Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine - 2 Timothy 4:2.
I have recently returned from a 10 day trip to minister alongside David Campbell in Bangladesh where he and his wife spend much of the year serving the Lord. This was my second visit following Philip and Kathleen Powell’s trip in 2010 when the first CWM conference was held in Dhaka, the capital, where I landed and was met by David. Bangladesh is a needy country where the gospel was first brought by the Baptist Missionary, William Carey, in the last part of the 18th and early part of the 19th centuries. It is a predominantly Muslim country, with a secular outlook. It does not suffer from the same extreme factions that exist in Pakistan. Indeed one of the problems is that in the war between the two countries leading to independence, the Pakistanis executed most of the intelligentsia and it has taken Bangladesh years to recover.
Within hours of my arrival after a quick shower and meal, it was back to the airport. David and I flew to Jessore in a small propeller driven aircraft. We were then driven to Shatkira in the far south west of Bangladesh where we arrived at 9.30pm in time for a brief meeting with the pastors who were busy singing when we got there. I spoke briefly on Psalm 126. Verse 3 had come to me on New Year's Eve and was was so encouraging as a reflection on the great things God has done for us. How easy it is to forget that the greatest thing of all is that God sent his own Son to this world to save us.
The following morning the day started with a Prayer Meeting at 7am when David gave a short exhortation from 1 Tim 2 on prayer. After breakfast I took the first of three seminars. I took my theme from 1 Timothy 3:15—the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth. I spoke about the division between man and God at the Fall and how truth became corrupted and the whole world came under the power of Satan who was a liar from the beginning cf. John 8:44. The Devil has sown his lies in the world and there is a great need to recover the truth. I referred to John 18:37 where Christ gave His reason for coming into the world which was to bear witness to the truth, which is found only in Him (John 14:6). As Christ is the Head of the Church then the Church by definition must contain the truth. This presents a challenge to us to guard the truth in an age of increasing apostasy and to walk in truth (2 John 4). The reason Paul lists the high standards required by leaders within the church is because the church is “the pillar and ground of truth”.
We must therefore not just believe the truth but we must wal in it too. Ironically, and despite David’s instructions that only evangelical pastors should be present, we had one 7th Day Adventist, one Oneness (Jesus Only) Pentecostal, two Roman Catholics, one Taleta’kumi pastor a neo-Pentecostal/charismatic group in Bangladesh.
Pastor Alfred Roy a former AoG pastor and personal friend of David and Alice for more than 20 years, organised the seminar and also attended the opening of David and Alice’s Children’s Project the following Friday and told us that a number of the pastors had wanted to continue the study of the truth. This was very encouraging.
We left the conference centre in the afternoon and headed to Gopalgong on a very bumpy bus experiencing how 99.9% of Bangladeshis travel! The bus is pictured below.
The next day, Saturday 5th January, was a little frustrating. We visited a village called Coligram where one of David’s workers (Anando) lived. We had to take a “ferry” across the river to get there; this was no modern ferry as you can see!
On our arrival we discovered that the church we were meant to be speaking at consisted of a tented structure where there was wild banging of drums and hysterical chanting. We had, in fact come to a meeting of an off shoot/cult group from the oldest Baptist denomination in Bangladesh. They practise Hindu cultural methods, and claim that financial giving is linked to God’s blessing. Although many from all the church denominations follow them and attend their meetings, they are regarded as an extreme cult within the mainstream denominations in Bangladesh. When we realised this was not something we felt we should be involved with we decided that we weren’t going to speak at the meeting, but they insisted.
David spoke first and criticised their worship as being all from man and nothing to do with God at all. Predictably this did not go down well and so we were asked to leave. However one person came up to David and thanked him for what he had said. He was a member of The Churches of Christ linked to the Boston group who teach heavy shepherding.
At least he had some discernment and David has since been in email contact a number of times. There is interest in meeting to talk further. You may just be able to see that his t-shirt also left something to be desired. David has since made contact with the chairman who asked us to leave and has arranged to meet up with him in Dhaka.
David talking to the Church of Christ man.
