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Asia Trip Part II: Blessings in Bangladesh

Feed the Hunger is blessed to work with faithful Christian partners across the globe. Several of them are in Southeast Asia, and it is a privilege to travel the long distance to meet with them. Last month, I led a small team from FtH to Vietnam and Bangladesh to see firsthand how God is using your gifts through His Holy Spirit to do amazing things for His kingdom. Join me now for part two of the trip . . . . (If you missed it, read part one here.)

Once we departed Vietnam, we flew to Bangladesh via Singapore, arriving late at night. This was my third trip and our other team members’ second trip there. We were greeted by our partner of several years, Samuel Adhikary of Talitha Koumi (TKEC).

The next morning, we headed to one of their main ministry centers in a large, very clean five-story building nestled among many small shops. The road in front is dusty, dirty, and packed with people walking, riding motorcycles, and in rickshaws. It is in the heart of one of the main garment areas, where numerous people of all ages scurry to go to work.

Samuel’s brother Gabriel works in this building and oversees the various activities that take place here. On the first floor are several classrooms for young children attending school. These children come from poor families, and several of them have been rescued from the sweatshops of the garment factories. Another large room houses adult students from several villages who are learning how to run a rural medical clinic. When they finish their six-month studies, they will return to their villages and TKEC will set up clinics for them to run.

Several doctors, male and female, come in each week to care for the poorest of the poor in an onsite medical clinic. The focus is on women and children—greatly neglected in Bangladeshi society. The majority of the women are Muslim; some are dressed in saris with their head covered, and some are dressed in burkas. Many of the women bring their children in for immunizations, while others come in for pregnancy checkups. While we were there, one woman asked the doctor if he would perform an abortion. She shared that she comes from a very abusive husband and that he did not want any more children. The medical clinic gets these requests at least once a week, but they stand firm and tell the mothers that this is something they do not practice. However, the clinic does offer counseling to their patients in situations like this.

Children receiving immunizations at the TKEC clinic.

The clinic is run by Christians, and the Gospel is shared with everyone who comes in. There is also a pharmacy, and they are currently working on getting a small operating room. Several pieces of equipment have been donated or purchased, but much more is needed. On the day we visited, mothers and their children were lined up to get immunizations. The first child in line is uncertain what it is going to take place, but he quickly breaks out into a scream as the nurse gives him his shot. The mothers are loving and offer comfort to the child, trying to distract the child by bringing him to us. We smile and hold his little hand, talking softly to comfort him, but many of the children have never seen a Westerner and it totally scares him—so he begins to scream even louder! The mother laughs, we laugh, and slowly the child calms down. Then the next child in line gets her shot and the screaming begins again.

Gabriel took us to the upper levels of the building. Verses of Scripture hang on the wall in the lobby, and a devotional book and Bible lay on the coffee table. We saw a large room filled with sewing machines, and Gabriel shared with us about his garment business. On the next several floors, women and a few men create garments that will be shipped around the world. They can produce 800 cargo pants in one day! The majority of the product is shipped to other countries, but there are always some items that do not pass quality control. These pieces are sold at a discount, with proceeds going toward helping the ministry. A lot of the clothes are also given to children in the four orphan homes the ministry supports.

After saying our goodbyes, we headed over to the TKEC main office. It is a multistory building that not only houses the office of the ministry, but also is home for Samuel and his wife; Gabriel, his wife, and their son; their parents; directors of the ministry; and an orphan home for 42 young Rohingya girls. We made our first stop to visit Pastor Philip, Samuel and Gabriel’s father, who oversees Bangladesh’s largest Christian community. Even though they do not belong to a particular denomination, they are the largest in both churches and people.

He shared with us that he is now doing large crusades with tens of thousands in attendance. Pastor Philip started as a businessman and grew several businesses; then the Lord called him into ministry, where he has worked hard to build churches and schools in the very poorest of the poor areas. He educated his sons in the US, and both of them not only received their bachelor degrees, but also received MBAs.

He feels that it is extremely important to be able to provide jobs for the poor. He also knew that converting Muslims was very difficult, but that through work and medical clinics, one-on-one evangelism could take place. God has greatly blessed his ministry and his children. Samuel works directly with his dad. He is the one chosen to be his successor. Gabriel has always liked to work on the business end.

