And now a word from one of the ladies on our team, Stephanie Searle, who is also my sister-in-law:

I’m sitting here writing this during the opening worship of the Workers Retreat at a conference center about 45 minutes outside of Dhaka. Twenty Christian Bengali men have gathered and are singing worship songs with great gusto. The four women are sitting in the back, with heads covered, observing the conference. At 2:00, a driver is coming to take the women by van and ferry to Kushtia, while the men will stay here to teach and worship with the workers for the next three days.

Last night during the introductory time, ——– expressed thankfulness for this time of refreshment for these conference attendees. He said that normally they give and give and give of themselves and now this was their time to be rejuvenated and take in the teaching of God’s Word. These men are farmers, plumbers, businessmen, and students who have come to Christ and now also serve as field workers, librarians and Jesus film team members for the cause of Christ.

Our team has spent the last two days adjusting to the time zone, the heat, and the culture. We did a little shopping and touring to try to stay awake and readjust our body clocks. We’ve been going to bed early, in part because we’re so tired and in part because there are so many things that wake you during the night. Mark Smith says muslims would be much happier if they would let them get a good night’s sleep instead of waking them all during the night with calls to prayer and the broadcast of sermons and chants over loudspeakers.

The staff at the guest house in Dhaka and here at the conference center have been taking good care of us. Here at the conference, we’re eating very typical Bengali foods. Supper last night was a bowl of rice onto which they place a serving of curried vegetables. They then pour a serving of dal over your rice. Dal is a curried lentil soup served with every meal. A serving of spicy, stewed chicken is the main course, also eaten with the rice. Everyone on the team except me is joining the local custom of eating everything with your hands (Don gave us eating lessons at the guest house in Dhaka). Meals are always followed by hot Bengali tea, brewed with milk and sugar.

Breakfast this morning was a serving of dal to be eaten with Ruti, a tortilla like bread, a hard-boiled egg, and tea. Twice a day, we have tea time, at which they serve hot, sweet tea and a light snack like lightly sweetened toast.

Although I have traveled to several foreign countries, Bangladesh is the most foreign to our way of life. Dhaka is simply overwhelming—the sights, the sounds, the smells, the crowds, the crazy traffic. It’s impossible to describe what it is like to ride down the left side of the road in a van while sharing the road with large buses, cars, vans, bicycle-powered rickshaws, baby taxis, motor scooters, and hundreds of pedestrians wandering in and out of traffic at random. If there are traffic laws—or lanes or signals—they mean nothing. The streets are a free-for-all, a sea of honking traffic and pedestrians. As we were driving from the airport to the guest house, Mark uttered the understatement of the week concerning the traffic: “There’s really no rhyme or reason to this, is there?” As for me, I just close my eyes, especially when Don makes a right turn across traffic.

Saturday, Don took us on a walking tour of a market area near the guest house. As we strolled along, we became a walking freak show. People just wandered up to us and stared, following us down the street. Merchants were selling meats, live chickens, fish, fruits and vegetables, sweets, medicines, and even Barbie toys! Barefoot children ran and played in the streets. Beggars boldly petitioned us for money. Everyone stared. White people have no trouble drawing a crowd in Dhaka.

Last night, as I prepared to sleep under my mosquito net, I read Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Please pray with our team that our presence here will bring glory and honor to God.

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