The consecration of the new Bishop of Kushtia which took place in Haluaghat on 8th November was a wonderful occasion. I had arrived in Bangladesh on 3rd November, and in the evening went to see Liza Mondol, “being great with child”. It was good to see her again and meet some of her family. The following day I had travelled the four hours to Haluaghat by bus, and met Martin who told me that Liza had been admitted to hospital, but he thought the doctor would send her home since he thought it was a false alarm.
From Haluaghat I travelled to Panihata on the back of a motorbike, and spent a day there visiting the new clinic which was built with left over money from our workcamp in 2008, and which is now seeing an average of 35 patients a day, and double that when the doctor visits once a week. This is a facility which is certainly meeting a need in an area where the nearest medical facilities were a few hours away in the dry season, and unreachable in the monsoon. The running costs are met from donations from congregations in the Presbytery of Angus.
It was in Panihata that a text message was received from Martin to say that Liza had given birth to a daughter that morning, Eileen Mounota Mondol and both were well. It is probably fortunate, therefore, that Martin is a minister and not a doctor! I also had the opportunity to visit the village home of Sunil Mankhin who was to be the new Bishop and meet his parents.
It was then back on the motorbike again, and on to Baruajani to visit Bikash who had been one of my students in 1977 and whom I met last year after a gap of 29 years, and it was good to meet his sons and daughters and spend time with them. His oldest son, Cyprian, took a couple of days leave from his work and travelled all the way from Dhaka to meet me. And it was Bikash’s wife who served up some wonderful food!
A rickshaw took me back to Haluaghat on the Saturday, the day that people were arriving from all over the country to attend the consecration – and I met a great many people whom I knew and whom I had not seen for quite some time, including another of my students from 1977 – after a gap of 30 years. At the consecration 3000 people were expected – in the event 5000 turned up, and about 4000 people were fed at the feast after the consecration and reception.
Another change of transport – a people carrier – and together with Ashis, the minister in Jobarpar, and a long standing friend, and two other visitors Martin and Gillian Heath to Jobarpar. Martin used to work for USPG and I had met him once or twice when I was Asia Convener of World Mission. They were great company, and in Jobarpar we met the Sisters and Mother Susila and Provonjon who came to Panbride on his way back from study in Nova Scotia in about 1996. We visited the Church and School which we helped with on the 2008 Work Camp and it was great to see the completed church – very simply furnished – and used on an almost daily basis for worship and as a meeting place. The school was in full swing and the paint had withstood 2 monsoon seasons very well. We also visited a number of the village homes and the villagers showed us where the water level had reached during the floods of 2008 – in some cases a depth of 6 feet and more.
After a visit to Barisal and the chance to meet up with friends again, it was time to head back to Dhaka and after a very long journey we arrived at 11.00pm – 5 hours later than planned. The next morning after breakfast I went to see Liza and her daughter, and you can see their photos in the Panbride Hall.
The weather when I was there was hot and sticky – not at all usual for November which is usually cooler. Whatever the cause, the climate is changing in Bangladesh – and people told me that gone are the days of 6 seasons each year – they now have 2 – a much longer hot and sticky season, with more flooding, and a shorter winter, but where the temperatures are much lower than in the past.
I am glad that I decided to go for Sunil’s consecration – we may have the opportunity to meet him as he hopes to come to the General Assembly in May.