On 26th December 2010, six of us met at Glasgow Airport before flying out to Bangladesh for a two week exposure visit. With me were Lyn Ross, the Session Clerk, and four former members of the Youth Group – Helen Bicket, Gillian Lawie, Scott Coull and Ross White. Unlike the other groups I have taken to Bangladesh, we were not going to undertake any project – but purely to give the opportunity to experience life in Bangladesh. The youngsters in the group had been asking me for quite a number of years when I was going to take them to Bangladesh to which the answer was “when you are older”! The last time they asked me, they were older, so there was no excuse for not taking them!
And it was a wonderful two weeks – and so much fun! We already knew one another well, and over our time in Bangladesh there was much laughter – and compared to others who pass through Bangladesh and never get out of the capital – we saw and did an amazing amount. And everywhere we went, we received superb generosity and hospitality. One of my friends even cut short his holiday to come back to his work two days early so that he could be with us.
We did have the opportunity to see the clinic in Panihata, the new houses built by money raised from our coffee mornings last autumn, and also visit the church built in 2004 by folk from Carnoustie and elsewhere, and also the church which was built and the school which was painted in 2008. It was humbling to be told of the difference these have made to the communities. Attendances have greatly increased at church, because they have a building in their own village which is used every day of the week for services, prayer meetings and a meeting place. In the area where the church was built in 2004, there was a baptismal service in late 2010 when around 150 people from an animist background were baptised.
With the money that was raised in 2004 (about £7000) a lovely new church was built (as well as a house for the priest). In 2008, about £11,000 was raised which built another church, painted a school and also built the clinic in Panihata – a good return, I think!
Over the years, the church doors of Carnoustie Panbride have been open to the community of the world, and to the local community. As well as Bangladesh, we have supported digging wells in Malawi, helped communities in Israel, Pakistan, Zambia, Ethiopia, Ghana and Kosovo; The Amazon Ferry; The FOG Squad supports communities overseas; we have sent money for disaster relief, but we have also not forgotten our responsibilities to the local community. Over the years we have also supported Carnoustie Community Helpline, Fishermen’s Mission, The McMillan Appeal for Stracathro Hospital, Summer Mission, local people like Innes Wilson and Kevin Christie, Guide Dogs, Leukaemia Research, Rebecca Cottage, Alzheimers Scotland, The Boys’ Brigade through the Christmas Post, The Priority Areas Appeal, Ninewells Cancer Appeal and many more. And all this is in addition to the offerings which we make throughout the year.
So thank you for your support and your generosity. What we have been involved in over the years has made and does make a difference.
And in this recent visit to Bangladesh, we were told this on many occasions by Bishops, local clergy and others involved with the Church of Bangladesh which works with some of the poorest people in the world, regardless of their religion. And I hope that Carnoustie Panbride will continue to see that an important part of what we are about is reaching out beyond ourselves into the local community and far beyond.
And there are some people I know, and in whose company I spent a wonderful two weeks, who have been enthused and challenged by what they experienced in Bangladesh and are keen to return to undertake a project at some time in the future. And I, for one, will be hoping it is before I am too old to make the journey!