One of the greatest work projects that TKEC has established is micro-credit. Each day, women come in to learn how to receive a small loan to get a business started. It is through micro-credit that the large orphan homes are supported.

Rohingya girls greeted us as we arrived at the orphan home.

After visiting with several women receiving credit loans, we made our way to the girls orphan home on the top floor. Dressed in their finest, they met us with pounding drums and leis of beautiful orange flowers that they lovingly draped over our necks. These young girls have lived in the home for about three years. They are Rohingya and are considered outcasts by the Bangladeshi people. We went to the church in the orphan home, and the girls began to dance and sing for us. It was beautiful to see them express themselves and smile when we clapped and praised them. Bibles were given to each girl, and one of our team shared the Good Samaritan story. They listened closely as his words were interpreted by one of their caregivers.

These precious girls now have their very own copy of God’s Word in their language. Now they can learn about the Lord who loves them!

The following day, Samuel picked us up and we flew to a small community where there were other orphan homes and numerous feeding programs. We were met at the airport by a young man who pulled Samuel to the side. He questioned Samuel and asked what his business was in that area. Samuel showed him our passports, and when the man left, Samuel shared with us that the man was an agent with the DGFI, which is the equivalent to our FBI.

Bangladesh is a Muslim country; Pastor Philip, Samuel, and Gabriel are all under watch by the government for their boldness in sharing the Gospel. Philip has been arrested a few times, but he has been blessed by not having to serve any time. As we approached a community school, 250 children and their parents were standing and waiting for lunch to be served. We jumped out of the car, greeted the beautiful orphan girls, and began to help cook Feed the Hunger food.

In many parts of the world, FtH food is prepared in large batches over an open fire.

The girls were happy to see us and were excited that we were staying in their home that night. At the school, benches and tables were lined up outside as the children anxiously waited to be served their hot bowl of rice and beans. It is wonderful to see boxed food from Packathons being opened and poured into a large pot sitting on a fire. Cumin is added to the rice to give it extra flavor. Two of the older orphan girls picked up the large bowl of cooked rice and they let us scoop it up and place in the children’s bowls. What a glorious sight to see! After the children were finished, the parents ate what was left in their bowls. Samuel shared with me that the parents now come during school hours and sit underneath the windows of the school and listen as the children are being taught. They too want to learn—not only to better themselves, but also to help their children receive a good education.

The children (and some parents) were excited to get a hot meal of rice and beans–with cumin added for extra flavor!

After this big feast we headed to Boda Church, which was built by Feed the Hunger several years ago. Like all TKEC churches, it serves as a school during the weekdays. When we arrived, parents and children were lined up to greet us. We removed our shoes and walked carefully into a packed room of children sitting on the floor in rows waiting for us. They proudly shouted out their ABCs, and we applauded their efforts.

A Young girl at Boda is excited to receive her new Bible!

When lunch was served, we were again able to pass out cooked Packathon food. The children quickly ate up the hot food using their fingers—it would be strange to use a fork, because it is not part of their culture. After their hot meal, we handed out a picture Bible to each child. These children will take their Bibles home and share them with their family. All these children come from agricultural communities, and to have a book is a treasure to them.

Boys at the orphan home praying before their meal. God has truly provided for their needs.

The following day we drove an hour to a home for 33 orphan boys, mostly teenagers. Like the other home, it sits next to a community school. We spent some time with the boys, then headed to the school for lunch. After the meal, the parents of the schoolchildren wanted us to meet them and touch their children. We didn’t understand what they were saying, but like all parents, they were proud of their children and wanted us to acknowledge them. We had a lot of fun taking pictures of mothers with their children and showing them their picture on our camera. They loved seeing themselves—many for the first time.

A mother helps her young child with lunch at the community school.

Following this last visit, we headed back to the small airport. Waiting for us at the airport was the DGFI agent. He had called Samuel that morning and asked him why he wasn’t at the airport. Samuel told him that we were taking a later flight. So here he was, waiting for us and waving goodbye. Samuel laughed at the whole incident, but he also knew that the persecution was only growing and that one day he and his family would be arrested for their faith. Their faith is strong and they do not fear what tomorrow holds. Instead, they remain focused on what God has called them to do.

I hope you were blessed by this small glimpse into daily life for millions of believers worldwide. May it challenge us to stand strong in our faith, especially when we encounter persecution. Our Father will never abandon or forsake us!

Melinda Staples | Project Manager

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