Bangladesh 2009
Reorientation Thursday, March 5, 2009

God is working in Brunswick, and God is working in Bangladesh. I think this trip in particular helped me to see that the two are not separate or different but clearly parts of a larger whole. Bangladesh pushed me far enough outside of my standard daily life to force me to reorient myself to what God is doing around me. It took going to a foreign country to remove the things I take for granted and allow me to see past the trappings of life that dull us to God's quiet voice. Let me give a few examples.

Since everything is new in Bangladesh, I could start from scratch and notice the world again in its entirety. Each person I passed was a new experience I actually paid attention to. Each new sight and sound and smell held my attention. In a way, it made me pay more attention than I normally would.

The children of the Forgotten Children's Home were an illustration to me of how we as Christians should seek to know God and enjoy Him. The children only know their sponsors, for the most part, from names and pictures. Several of the children came up to me and wanted me to tell them everything about their sponsor families. What are their names? What are they like? Do you know them? Tell me all about them. It struck me that in my quest to know God I should be constantly asking the same questions of everyone I know who is in His family. What are His names? What is He like? Do you know Him? Tell me all about Him. And I should also be asking God to show me those things daily. Do I study the Bible the way the kids in Bangladesh study the photos of their sponsors? Do I keep it next to my bed and look at it first thing in the morning? Do I carry it around with me and proudly show it to others, "This is the one who cares for me!" Do I long for Jesus to walk in the door, scoop me up, and give me a hug? Would I sit in His lap and stare, speechless, into His face for hours, given the chance?

When the children first met us, they gave a small presentation of songs and dancing to welcome us. It was rehearsed and beautiful. But for the next few hours, they continued to spontaneously dance and sing with joy with us, simply because they chose to. I need that aspect of worship to grow in my life. Far too often in America we are like tupperware containers of God's love and glory - carefully contained and sealed and visible only faintly through a frosted plastic side. God calls us instead to be fountains of joy, cups spilling over with His glorious deeds, springs of His love, streams of peace, and baskets overflowing with his goodness. The children of Bangladesh continue to inspire me to be more than I have been.


Rachel's Perspective Thursday, February 19, 2009
Rachel's Perspective

Kotalipara is so different from Dhaka. For one, the land is much more open than near Dhaka and more rural. Animals like sheep, goats, and cows simply wander around as they please. It is slightly weird to see animals running wild, but it doesn't take long to get used to.

The children are amazingly well behaved and very loving. When we arrived they greeted us with a line-up and flowers for everyone. Sixteen boys and 12 girls held flower bouquets for us while 2 girls tossed flower petals over us. The girls and boys were very excited about us and spent hours leading us around. By the end of our first visit, my hair was filled with flowers and I had girls climbing all over me.

It is so shocking to see how little it takes to excite the kids. The team gave backpacks to each with gifts inside. The children were smiling ear to ear and could hardly control themselves. In a way it is inspirational to see such simple excitement, but it is also sad because you know why they are so excited. These kids, at most two years ago had nothing. They were all living on the streets.

Different kinds of strength Thursday, February 19, 2009
Different kinds of strength

We pulled onto the ferry heading to Kotalipara and were surrounded by vendors. People, selling their snacks walked up and down the rows of cars, buses, and trucks. One man in longi (traditional long skirt tied at the waist) was selling fresh (?) fish on a silver platter. Another had puffed rice and salad on what looked like the organ that organ grinders hung from their necks. Then there was the young man offering what looked like chocolate covered nuts and fruits. It took real strength of will not to pay a few taka and enjoy until Pete, one of our phsicians said the simple words, "gastric distress."

While on the ferry we watched three men manhandle, with no crane or lever, metal piping for water management. Kevin reckoned the pipes were at least 18 inches in diameter and 20 feet long. The three pushed and pulled, sweated and suceeded in loading the pipes on a boat so heavily ladden that it was nearly taking on water. We could see the strength of their muscles rippling under the strain.

Watching out the van we passed rickshaw drivers carrying loads up and down the slight inclines of Bangladesh's roads. Some carried human passengers but many were carrying cargo. Bags of potatoes piled high above the head of the driver, 25 foot bamboo handing from both the front and the back of the rickshaw with no red flag, bags of rice topped by a co-worker all made it to their destinations through the leg muscles of their drivers. As they struggled under their load, their legs pumped like pistons.So strong do their leg bones become that orthopedists have noted how hard tit is to screw in pins when legs give out.

