Mar29ThuMarch 29, 2018
Recently I visited India (you can read about that here). From there, I went to Bangladesh. Let me tell you … getting in and out of Bangladesh turned out to be a challenge! I’ve been reminded that we should never complain about our North American airlines. The local airline has a schedule, but that is simply a reference point. It really has nothing to do with when the airplane will actually fly!
We made it to Bangladesh and discovered that it is an interesting country. Like many countries I have traveled to, it is a country of contrast. In the capital, you see everything from five-star hotels to people sleeping on the streets. You also see traffic at a level that makes it look like there is no traffic on Highway 401 out of Toronto at rush hour. The picture above of the bus tells it like it is! I have never seen buses in this shape anywhere else in the entire world.
Many times when I have been in large cities, I have not felt safe to walk on the streets; that was not the case here. The Bangladeshi people were so friendly and helpful. I found them to have a warmth that I have not felt in many places.
Bangladesh’s history is also interesting. Until 1971, Bangladesh was part of Pakistan. Prior to 1971, Pakistan was made up of East and West Pakistan. They were separated geographically, with each sitting on either side of India. West Pakistan used Urdu as their trade language and East Pakistan used Bangla. The central government wanted both to use Urdu as their trade language, but the proud people of East Pakistan rose up against this, and a civil war began. In the end, India assisted East Pakistan, and the country was given their independence.
The number of Christians in Bangladesh is small; I was told it is .3 of 1%, but that number is growing. And we are part of providing resources to facilitate that growth. Our broadcast model in Bangladesh is different than in many other nations. Currently there are no broadcasts from one of our superpower stations. This doesn’t happen often, but there are a few countries in the world that are just simply very hard to reach because of where the large transmitters are located. Bangladesh is one of these countries.
In the past, having no large transmitter airing broadcasts into the country would have been a major problem. With technology today, there are other ways to get the message into towns and villages anywhere in the world. We produce audio programs like we would for airing on a normal radio station. We take these programs and put them onto a micro SD card which is then put into a media player. Where possible, we work with the local churches or with local mission associations to get these players into towns and villages throughout the country. The local people are trained how to use the devices and how to set up what we call radio home groups. Often the local church leaders are not formally trained so they love this model; they get sound teaching from the content and then the local villagers get the same training. In India this simple process has resulted in over 5,000 radio home groups being established. A radio home group costs about $70 to start – this includes the program production and the audio player – so basically, a $70 investment has the potential to start a church.
In Bangladesh over 100 groups have started in the past year. One leader told us that 16 men came to him to be baptized as a result of a group being started. An additional 16 are waiting to be baptized; all of them are Muslim background believers. Another man told us how in his village they have groups for different demographics: groups for young people, Sunday school groups and more. This man’s language group has only 7,000 people who speak the language. He has translated everything from Bangla to his tribal language to make it work in his village.
The foundation of the radio home groups is Thru the Bible material. They start with the book of Luke, and it has been effective. The Muslim background believers all came to Christ after studying just this one book.
We went to Bangladesh to see the model at work, to meet some of the leaders, to hear their stories and to see how we can help expand the outreach in that country. We spent an entire day with a dozen leaders learning about their culture, listening to their stories, listening to their excitement, observing them as they demonstrated how they hold their meetings and then hearing the impact of what has happened already.
TWR India is overseeing this ministry. We are already partnering with them to supply 50% of the cost of each player in India; they raise the rest of the funds locally. We want to do the same in Bangladesh. There is so much to tell! Hopefully you can hear my excitement as I share this blog!
After 30 years in ministry, many times I feel like I have seen it all, but what is happening in South Asia is something new. It is a mission model that brings in the local people at the grass roots level. Local leaders do the translation into their heart language. The message is simple: it is the Word of God with commentary. There is nothing fancy about it; there are no gimmicks. It is God speaking into the hearts of men, women, boys and girls in their heart language. The end result is that people are coming to the Lord and then are hungry for more. That excitement is passed on to their next-door neighbour and then their next-door neighbour, and it goes on and on.
Bangladesh and India are ready to hear the life-changing message of Christ. Let’s find a way to work together to transform these nations. We don’t need to be on the ground; we simply need to help provide the tools to make it happen. I know that I want to be a part of changing a nation one family at a time. Do you?