner) could walk through the mud- I told them that we have mud in America and it is a pleasure to have the stuff squeeze up between your toes! However, I have to admit, I have never walked through mud this deep; that includes four years in Noakhali, Bangladesh with some serious mud. There just wasn’t any way around this mud. One parent kept thanking me for the project and that I would come through the mud to visit them. It was my pleasure!!

I had a skip rope competition at the Krismotkhona project with a number of girls and boys- I was sweating by the end of it- actually I was already sweating at the beginning of it!

God is working in all the projects. Just seeing healthy smiling children that can go to school and have tutoring from the poorest families in Bangladesh is a miracle from God. In addition, these children are receiving proper nutrition, physical activities, health care, spiritual development and a safe loving environment to grow and learn in. Thank you to all who are sponsors! If you would like to sponsor a child from Bangladesh please go to the Compassion web page at

Wednesday night we stay at a hotel in Khulna, Hotel Castle Salam (only one large cockroach). I had a dinner meeting at the house of the regional pastor of the Assembly of God Churches in Greater Khulna. On Thursday morning we started back towards Dhaka and our last two projects to visit. We were two hours into our trip when we hit a political motivated roadblock and we had to turn back and go another way, which added another hour to our travels. We reached BD-302 Badarpur CSP around 12 noon. They have a very colorful Children Club room for their preschool class; which even has a TV set in it. About 20 preschool children were dancing and singing to a Bengali Children’s program. It was special just to sit and watch them having fun and learning. None of the 20 children have a TV at their home so it is a special treat for them to watch an educational program. Badarpur is a Bangladesh Baptist Church project with 149 precious children. From there we went a very short 20 minute walk to another project, BD-318 Raghunandanpur CSP. BD-318 is only two months old so they are just getting their act together but doing a wonderful service to the children. The children brought flowers from their homes for me- it was so touching! It was so so so HOT in the one room church building. I was sweating like a pig (not a good saying in a Muslim country). Nevertheless, I sat on the floor with a group of children to eat a delicious lunch of Egg curry, dhal, potatoes, and rice. This project is part of the Assembly of God churches. After a discussion, prayer and encouragement with the project staff we headed to Dhaka. At each project we visited a spent 30 min to one hour with the staff for discussion, prayer and encouragement- they are truly doing a great job- all made possible by our LORD!

I arrived at my home at 7:30 p.m. it was a great week- a week that makes all the hard work, life of Dhaka (15 million people) and being away from PA (family, friends and comforts) worthwhile. It was great to be out of Dhaka. In October I’m going to do a similar trip to the Northwest to visit projects but this time I’m going to take Nita and the boys. The boys have off for midterm break so it will work perfectly.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Kini and Steven, and your prayers

This picture touches my heart. The small girl is Kini, a sponsored child from Bangladesh and the taller boy is Steven, a sponsored child from Rwanda. They are both in a hospital in Chennai, India for special heart surgery. Both Bangladesh and Rwanda doctors wrote them off as dying very soon. But Compassion believes in the strength of our Lord, Jesus Christ and doesn't take dying as an option.

In fact, I didn't know what to do with Kini- we were all so sad- everything pointed to "no hope." However, my colleague and boss, Mathew George said, "Don't give up keep trying to save her life. One child is precious to God, Compassion and Us." I agreed with him full heartily.

We sent a video of the inside of her heart to Australia and India to see what other doctors would recommend. The Indian doctor said there was a 50-50 chance but we should try it.

So, Kini had open heart surgery on the left side of her heart last week. So far it looks like it is successful. In two weeks she will have open heart surgery for the right side of her heart. Both of these surgeries are to improve her quality of life not to save her. In two years, she will return, God willing, to India for the final surgery. Her heart and lungs have problems dissolving the oxygen in the blood.

Please continue to pray for these precious children. Thank you.

Home Trip Summer 06

Nita and the boys where in Pennsylvania at my mother’s house from 15 June and I joined them there on 14 July. It was a great time to be with family and friends.

The boys said the vacation was over when I arrived because I kicked everybody into high gear to get things done and to see people/things. Once again we all gained weight by being in America. For the boys I blame it on my mother who buys too many potato chips for them, for me it was all those delicious cheeseburgers on the grill!

We started with “The Lebo Bash” at our friend’s house, Laurie and Jeff in Newberry, PA. They had live bands that are under Jeff’s record label, American Fallout. The next week was filled with doctors’ visits and work around my mom’s house. It was interesting when I returned to Bangladesh; my staff asked me why my hands were all beat up. I proudly stated, “I worked with my hands doing manual labor!” City Slickers are not use to working with their hands.

We went to the beach for two days in Ocean City, Maryland. My sister, Julie and family were down for the week so we had a great time with them. Elliot, Evan, Charles and I battled the waves by body surfing and Olivia, Chase, and Chad stayed closer to the shoreline, while CJ played in the sand.

We spent time with my cousin, Doug’s family in Berwick and then went to Knoebels Amusement Park for Ginny’s graduation party. Chad was happy at Knoebels because he was tall enough, just, to ride the great coasters there! Ginny graduated from Penn State University and plans to work in Washington, D.C. this fall. If you remember, Ginny visited us in Bangladesh in 03, went to China in 04, Spain in High School and Hungary in 06. She gets around and I suspect she with be back overseas soon.

Spent a day at the dentist- no cavities for all six. We spent two days in Manassas, Virginia with friends, Duane and Lori from Bangladesh. They have two boys and we went to Six Flags with them. Charles, Chase, and I rode on the Superman coaster- now that is a coaster. It was great catching up with Duane and Lori while they are on home leave.

We took in some films while in the states- “Cars” we saw with my sister, Maureen. It was CJ first movie at a movie theater- he liked it; plus we went to the drive-in an saw “Pirates of the Caribbean II” and “Nacho Libra.” We were invited to picnics at a number of friends’ and relatives houses and grilled in the back yard as much as possible. The back yard is so nice and peaceful compared to our apartments in Dhaka.

We spent two days visiting New York City. We went down to “Ground Zero,” walked around “Battery Park,” and took the Staten Island Ferry. We enjoyed our time in New York but it was one of the hottest days this summer. We had our own private tour guide a friend of Nita and mine, Sue. Thank you Sue!

We finished our time with going to the dirt track races with uncle Jim, Shipman family picnic for my sister, Maureen’s birthday, and being with Mom.

Once again, Pastor Tim and his Ford Excursion did a great job of picking us up and dropping us off at the Airport. Thank you Pastor Tim!

In addition, the whole trip was made possible by our home church, Mt. Zion Lutheran Church. They paid for all our airfares from Bangladesh to USA and back. That’s no small matter when you have six family members. Thank you Mt. Zion!

We left the USA on 9 August and flew to London. I will tell you about our England experiences in the next blog.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Back on the Blog Map

Dear All:

I'm sorry that our other blog site, has not been working. We will keep the old site as an archives of the previous three years, hopefully it will be up and running again, sometime. We will be using this new site for our news from Bangladesh. We hope this site will stay up and running. It was recommended to us by our good from Glen from sunny California.

Please feel free to e-mail us at this site (comments) or or

Thanks for all your support and patience.

Jesus' Peace, Kevin for all