Between Sorrow & Joy

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

Life is often experienced through a series of events which are mostly ordinary but sandwiched between major occasions like births, weddings, and funerals. Over the past couple months we experienced all three of these major occasions as we walked beside our colleagues and friends. These experiences have come with a roller coaster of emotions that ranged from the joy of the birth of an eagerly anticipated baby, the wonderful celebration of two lives being brought together in marriage, to the agony from an unexpected death.

We feel honoured to have the opportunity to live and work with many great people in our adopted home Bangladesh. For the past two and a half years we have been living in Mymensingh and the events of the past couple months have deepened our roots in the community.

I have been privileged to support one of the women employed by a social business MCC supports through providing her basic prenatal care during her pregnancy. She would give me a short update on how she was feeling almost every day as I would walk past her workplace, so I was so eager to see her baby. Despite already having a child, she was nervous about giving birth as it had been over 10 years since she was last in labour. Then one morning I heard that she had gone to the hospital to have an early cesarean section as she had been assessed by a doctor who was concerned that the baby was too big.

In Bangladesh, cesarean sections are frequently done even when there are other medical options available for complicated pregnancies and deliveries. Cesarean sections are also overly recommended in order to limit physicians’ time with patients. For these reasons, many women fear going to the hospital to give birth. This is an aspect of the health care system that I have limited experience with, but I know there are many NGOs working to address this problem through increasing awareness and developing the capacity of skilled birth attendants for homes, clinics and hospitals.

Later that morning, we got a call saying that a healthy baby girl was born! Although she was born three weeks early via a cesarean section, both mother and child were doing well and were recovering. A few of us from MCC later went to visit and congratulate them; what a great memory!

Quotes 42Unfortunately, we also experienced the shock of an unexpected loss. A close colleague and friend suddenly lost her younger brother after he died unexpectedly. He was only in his 30s and had a six month old baby. As soon as we heard the news, we all went to their family home to join them in their mourning. Hundreds of people were expected later that afternoon for a time of prayer and remembrance, and so the house was filled with a mix of somber heaviness from being in shock and busyness as they scrambled to make the necessary preparations.

In times like this, our words felt meaningless so we listened to them, we sat with them, we hugged them, we prayed for them, and we simply made ourselves available to them.

Now that some time has passed and everyone has returned to their daily routines, the impact of the loss continues to reverberate in their family. Life goes on, but now a child will grow up never knowing their father.

After a birth and a death, we had the opportunity to celebrate the wedding of another colleague. This was a Christian wedding that was celebrated over three days in the traditions of the minority indigenous Santhal people. We were able to attend two days of the celebration: Day 2 – the church service in the village and Day 3 – the reception in the city.

The morning of the wedding ceremony in the village, we left the MCC office and guesthouse in Bogra (one of our regional offices about four hours northwest of Mymensingh) to make the three hour journey to the village. The weather was hot and sunny by the time we arrived in the village, with the temperature well into the 40°C range (105-120°F range). Needless to say we were sweating throughout the service, but we were so thankful that we made the journey to witness this beautiful event.

When we got to the village we saw the beautiful bride, adorned with gold jewelry, a gorgeous red sari and stunning makeup. As she walked from her village home to the church, a procession of family, friends and other villagers followed her. The service was performed by a Catholic priest and was filled with joyous singing in the humble tin roof church. The songs were sung in the native Santali language, and the other aspects of the service were in Bengali. After they shared their vows, we all left the church and enjoyed a traditional celebratory dance performed by some of the men from the village, and then we all ate lunch together.

The following day was the reception in the city. We were invited to the family home in the morning so I had the chance to watch as the bride was getting ready for the festivities. Hours were spent on hair styling, makeup, and dressing to make sure she looked just right. Once the bride was ready, another procession occurred as we all walked behind the bride and groom from the family home to the reception. As we walked through the narrow streets we were also accompanied by a drum band. It was truly an exciting weekend and we learned a lot about the local culture and traditions as we celebrated together with them.

As we continually reflect on our lives in Bangladesh, we have been blessed to experience many new things. Although we miss our family and friends in Canada and the US, as we spend time developing relationships here, we are creating a new community that is rich and sustaining. We celebrate and mourn; we laugh and cry; we choose to do life together with those we have been blessed to meet, in both the ordinary and extraordinary.

We all continue to stay healthy, especially as the weather is getting very hot and humid.
2. Eli continues to adjust to a very flexible schedule and that he is able to sleep well at night.
3. MCC Bangladesh continues to transitions into a new season well as colleagues end their terms, and others step into new roles.
4. Bangladesh would quickly recover from Cyclone Roanu which struck the southern coast on May 21st, killing at least 24 people.

Erin, (Nishant and Eli)

Picture Banner 27
Check out the full album at: March 2016

Picture Banner 28Check out the full album at: April 2016

This past month we had the opportunity to go to Thailand for some medical appointments and holiday. We were also blessed to have Erin’s sister Kristina join us from Canada!Picture Banner 29
Check out the full album at: Thailand 2016


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