Bangladesh Adventures

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 www.compassion.com

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.

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