The people of Bangladesh live on and in the water. During the rainy season, the water rises to such levels that people must travel by boat instead of bus, bicycle or car. It’s common to see children of five, six or seven years of age poling their way through the wetlands alone or with friends.
Many people live by means of the water. They gather water lilies, catch fish, harvest rice and more. On Aug. 12, 40 Bangladeshis, most of whom converted from Hinduism to Christianity, received another gift that comes only by water and the Word of God: new life in Holy Baptism. The Rev. Roger James, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) area director for South Asia, assisted in the Baptisms at the request of the Bangladesh Lutheran Church Mission (BLCM).
For the last seven years, the Rev. Monotosh Banarjee, founding pastor of the BLCM has requested support from the LCMS in proclaiming the Gospel in Bangladesh. For Monotosh, the proclamation of the Gospel is the highest priority for the Church.
Monotosh has also requested more theological education for the deacons, teachers and evangelists who serve the BLCM. The LCMS is meeting the need for theological education through training seminars supported by Luther Academy and others.
Since Monotosh is currently the only ordained pastor, he asked the LCMS to support the BLCM in teaching the people of the BLCM. In response, James has catechized and baptized many Bangladeshis.
In May 2015, James taught and assisted in baptizing 120 Bangladeshis at four congregations in Bangladesh. This work has continued this August, as James catechized and assisted in baptizing another 40 Bangladeshis at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Baniarchar, Bangladesh.
After James’s instruction, the baptismal candidates came forward. The BLCM school superintendent questioned the students in Bangla and asked for their names. After repeating the name to ensure he said it correctly, James took a handful of water, poured it over each candidate, and baptized them in the name of the Holy Trinity.
The people of Bangladesh, often wet with water, received this water as a washing in the name of Christ.
James said, “What a joy it is to pour all the blessings of the cross upon Christ’s people.”
Baptism into the Christian faith can bring great difficulty. Bangladeshis who convert from Hinduism or Islam will be rejected by their families; they are sometimes in danger of being physically attacked and harmed by family members. Yet Mrs. Labonee Roy, one of the baptized, said, “We came from the Hindu religion and received a new Christian religion. We are very happy to receive Jesus Christ, and we would like to practice Lutheranism for the rest of my life.”
After the service, Monotosh gave two gifts to the each of the newly baptized. First, he gave a copy of the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs. He also gave an article of clothing to symbolize the new life they received through Holy Baptism.
Monotosh said, “I am very happy for the opportunity to bring people to new life in Jesus Christ. This is my goal: More and more people will be baptized and receive new life through Jesus Christ.”
The next week, at the invitation of the LCMS, the Rev. Dr. Charles Cortright taught Romans 1–8 to the pastor, deacons, evangelists and teachers of the BLCM. Cortright explained Law and Gospel, more on the theology of Baptism and the centrality of justification.
The Lord be praised for bringing the gift of new life to the people of Bangladesh. Monotosh asked, “Please pray for the BLCM so that we can accomplish God’s mission in Bangladesh.”
Please keep the people of the BLCM in your prayers as they continue to share the Gospel and live the new life granted to them in Holy Baptism.
—The Rev. Roy S. Askins, director of communications, Asia