We are in the midst of our training in Chittagong, but I wanted to take a bit of time to record some thoughts about our last few days in Dhaka. Each of us has been hit by the sickness bug, which has made blogging a little less of a priority. Thankfully, all of us are feeling a bit better (but prayer for our health is still very much appreciate!).
Thought #1: Bengali people love their spicy food. I enjoy a certain level of spice in my food, but my taste buds are bland compared to my brothers and sisters here in Bangladesh. At almost every meal there are plates full of limes and chili peppers sitting at the table. Why? Because the best condiment to potatoes and protein drowning in spicy curry and vegetables (sautéed in spicy curry) is…more chili peppers. And it’s not just the adults. I watched little kids throw down the same spicy curry that was making me sweat like it was nothing!
Also, when it comes to eating, as one brother said to me, “We eat with the spoons God gave us!”, i.e. with their hands. They keep one hand clean to pass dishes, drink water, etc. and the other hand is used like a shovel. And let me assure you, not one grain of rice is wasted! They use their hands to pick up every last grain of rice on their plates–and they eat a lot of rice!
Thought #2: The reality of persecution and suffering is real. Bangladesh is not Syria or Afghanistan, even though the presence and work of militant Muslims has increased in the country over the past year. But, persecution really does happen. B. was telling us about a time when some Christian young people were meeting in the room we were using for our training to sing praises to God and as they were singing someone hurled a rock from an adjacent building, breaking one of the windows. Another brother, in his demonstration sermon, talked about being jailed for preaching the Gospel.
And yet, even in the midst of persecution and suffering, the Christians of this nation are bold. Many of them declare, on their front doors or in their shops (with crosses) that they are, unabashedly, Christians. These brothers and sisters are not ashamed of the Gospel.
Thought #3: The need for training in understanding and teaching the Word of God is real. The men who gathered with us in Dhaka drank deeply from the Word of God over our three days together. Lots of questions were asked and answered. A lot of feedback was given. They struggled, at times, grasping concepts like finding the main idea of a text of Scripture and being able to see the structure within passages, but overall, I think they grew, were helped, and encouraged. It was especially fitting that we talked about 2 Timothy, an epistle replete with themes of suffering and perseverance in Gospel ministry. But at the end of the day, we only had 19 men in our training. 19 men from all over Bangladesh, some coming from 10 hours away. 19 men in a country where the evangelical Christian population is less than 0.5%. There is much work to be done.
When we ended our time together, as is custom in these trainings, we gathered together in a circle. We put our arms around one another and prayed for one another. One of the Bengali brothers prayed for us and I had the privilege of praying for them. My prayer then and my prayer now continues to be, “May God cause His gospel to spread like wildfire to every corner of this nation.” That’s a pretty big prayer, but we serve a pretty big God.