The Chanting “church” meeting
We then returned to one of the workers’ houses where David had the delight of fish heads for lunch. I was excused on account of my delicate stomach. This is a picture of Anando’s family house. It is fairly primitive and it makes you realise how vulnerable Bangladeshis are to flooding: most houses are built like this or are even more primitive.
We then set out on an unforgettable journey back to Dhaka on this bus:
The driver drove at break-neck speed. Ramps were taken as an opportunity to see how high he could bounce his back seat passengers (we were on the back seats). First the bus broke down; then arrived at the “modern” ferry, which got stuck on a sand bank. Then to cap it all the bus driver almost got us all killed by trying to overtake in the face of oncoming traffic. With a screech of brakes and burning rubber we just avoided the crash and eventually and with great relief arrived in Dhaka. David’s flat felt like paradise after what we had just gone through!
The next day, Sunday there was a strike. Amazingly all the streets were silent – just like Sundays were once upon a time in London! That is because when there are strikes they discourage bus drivers from crossing the picket line by burning their buses with people in them ... very unpleasant.
That evening I spoke at the Baptist Church on prayer from James 5. I had three headings:
The need to be righteous;
The need to be effective; and
The need to be fervent.
It was particularly timely since the pastor’s wife had been very unwell.
The following week we had meetings every day. On the Monday, with the Bishop of the Methodist Church. On Tuesday 8th I spoke to a group of lawyers (only two were evangelicals), from Colossians 2:9 (“in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily”). This enabled me to share the Gospel and then go on to speak about the implications of being a Christian in practice, referring to the following verse which describes Christ being head of every principality and power – including Bangladesh. I hope very much to follow up this connection.
The following day I spoke at the Church of Bangladesh Theological College on John 3:16. The meeting seemed to go well but I am not sure about the depth of these students’ knowledge of salvation.
In the evening I spoke at the Garo Fellowship which is a small church near the business district in Dhaka. Though few in number they seemed sincere Christians. One man gave thanks for being preserved in an accident on the way to the meeting – the roads are something else as you will have gathered from the above. I spoke on Isaiah 55:2 – not giving our lives to those things that are not real and do not satisfy but coming to Christ. There were a number of students present.
On the Thursday I went to the Korean Christian Hospital to speak at their early morning devotions. The hospital was set up after the war. It is a Presbyterian mission but sadly has lost much of its mission focus. I spoke from Acts 10—the conversion of Cornelius—to show that good men do not go to heaven without Christ and that a Christian doctor’s overriding concern should be the health of the soul over the body.
Dr Park the Chairman of the Hospital Board gave us a power point presentation of how the hospital started and its work today.
My final day, Friday, coincided with the official opening of David and Alice Campbell’s Children’s Home. It was really very well attended with all seats filled. I shared the speaking with the Chairman of the Baptist church and a board member of the Children’s Project, pastor Alvin Bohkta who spoke from Psalm 68:5-6. I shared from Matthew 11:25-30 emphasising first, the importance of children in the Kingdom of God and that we all need childlike faith; secondly the rest of salvation (v28) (for the unbelievers in the congregation); and thirdly the rest of service (v29) (for the workers). After lunch we sat on the roof of the orphanage and had a wide- ranging discussion about the importance of truth and the basics of the Christian life with the workers there. This was really fruitful.
Looking back on my 10 days I thank God for the many opportunities to share the Gospel and preach the Word. We must pray for a full understanding of the Gospel amongst the people and a desire to go out and preach the truth. The fields are certainly white for harvest. We must pray for more workers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mark Mullins is a practising barrister at the Bar of England and Wales, who is occasionally called upon by the BBC and others to represent the Christian position in debate and discussion in the national media. From 2002-2012 he was an elder at Stroud Green Christian Assembly (a traditional Pentecostal church started out of a Smith Wigglesworth crusade in the 1920s). The Assembly has had links with CWM since CWM was formed (www.sgca-online.org). Mark is a regular speaker at CWM conferences. He is currently helping with the ministry at Strangers Rest Evangelical Church in East London wile continuing is work as a Barrister.
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