Last year, a huge wave of violence spread through eastern Myanmar bordering the hill tracks of southern Bangladesh. About 3 hours south of the major Bengali port city Chittagong Deep in the remote region of Cox’s Bazar district, is the village of Malumghat and Memorial Christian Hospital (MCH). As survivors trickle into the hospital, Laura and I receive Facebook posts from our resident medical friends serving with Samaritan’s Purse and the Association of Baptists (AOB) at the hospital. Burn, gunshot and traumatic amputation prayer requests come in for the victims, many of whom have also witnessed the killing of their family and village community. The trickle becomes a stream until the hospital’s resources are overwhelmed.
I have served with my wife Laura on BelPres’ DivorceCare leadership team over the past four years. We are grateful for the many opportunities at BelPres as we’ve found that we receive exceedingly abundantly above all we could ever ask or think. We want to share our experience and solicit prayers for the nationals and expats serving there now.
For the past few years, Laura and I have prayed to use our vacation time for medical missions. I do diagnostic x-rays and Laura is a Doula (birth coach). Through Samaritan’s Purse, we found the answer through a call for short-term x-ray training at MCH-Bangladesh as they move from film to digital-based imaging.
Samaritan’s Purse staff were terrific and connected us with medical volunteers that recently visited MCH-Bangladesh. We got our vaccinations and flights to the capital city of Dhaka, Bangladesh by way of Tokyo and then Bangkok. After an overnight stay in an AOB guesthouse, we caught our final two-hour flight south to Cox’s Bazar.
Bangladesh is the size of Iowa with 164 million people, 50% of which are 15 years old and younger. Our first experience was the amazing press of people everywhere! We were met by our wonderful jovial hospital staff driver who loaded us and our bags in the hospital van for a two-hour trip to MCH. The two-lane road was filled: pedestrians, bikes, rickshaws, tuk-tuks, cars, motorcycles, vans and several full-size tour buses. And no traffic lights … at all. What seemed like insane traffic mayhem eventually revealed itself as a complex, cooperative system of amazing efficiency. It is wise to hire a driver in Bangladesh.
As a doula, Laura helps moms and their Songee through the birthing process. On her first full day (entering the woman’s ward small labor room), she encountered a very young weeping woman who immediately clung to her in terror. This is her story.
The recent popularity of smartphones, with nearly country-wide connectivity, has caused havoc in the traditional separation of the genders in this huge agrarian, predominantly Muslim country. In her village, a nineteen-year-old boy took an interest in her a year ago, and after texting, they met alone and were caught. Her father is one of many thousands of men working as laborers in the Middle East, so it fell upon the village elders to handle the crisis. The decision was quickly made that the young man must marry the girl or go to jail. While child marriage is illegal, it occurs with sad frequency as a result of social crises like this. Moreover, if the young man decided to make a run for it, the custom in Bangladesh is to simply go to the family and incarcerate any other male they find from that family. They were shortly married. Now, about a year later, she is a tiny 14-year-old girl at full term and terrified. Simply too small for the size of her baby, the C-section quite possibly saved the young woman and her baby’s lives.
The largest Christian congregation meets a quarter of a mile away from the hospital. As a new country, Bangladesh gained her independence in 1971 after a brutal conflict involving Pakistani military killing of Bengali Hindus. During this terrifying time, a core of Christian doctors, nurses, and nationals elected to trust the Lord by serving at the 8-year old hospital while the war raged through. The government and people of Bangladesh did not forget, and MCH continues to serve today.
Please commit to praying daily for the long-term doctors, nurses and support personnel serving in MCH alongside their national partners. Please pray for healing and peace in the present refugee crisis as well as provisions of funds, equipment, and personnel to complete the new hospital building targeted to open sometime next year.
Finally, thank you so much for your prayers and support that allowed us to serve. There is no fear in love as perfect love casts out all fear. Our prayer is that you find new courage in love serving among our brothers and sisters at BelPres.