Once we got to Kotalipara and set up the clinic we were introduced to people whose strength, forebearance and fortitude were on full display. A young woman whose 6 month old was so dehydrated that there was grave concern brought her child to the clinic. The little one had a twin that had already died. Shellie went back to her suitcase and pulled out two packages of dry Gatorade to mix with water and feed to the child one eyedropper at a time. Many women came hoping to get answers about how they could give birth  fulfill their yearning for parenthood. A child with polio, and man bent over able only to walk with a stick each waited their turns with patience. And we learned again the limits of our care praying that God in his limitlessness would bring healing.

The women who cooked our meanls began their day long before breakfst and were still at it late into the night. They squat for hours over a fire hole dug in the dirt on which their pots cook. Pealing, chopping, seeding, and mixing all done by hand for hours while they squat in their saris enjoying their work and their company, The strength  and length of their tendons hard to imagine.

The week before we arrived in Bangladesh, Peter and Nancy received word that one of the children in the Savar Children's Home is likely to have lukemea. The community there and throughout Bangladesh has begun to pray. All medical costs are paid by the individual. There is no form of insurance. It will take strong faith to carry the BYFC famly through this crisis

It has been astounding to see these new and different faces of strength, and courage,  Its hard not to admire people such as these,

Medical Mission Day 1 Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Medical Mission Day 1

Today was our first day of medical clinic.  There was a political/media ceremony at the beginning - I hope that our presence makes a long term difference in the health of the individuals we are serving, but it will also enable BYFC to broaden its outreach to the community, building relationships for the long term. 

The children at the orphanage are amazing - joyful, friendly, curious.  I can't imagine being one of the house parents - 29 kids to look after, plus a 9-month-old of their own!  It is impressive to me how this place impacts its community.  Besides the orphans, many adults are provided employment working in the orphanage and community center, which has several outreach programs in the surrounding area.

We took care of 177 patients today.  Some of it is what I expected - chronic problems due to treatable infections, malnutrition, and so on.  Some similarities to home that I didn't expect - emphysema from smoking, headaches, colds.  One older gentleman came with a CT scan from 5 years ago that showed blood in the brain - his wife wanted to know if the American doctors could do anything for him. 

It is striking how in a world that seems so very different from the one I am used to, there are amazing similarities in some of the stories and personalities.  I suppose I shouldn't be surprised - we are all made in God's image, after all.

Kotalipara Arrival Monday, February 16, 2009
Kotalipara Arrival

  We arrived in Kotalipara and were greeted by cascading fountains of flowers thrown by children from the home. We are too tired to contemplate what exactly jet lag would feel like right now. The scenery of Bangladesh is surreal and beautiful and the people are friendly and curious. Each of us finds a different part of this amazing country fascinating.
  The experience of driving in Dhaka was something I'll never forget. "Adequate clearance between vehicles" in the U.S. is about 16 inches. In Bangladesh it is quite literally 3-4 inches at all speeds. Since many of the people driving in Bangladesh are drivers for a living, the experience is like being in a New York City populated only by taxi drivers.
  The children of the Kotalipara orphanage are bright and bubbly. They run more often than walk and refuse to let go of us as we walk by them. Seeing them in person is an experience beyond all others.

They are off to Bangladesh! Friday, February 13, 2009
They are off to Bangladesh!

Two days and Counting Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Two days and Counting

The last time Brunswick Church sent a team to Bangladesh we carried 6 suitcases. This time, as the team prepares to bring medical supplies, vitamins, backpacks, toothbrushes by the gazillion we expect to travel with 18 suitcases. Nine of us are going: Kevin and Shellie Ware, Warren Blaisdell, Melissa and Brittany Nelson, Pete Tilney, Rachel Sanford, Beth Jaeger and Kate Kotfila. We've been meeting for almost a year, planning, praying, preparing. Now we're just two days away from packing up a 14 passenger shuttlebus and heading to JFK. We're still figuring out what is going in whose suitcase but it looks like everything will fit.