...My husband and his family have long been the supporters of a christian children's home (school/orphanage) near Dhaka, Bangladesh. The past couple of weeks I had the opportunity of traveling with him and his parents to visit this home, the 366 children, the 50+ staff, and our two sponsored children. It was an adventure! In preparation for my trip I was asked this question a lot, "What are you going to do over there?" A VBS program, street evangelism, build a house, etc? This was not going to be one of those kind of trips and I had a hard time wording what we were going to do.
Well, on our second to last day at this oasis in the middle of a dark land where less than 2% of the population is Christian, I was hit in the head with a 2x4. This trip was not about doing it was about being. And the four E's vision of D.V. perfectly explained our reasoning for going. (edit: the four E vision is Embrace, Expect, Experience, Express. All are part in showing/teaching God loves them)
How? One example came from my sponsor daughter- 5 year old Moni. We have been her sponsor for a little over a year and I was just thrilled to meet her. But what was I going to do with her? There was a huge problem- a language barrier. Moni spoke literally maybe 10 words in English (they teach it at the school, but she is so young she is still in the playgroup). I spoke about 3 words in Bangla- "beautiful", "thank you", and "I love you". How was I going to do anything with Moni or any of the younger ones if I couldn't even speak with them? When we first arrived, Moni was very shy. I had a hard time even her letting me hug her. She didn't make much eye contact. As I played with the other girls, she often stood at a distance watching. But then it hit me. I can do anything to really show Moni how I love her or how God loves her. What was need was for me to just be. This trip was about being with the children. A state of being not of doing. That is when I also remembered the four E's. I could show God's love for Moni by embracing her. I showed God's love to all the children that I couldn't communicate that God loved them by simply hugging them, holding their hand, letting them sit in my lap, playing simple games, and just being with them. These kids are literal orphans or orphans by circumstance where their parent/family cannot afford them anymore. I had the opportunity for 5 days to be a temporary parent for them. By the end of our time there, Moni was smiling more. She would run our from the dorm to meet me in the play yard. And when we had to say goodbye- she wouldn't let go. I didn't do anything. I didn't build her anything. I was just being with her. I was embracing her. I truly believe Moni has a better understanding of God's love.
As I reflect now on the experience we had in Bangladesh, I realize a better way to answer the question of "what did you do?" is "I didn't do anything except be." I can also see how using the other three E's in Ada's vision were used in our time there. But not necessarily transferring from me to the children- but the children teaching ME! These children are prayer warriors. Every night they have chapel and every morning they have devotions. During each time, the take a lengthy time to pray. They pray for anything and everything. One thing that touched me was during the Sunday service the children who were having birthdays that week stood up. Then, they prayed for each of the birthday child's sponsor. They actively participated in communal prayers. I couldn't understand a word of what they were saying, but I could hear 366 voices all whispering to God. It was beautiful. They showed me that I can expect to trust God. I also felt as though I experienced God through every service and every testimony. God does some extreme things in this part of the world to show people that he is God and that He does love them. The stories of miracles gave me chills.
The Bengali people have a rich and deep culture. Dance and music are a part of everyday life and every worship. These children taught me something about expressing their love for God. Their expression came out of a deep love, a deep desire to serve him and thank him for everything He has done.
This children's home is a literal beacon on a hill. While the area around them floods every year during the monsoon- they are just high enough to be protected. They are ministering to the local community by offering healthcare, a micro credit program, vocational training, and even allowing the village children to come to their school. They are a light in a dark place. At 6 am every morning I would hear the muslim call to prayer, a somber tune and a reminder of the challenges these children face. But then at about 6:05 I suddenly hear joyous voices as the boys started their worship and devotions two floors below where I was sleeping. It would quickly drown out the muslim call.
I didn't do much on this trip. I taught a couple chapels and a couple songs. I didn't build anything. I didn't have a program or agenda to get through. I was out on the streets preaching God's name. But I embraced children to show them God's love when I couldn't speak to them. I tried to show children they could expect to trust God to meet their needs by simply being with them and buying the occasional sandal for those who needed them at just that moment. I wanted children to experience God's love by learning new songs and by simply being with them. They taught me that expressing their love for God was far deeper than mine ever could be.
What did I do in Bangladesh? It wasn't a matter of doing, it was a matter of being.
Me and my Bengali daughter Moni