Joel joined me a couple of weeks ago and after spending several busy days with me in Nepal we flew together to Bangladesh for our first face to face meeting with Pastor Monotosh who established and is the president of the Bangladesh Lutheran Church Mission (BLCM). Pastor Monotosh first contacted CLC President Eichstadt about three and half years ago. I have been corresponding with him on an almost weekly basis ever since. Together, we have completed several theological correspondence courses via email over the past three years.
Following the CLC Board of Missions Guidelines for Foreign Mission Fields, it was time for a face-to-face meeting. For a variety of reasons we were not sure if this visit was going to happen at this time, but the Lord cleared the way and it was decided that we could combine a visit to Bangladesh with my already scheduled visit to South East Asia. The Lord always seems to find a way to work these things out for His kingdom work to go on!
The visit to Bangladesh was a flurry of visits and a lot of travel since most of the congregations of the BLCM are scattered throughout Bangladesh with most of them being located about 8-9 hours away from the big city of Dhaka where we flew into. This impoverished, low-lying nation is prone to flooding and cyclones and thus the roads seem to be in a constant state of repair from recent destruction of one type or another. Due to years of political strife and other issues the infrastructure is also lacking. We had to use ferry boats to cross rivers since bridges were either under construction, non-existent, or under repair.
in spite the rugged travel conditions, the Lord kept us safe and allowed us the privilege of visiting...two congregations as they gathered for worship, two preaching stations gathered for worship, and three pre-schools/after-school tutoring centers.
After a couple of days of visits and driving late into the night we arrived back in Dhaka so we would have time on our final full day to meet with the leaders of the BLCM. Pastor Monotosh is the only ordained pastor, but he is currently working with eleven men who are serving as deacons to prepare them to eventually serve as pastors. There are fourteen congregations in the BLCM and Pastor Monotosh maintains a heavy travel schedule as he rotates through the six districts to meet with the deacons and visits the congregations to administer the Lord's Supper and preach. He is a busy man!
Bangladesh in a predominately Muslim nation (90%). They have freedom of religion but Islam is the official state religion and receives preference. According to the most recent statistics, Christianity represents only about .05% of the population. There is much work to be done here and the harvest is plentiful. Pray that the Lord of the harvest would send more workers! (Matthew 9:35ff) The congregations of the BLCM are made up almost entirely of former Hindus and Muslims. Pastor Monotosh himself was a Hindu until his early 20's when the Holy Spirit worked saving faith in his heart. All of the congregations of the BLCM are the only Christian churches in the villages where they are located except the preaching station in Dhaka.
While open and violent persecution is not common, we were told that individuals must write a letter requesting baptism and indicating that they were not coerced into conversion. This letter is then kept on file by the church as proof to government officials that the individual was not forced or coerced into becoming a Christian.
The visit went very well and I am looking forward to the Lord's continued blessings as we continue to study God's word together and work toward a God-pleasing declaration of fellowship based upon agreement in doctrine. We will schedule another visit for next year with myself and another representative from the CLC to specifically conclude the colloquy process.
Following a very busy few days in Bangladesh, we flew back to Kathmandu to spend a couple more days with the Himalayan Church of the Lutheran Confession of Nepal. Shortly before our return we were informed of our flight changes. This meant that we would only have an evening for discussions of the work in Nepal and to visit the children that are being cared for through Kinship sponsors. The time was way to short.
Thank you for your prayers these past eight weeks! The Lord has again been faithful in blessing these efforts to assist in the preaching and teaching of God's saving word! And thank you especially for your prayers for Beth and the kids. I am so thankful for the family that the Lord has given to me who so willingly support and encourage me in this work of proclaiming the Good News of our Savior!
Here's a few pictures from Bangladesh...
|BLCM Congregation gathered for worship|
|BLCM pre-school and tutoring center|
|Pastor Monotosh encouraging leaders of a BLCM Preaching Station|
|BLCM Pre-School and Tutoring Center|
|Children waiting patiently to meet the visitors|
|Joel receiving a welcome gift from a sweet little girl. Pre-School teacher in the background|
|The children waited late into the evening as we were delayed in our arrival|
|Pastor Monotosh, his wife Elizabeth, and son Wilson|
|Joel Krafft, Pastor Monotosh, and Leaders of the BLCM|
|Four families of the house church/preaching station in Dhaka|
|Mt. Everest from the airplane window as we flew back to Kathmandu from Bangladesh|