Bangladesh Hospital of Faith

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.

 

Chris & Beverly Crowder, Serving with SIM in South Sudan

Last week we included a prayer in the bulletin for the Crowder family, who have been experiencing, with their mission community, the loss of a missionary child–the child of friends. Several folks asked for more information about the Crowders. Pastor Rich Leatherberry met Chris and Bev when he was in then Sudan, now South Sudan, with a team back in November 2006. BelPres Global Outreach has followed the Crowders ever since. Chris is now the National Director for SIM in South Sudan, and Bev serves as Medical Director. Read their biography, below.

Chris Crowder felt an almost physical pull on his life at age six. He was baptized at age seven and raised in a Christian home. However, the turning point in his life came when life choices forced him to choose Christ as his own savior, NOT his family’s.

After finishing a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering at Baylor University he became more involved in local church life and plunged headlong into the field of wireless telecom. Several years of career success ensued but with it came an emptiness and an intense loathing of the corporate world.

After a lot of prayer and searching, Chris started to take some steps of short-term trips and more adventurous kinds of Christian service. He was discipled by an older man, something that contributed hugely to his spiritual development.

In 1998, after a brief stint in Guatemala with Wycliffe Bible Translators, Chris was ready to pray “Lord, I’ll do this if you want me to, but please don’t send me out alone.” About that same time, God began to call Beverly.

Having committed to mission service before they met, they began a search together and found a mutual passion and calling for Sudanese people, especially the Lost Boys of Sudan living in Nashville, TN.

SIM was a logical choice because of Bev’s abilities as a Family Nurse Practitioner and Chris’ interest in evangelism, discipleship, Bible Translation and a myriad of other things.

They spent a wonderful first year seconded to Samaritan’s Purse,– Bev doing medical work and medical training; Chris doing evangelism, church training, and community development.

Little Thomas was born Nov 11, 2006 having spent his entire gestational life in various parts of Sudan. Chris began serving his first term as director for the two Sudans in July 2008. Jonathan was born in August. Then in February of 2010, Bethlehem Joy was born.

BelPres, let’s remember the Crowder family in our prayers, especially now as their mission community grieves the loss of a child.

Welcome Home Jean McAllister

Jean McAllister first experienced God’s call to be a missionary while she was on an Impact Team Mission Trip in Rwanda in 2004.  She heard God say to her, “You could live here.”

After returning to the U.S., Jean prayed a lot, read Scripture and consulted with friends, family, and pastors here at BelPres.  Through this process, Jean felt strong confirmation that God was inviting heJean & Alexisr to move to Rwanda.  Jean remembers the chorus from one song being particularly meaningful; “Here I am Lord; is it I Lord?  I have heard you calling in the night.  I will go Lord; if you lead me.  I will hold your people in my heart.” This is what Jean has done since she moved to Rwanda in 2005.

Initially, Jean went to work with Naomi Club (a ministry to help Prostitutes start a new life and get off the streets) and AEE.  Jean hired a language tutor and at the bright, young age of 70, Jean began learning a brand new language called Kinyarwanda.

Jean soon became an advocate for kids living on the street, ages 8-18 years old, who were going to schools called “Catch Up” schools.  The purpose of these schools was to catch kids living with homelessness up on all the education they missed and prepare then for secondary school.  Jean also began personally sponsoring some older students so they could go to college and she helped other young people find sponsors here in the U.S.  As Jean’s mastery of the language increased, she began accepting invitations to teach and to preach in local churches.

One of Jean’s great accomplishments was to develop a network of small local Rwandan ministries with a primary focus on children living on the street, prostitutes and poverty.  Through constant encouragement, casting vision around the benefits of working together rather than separately, faithful perseverance and provision of resources, Jean sustained and matured the network until she was able to hand her leadership over to Rwandan believers.

Jesus has used Jean to change many lives both in Rwanda and here in the U.S.. Catch Up Schools has been able to purchase land and provide teacher salaries; young adults have graduated from college; many Rwandans have been mentored and their needs cared for; individuals and teams from the U.S. have been graciously hosted; a network of ministries to the most poor and vulnerable has been sustained and new initiatives developed; a water project was completed and dedicated in the name of someone from Belpres; and the list goes on and on and on.

Jean’s life is a testimony to the amazing ways Jesus works when we say, “Yes!” to His calling.

Jean’s ministry in Rwanda has come to a close and Jean moved back here to the U.S. earlier this week. We are so thankful for Jean, for the fruit of her ministry in Rwanda, and for the ways she has partnered with Jesus in bringing His Kingdom to earth. Well done, good and faithful servant! Let’s welcome Jean back to Bellevue. Greet her when you see her, but more than that, be ready to abide with her as she grieves her life in Rwanda, and as she finds her way among us now. The transition from mission life to country-of-origin life is a challenging one, and Jean will need our congregation to love, to listen, and just to walk with her through it.

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints.”
Colossians 1:3-4.