We are now going into our 4th week here in Bangladesh, but our journey began long before touching down in Dhaka. In fact, during our orientation in Akron, Pennsylvania in February, one of the session speakers opened with “You are all here because of a 100 year old romance”.
The Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) began in 1920 when Mennonites of various conferences united with the common goal of providing relief to suffering Mennonites in Ukraine and Russia. Orie O. Miller was chosen to direct the first unit of volunteers, and he too went overseas to help in the operation. Orie met his wife Elta Wolf, in college in Goshen, Indiana, but moved to Akron to work at his father-in-law’s shoe factory because he had to have a job if he wanted to get married. So, Orie moved because of love.
Today, in that same shoe factory where Orie worked is the headquarters of Ten Thousand Villages US (which MCC started). Just down the street, MCC US’s head office is now based. From its humble beginnings, MCC has grown and now:
[W]orks alongside local churches and communities in more than 50 countries, including Canada and the United States, to carry out disaster relief, sustainable community development and justice and peace-building work in the name of Christ. MCC also seeks to build bridges to connect people and ideas across cultural, political and economic divides.
(To learn more, check out: MCC: What we do).
MCC has a long history in Bangladesh. It first entered the country (then known as East Pakistan) in 1970 to help provide relief after a cyclone. Then in 1971, MCC was temporary forced to suspend operations due to the bloody liberation war. After Bangladesh became independent, MCC resumed operations and expanded to become one of MCC’s largest country offices, broadly encompassing emergency relief and preparedness, economic development (job creation, appropriate agricultural technology), health awareness, and peacebuilding.
There is a long history with MCC and Bangladesh that Erin and I have the privilege of entering into. Being a third culture kid (TCK), I grew up wrestling with ‘finding’ my identity, but I eventually came to the realization that I must understand the past in order to move forward. Through this, I was able to appreciate the foundation that my life was built on through the faith and hard work of my parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and those that preceded them. This also helped me deeply appreciate the ‘fruit’ that we saw through our campus ministry at Humber, where we had the privilege of being there at the kairos moment for planting a campus church after many had toiled for years.
So, putting things into perspective, 4 weeks now looks even shorter, and so it is only appropriate that our language lessons begin with what is called the ‘Silent Phase’ where one doesn’t speak but listens and humbly learns words and phrases like a child. Although we will gradually work our way into more complicated aspects of Bangla, we are also listening and learning about the context and history here in Bangladesh.
Over the past few weeks here, we have had the opportunity to meet many of the MCC staff in Dhaka and Mymensingh (and hopefully in Bogra soon). We have also been able to visit many of the partners MCC works with, and many of the projects. Words fail me in sharing how amazing it is to meet the people that serve here and to see firsthand the positive impact it is having. Having a background in industrial (product) design, it has also been really neat to see how some of the fair trade businesses make their products.
For those that are interested, Erin has been working hard to upload photos on Facebook (to which you don’t need a Facebook account to view). I have also included a couple videos in this post taken at Banoful, a fair trade workshop, where handmade paper is made by artisans.
We would like to thank you all for your interest and support of us and the work we are engaging in. As many of you know, how we got connected with MCC in Bangladesh is a pretty neat story (one for another day), but we are really enjoying learning about the macro story here in Bangladesh, within MCC, and beyond.
PLEASE BE PRAYING THAT:
1. We humbly listen and learn about the Bangladeshi people, history, language and culture
2. We continue to transition well (staying healthy and learning new routines)
Nishant (and Erin)
PHOTOS:Check out the full album at: February 2014
Banoful is a fair trade workshop under Prokritee, a partner of MCC. Here, handmade paper is made by artisans.
In the above video, an artisan skillfully strains the pulp and makes individual sheets of paper. After she is completed, the paper is ready to be dried. In this example, the paper is made from recycled cotton t-shirts.
In the above video, an artisan skillfully creates patterns with paint in water and then dyes the paper.
In the above video, an artisan skillfully creates motifs on the paper by pressing leaves that naturally dye the paper.