CWM Conference - Dhaka, Bangladesh 3-5th February 2011
This was the second CWM Conference in Bangladesh. The first was arranged by David and Alice Campbell and conducted by Philip and Kathleen Powell in February 2010. Philip and Kathleen were unable to attend this year.
Ours was a marvellous experience. We were greatly impressed by David and Alice's commitment to the people of Bangladesh and their desire to see the Gospel preached and the Christian life lived in a country where Christianity is marginalised and where the depth in many places is only skin deep.
Our trip from London started with a hiccup when we were informed on the day of Roger's and my flights that I had not been issued with a visa. This led to me cancelling my “legal” conference and going to the High Commission instead. They accepted a short letter and I had my visa. It was a good moment when our agent appeared smiling with the passport open at the visa!
We took off on time at 8.40pm and had an uneventful journey to Abu Dhabi, where we were upgraded to Business Class for the last leg, which was most welcome! A Brazilian stewardess asked me about the Bible I was reading: she turned out to be a Seventh Day Adventist. She said she only believed in the Bible and promised to visit our Assembly in Stroud Green when she was next in London.
David and Alice met us at Dhaka Airport and whisked us away to their spacious flat in the DOHS District reserved for retired Army officers – mainly high-ranking – apparently the Kensington of Dhaka although you wouldn't have known it: everything seemed very run down with dust everywhere! We had a walk in a very nice park reserved for people living in this exclusive area. The next day we set off at 11am for the conference centre which was about 16-17 miles away. The traffic was awful. It took us one and three quarters hours to get there. There was then lunch and it was time to prepare for the first session.
I decided to give an overview of Romans 1-8 in my two talks because it appeared that understanding the Gospel was a big issue with those attending. Roger took the foundational doctrines from Hebrews 6:1-3 in two of his talks and spoke about prayer as well. About 42 came six of whom were pastors from a mixture of backgrounds. Unfortunately a number who said they would come failed to appear, which is a constant problem that David and Alice Campbell have to face
Another problem here is to find pastors and Christians who really know the Lord and understand His Word. Everyone received the Word we gave very warmly but there was real concern about how much notice was taken. John Dees, a missionary from Heart Cry Missionary Society joined us as a third speaker for the conference and was equally concerned about this matter. After some very noisy singing on the Saturday evening, which David had to confront, John read in his evening reading this very pertinent passage from Ezekiel 33: 31-33 -
And they come to you as the people do, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear your words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts go after their gain. And you are to them as a very lovely song of one that has a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear your words, but they do not do them. And when this comes to pass, (surely it will come,) then they shall know that a prophet has been among them.
One of David's great strengths is to confront error head on, as he did on this occasion, but to do it in such a way that he maintains the respect of the people, which is a great testimony. I was particularly struck by his willingness to step out of the taxi and force a policeman to give back a bribe: that is Christianity in action! On the Saturday John Dees changed his message to challenge everyone at the conference to live lives consistent with true biblical Christianity.
At the beginning of the conference we had some discussion about the use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit given the attendance of those from non Pentecostal backgrounds. Also, we hadn't wanted to upset John Dees unnecessarily. In the event there was one tongue's message right on the last day after John Dees had spoken and the opening words of the interpretation, referring to John's message, were: “You have heard the Word of the Lord....” This of course encouraged all of us, including John and showed, once again, the Lord's grace.
Sunday was memorable for the 2½ hour journey a few miles across the city to St Thomas' where we spoke to some Bible Students about the Gospel. It was great to meet Shourabh, an Anglican minister who runs the college. He is a wonderful Christian and we must pray for him. the students seemed quite open but it was difficult to know how many really understood and were living for the Gospel.
Then it was back to the flat and out for a walk around the lake nearby: it was a filthy lake so any thought of swimming was quickly put out of my mind! A rickshaw ride then took Alice and me to Pastor James' church – away through various alleyways – certainly not somewhere to find easily on one's own There I found the speaker, John Vidler, was an Australian from Woolongong whose son-in-law pastored the same church that cousins of mine attend in Canberra! A small world!
Our last day was spent having breakfast with our missionary friend, John Dees, and a detailed discussion about the baptism in the Holy Spirit, then a visit to a Buddhist priest and lunch with a Roman Catholic priest both allowing opportunities for the Gospel.
Please do remember David and Alice in your prayers. They are doing a difficult work with great determination and courage.
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