Training for local church leaders
Bangladesh churches do not have the funds at their disposal to enable their young members to spend a number of years studying at bible school. To this end the TEE (out-of-school Christian training) was set up. Here the school comes to the student and not the other way round! What this means in practice is that the student has the necessary books at his disposal and works through a given number of lessons at home, according to an agreed timetable. He then arranges a tutorial with his mentor, generally a pastor or missionary, who goes through the material with the student, discusses parish work with him and organizes the exams.
800 men and women currently study the bible in Bangladesh along these lines and the CCTB (College of Christian Theology), founded in 1968, plays a key role in this. It offers regular training courses for the tutors and compiles training materials. Two-week intensive courses are offered locally or at the college itself. This gives students the opportunity to complete a course in just a couple of weeks that would normally take three months.
The Liebenzell Mission is one of the thirty member organizations of CCTB.
The Carey Memorial School (CMS), founded in 1796 in northern Bangladesh, provides over 200 children from the city of Dinajpur and its surroundings with a good education. This Christian run school is financed by the Liebenzell Mission which also provides personnel support for the management of the school. Most children come from very poor families. Their fathers usually work as rickshaw pullers or hired labourers and the families live from hand to mouth. The school currently houses a nursery school and grades 1 – 10 and has recently received government certification.
Regular meetings with parents and home visits, sporting activities and medical check-ups are also part of the school program.
To fight illiteracy in poorly developed rural areas, CMS also supervises two village schools in the Dinajpur district. The Liebenzell Mission supports this work and thus enables 120 children to complete their schooling.
In Khulna and the surrounding area, many children from poor families or disadvantaged backgrounds grow up as orphans or half-orphans.
On August 4, 1995 the Baptist church’s long-standing plan to set up a children’s village was finally realized. Roughly 60 boys are cared for there. They grow up in a protected Christian environment, receive an education and learn how to breed fish, plant crops and take care of cows. Children are usually accepted when they reach school age and are schooled on the premises during the first three years. They then attend the local state school. On completion of grade ten they either begin professional training or continue with their college education for a further two years which enables them to study at an institution of higher education. Usually the children leave the home at this point. In certain cases the children’s village continues to offer the boys accommodation at the home even after this period.
If necessary a small bridging loan is provided. The home’s supervisors also do their best to help the children to get off to a good start in their professional lives. The Liebenzell mission provides financial support for these children to be cared for at the home.
In the south east of Bangladesh there are 13 different ethnic groups still mainly living in tribes. It is very difficult to provide schooling in these areas due to the lack of teachers and school buildings. 16% of the children here have never attended school. Only 7.8% have completed primary education and only 2.4% have completed a form of secondary education. The situation is problematic due to the isolation and the widely scattered villages, the varying tribal languages and the lack of financing.
The Liebenzell Mission’s partner church has 54 parishes in this region which maintain good contacts to the local communities. The Liebenzell Mission supports a children’s village (a boarding school) here for 20 children of secondary school age. It is proposed to set up a new primary school in the near future.
Community development projects (ICDP)
The Liebenzell Mission was originally involved in supporting two clinics in the villages of Shantikutir and Mallikbari, from 1978 and 1979 onwards respectively. Today, due to local changes in medical treatment and health care, these clinics offer two village development projects in the area, applying an integrated approach whereby the local staff work together with the villagers to improve their social, financial, health care and spiritual development.
To people living in these outlying, rural areas these are bases providing hope. At times of natural disaster (floods, hurricanes) the development projects serve as first aid centers. The catchment region covers over 200 villages stretching over an area of ca. 35 km. Previously, the aid used to center on general medical care and regular vaccination campaigns.
Nowadays, more focus is placed upon the participation of the villagers themselves in improving their family life and health, as well as their spiritual and financial situation. In order to better respond to the needs of this rural population the existing programs were analyzed. It was discovered that a higher degree of health care (maternity consultations, nutrition and hygiene counseling and preventive health measures …) was required. Prevention and information policies locally and in the families themselves is necessary and helps effectively to avoid diseases. Our co-workers were and still are trained accordingly.
Four times a week teams go out to advise the villagers in Shantikutir and Mallikbari and offer training courses at different places. The aim is to work more closely with the villagers to better define their local problems and needs and to cooperate with them to achieve all-round solutions. These measures go far beyond treating health care aspects alone and encompass, for example, such problems as domestic violence, rights for women and children, values …. In this respect this concept takes physical as well as emotional, spiritual and mental health of these people into consideration, and also their social environment.
Once a week medical health care is still offered at the health centers where a doctor is available to treat patients.
Bangladesh has a high birth rate with an annual population growth of 2.7%. Sunday schools, children’s days and camps play a decisive role in the Christian upbringing of children. Even children from non-Christian families like to take part in these church events, if permission is granted by their parents.
With its children’s and youth groups the church association (BBCS), working in cooperation with the Liebenzell Mission, reaches roughly 5 500 children and young people aged between 4 and 17 on a weekly basis. 230 Sunday school helpers take group sessions, and training courses are held to train them for this important work. Children’s activity weeks regularly take place. All these events and the necessary materials are costly. Children and local parishes contribute as far as possible to the financing of the materials, but they are nevertheless dependent on additional financial aid.
Personnel support provided by the LMI BD team
The LMI BD team consists of a number of families and single men and women. From the start of its involvement in 1974 up to the present day, the Liebenzell Mission has made a particular effort to foster personal contacts, offer support and maintain long-term partnerships with Bangladeshis and their corresponding organizations.
Its international personnel and LMI BD itself are expressly welcomed by locals, as is their personal involvement, because they take concrete action when faced by challenging situations or in structuring work. They also pray together with locals and get to know the local people well. The LMI BD team makes a particular effort to become familiar with the language and the culture of the Bangladeshis and this is very much appreciated.