29 September 2011
Birth of a Bangla orphanage
Arrived in Bangladesh for the first leg of my ministry trip, I was met by a man known only through e-mail, but the connection was made through excellent references from the mutually known. After more than 24 hours of international travel with little sleep, it is not unusual for me to have an episode of mild disorientation. Such was the case, when I woke in the pitch dark from a deep, exhausted sleep, to find myself in a village somewhere in...what country was this? Nine times out of ten, when I make the long trip to Asia, my destination is Nepal. Yet I had no sense of "home" that always comes with Nepal. As I swam towards consciousness, I realized that I was lying on a hard, bamboo platform covered with a cloth pallet and surrounded by a mosquito net. I could not remember where I was or how I had come to be there. No one was moving about and I had no desire to do so either. My body ached for more sleep, but my bladder demanded otherwise. As I worked through the netting to get up, I saw two women asleep on the floor. I wish that I could do this without waking them, but no chance of that. I knew that they were here in case I needed something in the night, such as the toilet. My thoughts were still a little foggy as I stepped out of my little hut with no idea which way to go, but the women were quickly with me. In many ways, a village is a village. Each one is different, of course, but in lots of ways they are remarkably similar. I have been in many villages in Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Nicaragua and Guatemala. All of them have small homes built from packed mud and whatever natural materials are about. All have animals such as chickens, goats, cow. Handmade things of all kinds abound. Jungle foliage might be thick, but cleared in the living areas. As we walked among the little dwellings, I remembered coming in, hours earlier, the same day of my arrival into the country. I knew that I was in Bangladesh. My new contact, a Bangla evangelist, met me at the airport, took me to his home for a few hours, where I left my luggage,and then set out in a hired car (with driver) to show me his work. He had told me that it was a remote village and I surely agreed. About the time, we arrived at the point where the road ended and we needed to begin walking, a pouring rain came. Half a dozen men from the village were there to meet us. We took shelter to wait out the downpour, then walked to the point where a boat could be hired to take us the rest of the way in. The trail was wet and slippery. men stayed on each side for me to hold their arms and prevent a dive through the muck. It was a difficult walk, both because of the distance and terrain, even if not for the slippery sludge. Farther and farther into the jungle, we went. When we arrived, the believers gathered--every one of them fruit of this one man who had brought me here. Except for his heart for this unreached village, there would yet be no people for His Name here. Wow. What a work to lay before the Lord. The little one room structure where we came was the evangelist's "home away from home." It was his office, his place to sleep and the place where the believers gather for worship. He makes the trip here, every week by bus, to meet with them. Now, it was packed full of about...75 people, including 20 orphans, the purpose of my visit. These orphans were placed in families, willing to care for them, with the understanding that my evangelist friend would help with support. He struggles to collect funds from friends, family and his church back in Dhaka, to pay the school fees and cover basic needs for the twenty children. A problem is that they are not all with Christian families. There are not enough families among the Christians to house them all. So even though they come for the weekly worship, it is not a good situation for them. His hope is to bring them together, form a children's home with good house parents, and provide for their care and discipleship. It is exactly the kind of ministry we do through Allow. It has all the pieces needed-- children in need, a partner faithful to the Lord who is already working, but just needs us to come alongside and help. Their faces are the same as all the others in our program--20 more little lambs who are in our reach, that the Lord may raise up through us. What a privilege. There was a time of worship and I spoke to those gathered from the Word, which I hope was an encouragement. As the people left, a bed platform was carried in. I was dead tired and I so hoped that it was for me, but not yet. I was too tired to eat, but I knew that the people would be aghast if I did not have some kind of dinner before sleeping. So, I ate the rice and boiled vegetables, peeled a banana and tried to participate in the conversation with the leaders among the believers. Finally, a time came when I could lie down. The men were still in the room talking (now in their own language), as I ducked under the net and stretched flat. It was now two full days since I had been able to sleep, except snatches during the flight. I had no awareness of when the men left or the two women came in to sleep. As always, I was touched by how comfortable it is possible to be among believers no matter the setting or language or circumstances. Now I am looking at beginning a new program, starting from nothing, as they all have been, with no idea how to start it. But I agree--these twenty orphans need to be under the care and discipleship of the believers. Nothing but funding stands in the way of making it happen.