LETTER from BANGLADESH
Warmest greetings to you all from Dhaka and wishing you a blessed Eastertide.
As I write to you, I think we are all still feeling shock and sadness at the devastation to so many thousands of lives caused by the Tsunami. We do not know why these things happen, but know that our gracious and loving God is with all those who suffer and with all those who are moved with compassion to help. We are so thankful to our God that we, this time, were spared, but we have felt solidarity with those who are still suffering so much.
With thanks to the Oxford Mission and many others for their donations, we have been able to get alongside those who have lost and suffered so much because of last year's devastating floods. Since October we have been operation a 'Cash for Work' programme, so that those who have not been able to work because of the floods and who have had their livelihood destroyed, have been able to earn money to feed themselves and their families whilst rebuilding their businesses and the infrastructure of their communities.
In the Jobarpar area tons of earth have been shifted to rebuild large and small roads and paths. Fields have been cleaned ready for the planting of rice: gardens have also been cleaned and vegetable seeds given to improve nutrition: canals have been cleaned for transport and irrigation. New boats have been given to poor fishermen who lost theirs: those who lost all their fish have been given money to buy new fish: winter blankets have been distributed: school buildings have been repaired and some furniture has been replaced: school books have been given and help with school fees for those who were unable to work.
People's health was very much affected by the floodwater and poor nutrition, and so we have been able to help many with medicine for skin diseases and other illnesses which have developed during this difficult time. Maybe the 'Cash for Work' programme will finish this month, and we will then start with helping people to repair their homes, with tree planting and many other things. Please continue to remember them in your prayers.
Our God is very gracious to us, and amidst sorrows and sufferings for us, there are also joys. It was with great joy that we met for our 5th Synod Council meeting at Savar from 21st 24th October, and on 22nd October we had the official opening celebration for the new Conference and Retreat Centre. We were greatly encouraged to have with us the Revd. Dr. Des van der Water, General Secretary of the Council for World Mission; Bishop Devasayaham from Madras; and, joining us for the first time, our four newly-ordained Presbyters, including Brother Martin Hira of the Oxford Mission.
Christmas in Dhaka was quite quiet as usual, because most staff take the opportunity to visit their bari - their village family homes. Last November I had the privilege of spending a week in Malaysia and was greatly encouraged by the time I spent with a local church: the Holy Spirit really moved among the people, filling them with joy and joyful worship. My prayer is that our worship here in Bangladesh may increasingly be filled with joy, as we seek to trust in our God in these days of rapid change for Bangladesh in the wake of Globalization.
The political situation continues to deteriorate. Just last week there was another grenade attack on a rally held by the Opposition Party. The previous Finance Minister was killed along with four other people, and about 70 people were injured. There is such frustration and anger among the people, and we are having many hartals (general strikes).
I have recently returned from the Haluaghat Deanery Bora Shobar which was held from 3rd 6th February at a rural parish called Baruajani: between 600 and 800 people from all over the Deanery had defied the normal difficulties and hardships of travel, together with the added problems caused by the hartals, to attend this spiritual Revival Meeting. There was much joy and celebration, and the children and young people had lots of activities alongside the worship services and ministry of the Word. On 6th February it was a special joy to be able to confirm 28 of the young people.
We were so pleased to have Mrs. Mary Marsh and Mr. John Corrie visit us recently, to see for themselves some of our work.
Bishop of Dhaka and Moderator of the Church of Bangladesh