Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bangladesh 2012 Trip Report

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!... Romans 10:15

Our short trip of encouragement to EFM Mission in Bangladesh was successful! God is surely moving through this country. I apologize for the delay in getting this out to everyone; hopefully I will get a chance to explain more thoroughly in person to many of you. Most people who I see ask me about the highlights of the trip and I’m usually left trying to find the right words! The trip was phenomenal and it is just incredible to see the kingdom of God alive and well in many of these villages and towns.

I was a bit intimidated in deciding to go because of the $2400 cost, but I ended up raising (thanks to many of you!) above and beyond the amount! The extra funds will be used to support the underfunded mission there. To God be the Glory!

One of the highlights for me definitely had to be being in the middle of a jungle preaching the word. What an unbelievable feeling. I got to preach a couple of short messages to these people who were visibly starving for the gospel. I had a great time with the awesome team that included Adam Monaghan, Lisa Leslie, Dana Quigley, and Matt Macy. It was also great to be with the missionaries Albert and Metali Adhikari and we learned so much about being a Kingdom worker from them. We had a lot of time to reflect together as a team because we were in the van traveling from site to site so much, so I got to know a lot about the whole team. It was amazing to see the way our team worked together so well and the way that we could bounce around and build off of each other’s messages.

In the words of Matt Macy, “We’ll try to forget you, but we never will!” He said this as we were leaving one of the preaching points while being chased by about 30 kids down the dirt path. This phrase that Matt said was profound because we know that for the rest of our lives, the faces of these beautiful Bengali people will forever be etched in our brains. I don’t think any of us would ever try to forget them, but it’s ironic because it would be impossible to if we did try.

This being my first Mission trip, I learned so much about the world. It’s really hard to explain the thoughts that I had throughout the week in Bangladesh. I started journaling the second we sat down in van to drive north, making notes of new sights and experiences but I stopped after about half an hour because there was too much to take in. I experienced so many new things this trip, it will take an entirely different post to talk about them.

We finally landed in Dhaka on Saturday afternoon after 4 ridiculously long flights and 36 hours of traveling. I remember stepping out of the airport and breathing in the air for the first time thinking “Wow, this place is for real.” Not that I ever doubted its existence, but when you step on the soil of a place that is literally on the other side of the world after traveling that long, it just makes you realize how small you are and how big this world is. Then there are the people. When you walk out of the doors at the Dhaka airport, there is a big overhang with a fence on all sides and army soldiers guarding the entrances. And hundreds and hundreds of people are lined up on these fences and I’m pretty sure every one of them was staring at the 5 monster, white Americans that just walked out the doors. I could see why Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the world. I saw many people pulling out their flip phones to start recording us. Wow. I realized later that this is the case wherever you go in Bangladesh.

We piled into the Adhikari’s van and started driving through the city. It was crazy. Totally new experience for me; they drive on the other side of the street! But after we stopped to eat some food, we got back on the road and drove north to Nilphamari for 9 more hours. There really is no way to describe the way that the traffic is in Bangladesh, so I won’t really try. I can almost promise that its unlike anything you’ve seen. But I actually got some sleep in the van and woke up at about 10pm at our host center. After eating dinner, we went to bed and I literally was asleep in less than a minute.

Every day started about the same; we woke up and ate a great breakfast as a team with the missionaries and had great conversation. I only want to speak in detail about a couple specific places, and the first one is from the first day.

Since it was a Sunday, we got to celebrate with a couple of the local churches who meet on Sundays. We drove for a bit and arrived at one of the churches. We walked into the village to the sound of them singing songs in Bangla and that in itself was an incredible experience. I won’t talk about every site we visited but this was one of my favorites just because it was my first. We gave greetings, and Matt shared a word. Then I felt led to speak so I also shared a word from Hebrews 12:28-29 which talks about offering up a presentable worship to the Lord for his gift of an unshakeable Kingdom. I felt like the people received what I said very well.

We drove around to a few other sites and also to a couple of preaching points and we had the opportunity to share the gospel with entire groups of non-Christians.  These times were some of the best times for me because we would be speaking and telling people about Jesus, many who may have never heard of him before and sharing what he has done for us. Its just a completely different experience because Jesus is not a celebrity name like he is in America. When people evangelize to non-Christians in America, the second the person hears “Jesus” or knows they are talking about religion, they almost always immediately shut out whatever is to be said. In Bangladesh, entire villages full of Muslims and Hindus show up to hear whatever comes out of our mouth. They are so hungry for the Word of God that they literally were leaning into us when we spoke. These were powerful times.

