Arrived in Dhaka, Bangladesh yesterday evening. The contrast between arriving in Hong Kong and Dhaka were jarring. Aside from the similar weather (hot, humid, and sticky) the differences stuck out like a sore thumb. Security at the airport was much tighter. In Hong Kong, I showed my passport to one person and I was done. In Dhaka, I had to show my passport to at least four different security guards. Once I was outside I was struck by a cacophony of different sights and sounds. I was surrounded by adult men dressed in typical Muslim garb (long white robes called “thobes” and short, rounded skullcap called “taqiyahs”). The road in front of the airport was a mad house. Cars honking, security guards yelling, indistinguishable words from a language that didn’t sound remotely like anything I am accustom to. But that was nothing compared to when we actually got into the car. Everything I knew about driving went out the door. Lanes? What are those? One-way streets? Who cares. Pedestrians and bicyclists having the right-of-way? Laughable.
After fighting traffic, we arrived at the home of the couple who was hosting for the night. This dear couple is involved in Bible translation and has been living in Bangladesh with their 3-year old daughter for a few years. (Prior to that they were living and working on Bible translation in India.) They shared with us the difficulties of living in Bangladesh, especially since several terror attacks in the past year have specifically targeted foreigners. They shared with us the lack of sound expository preaching, not merely in their city, but in the entire nation. And, more than anything, they shared with us their intense desire to see the Gospel of Christ go forth in this country and for God to build His church in this incredibly needy and difficult place.
After a good night’s rest, we woke up and were greeted by our other team member, who arrived earlier that morning. Then all of us sat down to a breakfast of toast, scrambled eggs, coffee cake, and fresh papaya. After that, we packed our luggage into a car and headed off to the site of our training. In my 32 short years of life I’ve had a maybe one or two near death experiences, typically while driving. In our 45 minute drive from the airport district of Dhaka to downtown Dhaka, I’m fairly convinced I at least tripled that total! I’m also fairly convinced that our particular driver almost killed at least a dozen pedestrians or bicyclists during our drive.
Once we arrived at “GH” we were met by the coordinator of our training, B. He welcomed us with warm hugs and led us to our room. We had about 30 minutes to settle in, go over the assignments for the day, and pray, and then we headed up a flight of stairs to our meeting room. The pastors and church leaders had been there for about an hour, spending some time in God’s Word, worshipping with one another, and reading through the book of 2 Timothy. When we walked in, we were greeted warmly by the group and then we launched into our training for the morning.
Of the group of 18 men, 17 of them are pastors of local churches. About half of them have been through the training before, but the other half is new. In light of that, Dad took some time to walk them through the aim of our trainings: to see their hearts transformed, to see them investing their training into other pastors/church leaders, and ultimately, to see a movement of sound, faithful, expository preaching infiltrate every corner of Bangladesh. He also laid out the expectations of the training and then handed things over to Ron. Ron talked about the discipline of asking good questions of the Scripture, questions that teach us, “What does this passage say?” and “What does this passage mean?” After that I gave a demonstration sermon on 2 Timothy 1:3-14 and then we took a break for lunch. After lunch we did two more sessions both of them emphasizing specific tools we use in our understanding and interpretation of Scripture. We ended the day by giving each of the men their assignments for the next two days, sections of 2 Timothy that they will need to present a 6-minute sermon on for their peers.
Here are a few observations from our time here in Bangladesh:
- The men in our training love their tea breaks! One question that constantly came up today as we talked about our schedule was, “When is our tea break?”
- The eating/drinking habits of this nation don’t really make sense to me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved everything we’ve eaten thus far, but it seems slightly strange to me that we are drinking piping hot cups of tea multiple times a day and eating food that is quite spicy when the weather is absolutely sweltering and oppressive!
- The city of Dhaka is incredibly dense! The family that hosted us the first night told us that Dhaka is the most dense city in the world and I don’t doubt that for a second!
- This is a very difficult country. In conversations with foreign workers in Bangladesh and with locals, the difficulty of living in and ministering in this nation came up. The climate, the disease, the poverty, the poor infrastructure, the recent violence, etc. all of these things make Bangladesh a very difficult country and a country that so desperately needs the Gospel of the risen Christ!