The struggle to present Christ is difficult here in Bangladesh. There are 166 million Bangladeshi. The main religion in Bangladesh is Islam (89.7%), but a significant percentage of the population adheres to Hinduism (9.2%). Other religious groups include Buddhists (0.7%), Christians (0.3%, mostly of the Roman Catholic denomination with evangelicals less than 0.1%), and Animists (0.1%).
Memorial Christian Hospital opened in 1966, having been founded by Dr. Viggo Olsen who was inspired by the combined overwhelming physical need and the great spiritual neglect of the people of Bangladesh. I first read his book “Daktar” in 1974 and was deeply affected by it. Today, the hospital has approximately 65 inpatient beds, but often many more patients. The hospital is the major surgical resource for 10 million or more people. Approximately 2,000 surgical cases are performed each year. They are in the process of replacing the antiquated hospital with a new one (see below). Things are very busy here. During one recent six month period, the staff at Memorial Christian Hospital treated 33,021 outpatients and 3,327 inpatients; delivered 691 babies; performed 231 C-sections and 1,136 additional surgeries.
Bangladesh is surrounded by India and shares a common border with Myanmar. The southeastern tip of the country is a beautiful area of rolling hills and large landscapes of huge trees and spreading, green rice fields. The hospital and housing complex are set in a beautiful forest overlooking a tidal stream from the Bay of Bengal. Malumghat is 300 miles southeast of the capital city of Dhaka. Being at a watershed of peoples, there are many cultures and peoples seen on a walk through the hospital. The tribal people, ostracized by the majority and the government, are remarkable for their sometimes strongly Asian features. Spiritual ministry among these major groups is difficult but has proven productive over the long term. The tribal people from the nearby hill country along the Myanmar (Burma) border are more receptive to the Gospel and there are many translation and literacy works going on.
Bangladesh, situated about 22 degrees north of the equator, has a tropical climate with monsoons and periodic devastating cyclones. The monsoons begin in early June and end as late as October, dropping around 100″ of rain. The rest of the year is clear and dry, with April, May, September, and October being the hottest months. In the hot months, the temperature is often over 100o F with humidity at 90-100 percent. It has been beautifully pleasant during my time here, with cool mornings and pleasant days with a nice ocean breeze. I am glad that I have not been here during either the hot season or during the monsoons. Much of the country is less than 50 feet above sea level, so I don’t miss tsunamis either!
It is not enough that there are many natural threats and disasters here in addition to the profound poverty and overpopulation. Recently, the opposition political party has called hartals. A term for a collective strike action, the ones in Bangladesh have turned particularly nasty. The disruptive agent of choice is petrol bombs and the papers have headlines screaming about the number of innocents who are horribly burned, often fatally. It has terribly crippled the economy and travel.
The two most remarkable changes since I was last here in 2012 are that there are now four surgeons and one new surgery resident. Additionally, a huge new building is going up.
Right: The K's
S. has served here for 18 years, much of it as the sole surgeon. He has not had a full furlough in seven or eight years. He is looking forward to having the full contingent of surgeons here at Malumghat and having them up to full speed. ..... Rajib Sharma is their sole PAACS resident and he is in his first year. I enjoyed getting to know them all.
S. is also supervising the construction and fund-raising for the new building. The new hospital building will provide an increased capacity as well as ancillary departments that were not previously included. It will be a 120-bed multi-level medical center (125,000 sq. ft. with +80% of the old facility being preserved for administrative and non-clinical functions) with shell space for an additional 35 beds. There is planned a 12-bed ICU, 7-room OR suite, 8-bed PACU, OB wing, private rooms, ER and trauma services. There will be improved outpatient clinic space – roughly tripled to enable care for more than 300 outpatients daily; greatly expanded capability to support satellite clinics.
The building package was tendered in the spring of 2013 and a national general contractor was selected. Construction began in June 2013. It is hoped to open in January 2017 but the lack of funding may well delay that.
It was good to get back in the OR, if only for a few cases (albeit some of them pretty interesting). I enjoyed working with Rajib some and it made me realize how much I miss the hands-on teaching of residents. This hospital is very blessed in its supplies and equipment and can do many things that the other hospitals within PAACS cannot do.
Micky and Sean had a delay in their flight from Seoul to Dallas-Fort Worth and they had to scramble to catch their next plane (they made it with four minutes to spare). They have had a rough time in adjusting to jet-lag but they are getting back to their regular schedule. Sean has a lot of home-schooling to catch up on. Their difficulty with jet-lag makes me dread my own struggles with it next week.
I leave for Dhaka on this (Thursday) morning (praying that there will be no Molotov cocktails thrown), then fly from Dhaka to Bangkok on Friday and then fly home Saturday via Tokyo & Dallas to arrive in Raleigh Saturday night. It is actually two days of flying since I cross the international dateline. It will be good to get home!
Prayers and Praise:
- Praise God for the safe travel thus far. Please pray for continued safety.
- Please pray for the required funds for the hospital in Bangladesh; for the adjustment of the new surgeons and for rest for the Kelleys