At these preaching points, we got to preach and pray over entire villages, the gospel leaders, and the many, many children. We also had the opportunity to pray over a child who had a serious illness.  There are many more stories to tell about preaching to these people. It was an incredible and new experience for me, absolutely something that I will never forget.

A major highlight for me happened the last morning that we were in Bangladesh. The whole week, we as a team, just felt like we were treated as kings. We talked about leadership and what servanthood really means, and we looked to the scriptures and read about the ways Jesus served. We decided that we were going to have a foot washing “ceremony” to send each other out. I think that washing someone’s feet is the ultimate symbol of leadership and servanthood. Albert had a guitar, so I got to lead a few songs of worship in his office while Lisa started washing the Missionaries’ feet. After a few minutes, it turned into an absolute bawling fest. It was beautiful. Metali couldn’t stop crying, as she frantically went around washing our feet along with some of the other leaders from the area. Depali, the amazingly gifted and apostolic woman who helps lead the women’s conference was in the room with us, bawling and washing our feet. Also, Kanok who is one of the persecuted Christians was with us and shared in the ceremony. Everyone washed each others’ feet at least once, sometimes twice, maybe even three times and it was just an absolute blessing. To see these brilliant people who are leading so many other people in a broken side of the world at my feet, crying, because they know what it means to wash feet. It was just inspiring and we were so blessed by that time.

Kind of a downer moment happened to me on Wednesday. We spent that entire day driving south to a town called Khulna. At the end of this 12 hour drive, I was not a happy person. I literally felt like I was going to die multiple times while we driving, I couldn’t handle it any more. Like I said, the traffic there is indescribable. I was frustrated, I was tired, I was struggling being in this environment of almost no infrastructure, a thing that we in America take for granted probably 97% of the time. I actually wanted to leave (That was the ONLY time I felt like that). But God showed me grace, and he reassured me in that moment that its not about being comfortable and infrastructure. He is still moving in this country and has plans for these people.

Flying out of the country on Saturday evening, I can remember the thoughts that I had and the burden I felt for the country. There is a lot of brokenness in this country. But the work that is being done by the missionaries is amazing. I have more story telling do in person when I see you, so please ask me. I also plan on doing some experiential posts about life in Bangladesh and different aspects of the trip over time.

Albert gave us lots of advice and wisdom in the area of ministry. He told us that he doesn't want to be an office worker, that his ministry is in the field! This is profound to me, and I could apply directly what he says to my life. My ministry does not happen in front of a computer in the coffee shop, it is in engagement with people. Its proclaiming Jesus with my life AND my words to this broken and hurting world. Albert and Metali are my new heroes.

From this trip I gained incredible perspective on the Kingdom of God. Someone once told me that the Kingdom should feel exactly the same on both sides of the world. This is a true statement. The passion of the believers in Bangladesh gives me a new perspective on life in the Kingdom. Many of these believers are beaten, harrassed, and shunned from their families whenever they convert from Hinduism or Islam. But to see their boldness to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in the face of all of this persecution is absolutely stunning. I am ready to serve.


Find Adam Monaghan's report here.

But I do not account my life of any calue or as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God... Acts 20:24

As they traveled from town to town…the churches were strengthened in the faith…they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them...Then they left... Acts 16:4-5

When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts... Acts 11:23 

First Church greetings
"Welcome to Bangladesh"

Lisa sharing a bible story

The Clown and I
The Clown
This is a typical marketplace, they do all 
of the slaughtering right on the streets!
Red Sun over Bangladesh
Metali weeping over Kanok's feet
Streets crowded with people and Rickshaws!
3 Trucks on a small road...we didn't slow down
Men in Bangladesh are extremely affectionate with each other.
Kids playing in the playground.
Fuel for the cooking fires.
Typical Bangladesh street.
This bridge was over a mile long!
My favorite animal the Tiger!
The clown and I on the rickety bamboo bridge.
A fun Bengali baby. And the clown.
Awesome kids receiving handwritten cards from our Church.
Lisa and Dana's gifts.
Beautiful scenery.
More beautiful scenery in a village.
Some of the people from one of the strongest churches in Bangladesh. 

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