Singing for joy – and success!

Singing for joy – and success!

Christian children in Bangladesh are being set up to fail. But with your support, BMS World Mission can help them to change their futures. It all starts with a song.

A rickety bus winds its way around Bangladesh. It started the journey in Dhaka, the country’s restless capital. Many hours later it reaches a village, where a little girl called Ariysha is singing a rhyme:

Boys and girls come to pick flowers
Make a garland of flowers
Place it around your neck
And go to Uncle’s house

Ariysha is at preschool. For children like her, singing songs at school is a novelty. She is used to memorising for her primary school entrance exam. If she fails, she has little chance to continue her education. Doors of opportunity will swing shut. Her world will shrink. The pressure is on for Ariysha and her classmates. And it’s a wonder they’re in preschool at all.

With cramped classes and repetitive learning, many children don’t want to attend school – especially in poor, rural areas. Instead of going to school, children from the age of four collect heavy firewood or work out in the fields. Parents are also afraid that if their children don’t get into primary school, they will need to send them away to work and support the family. Girls as young as eight can be sent to work as live-in housekeepers, whilst boys can be hired out as manual labour.

Christian children, especially, are falling behind. Christian preschools in Bangladesh lack the most funding as Christians are a minority group in the country. There are simply not enough Christians to fund the preschools. This means children like Ariysha are often in large classes, don’t have the materials they need, and don’t pass the primary school entrance exam.

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Christian children are a minority and not a priority. Without the education they need, it’s harder for them to gain further education and therefore, stable jobs, in a country where they already face persecution for their faith. But BMS is changing that.

A Bangladeshi teacher stands in front of children wearing green school uniform.
Teacher Asio Kubi now teaches his class using songs and games.

Back on the rickety bus we find BMS educational consultant, Louise Proctor. Thanks to your support, she trains teachers in 25 Christian schools across the poorest, most rural parts of Bangladesh. Travelling for more than 15 hours to reach some schools, Louise shows teachers how to use games and songs in their teaching. Research has repeatedly shown that learning through play is much more effective than by rote.

“The very small children didn’t want to come to school before because they were scared…now they come every day. They are much more eager to learn than before!” teacher Asio Kubi says. Now parents are happy, seeing their children flourish. “I learnt to teach with joy, love and encouragement,” describes Asio. When a teacher enjoys teaching, children enjoy learning.

Children who enjoy going to school and learning are more likely to succeed.

Louise’s vision for the future is to coach local trainers. With their increased insight, they will be able to apply what they’ve been taught specifically to their villages. It’s a method of multiplication, meaning more schools will provide better quality education.

A man in a blue shirt and a woman in a pink top sit together and talk about education.
Louise Proctor and Asio work together to discuss the best ways to teach the class.

Thanks to BMS supporters, Ariysha now attends school with a smile. She learns by singing, by having fun and by understanding what she’s taught. But there are still children who are being left behind. Help to make Christian children in Bangladesh a priority. Help to give them a future that doesn’t include child labour or being sent away to work. Give what you can and pray for Bangladeshi children today. You may just give them the chance to succeed where no-one else could.

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Words by Melanie Webb

Update from the frontline: Bangladesh and Nepal

Update from the frontline:

Bangladesh and Nepal

Two amazing couples. Two wonderful countries. Six incredible months. The latest from Team Lynch and Team Vokuhl.

New friendships, hard work, lots of prayer and one very embarrassing language mix-up. These past few months have certainly been challenging and rewarding ones for BMS World Mission workers the Lynches and Vokuhls. Louise and Peter Lynch are working with church leaders in Bangladesh, while Toby and Pippa Vokuhl are helping Nepal rebuild after the 2015 earthquakes. They couldn’t have got this far without your support so please read on for an update on their work.

Photo of Louise and Peter Lynch
Louise and Peter Lynch are currently based in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh.
Photo of the Vokuhl family
Pippa and Toby Vokuhl, and their children Jakey, Ella and Millie, have been adapting to life in Nepal

Tell us what it was like when you first arrived?

The Lynches:

Peter: It was a bit disorientating. We were tired, and we went straight into meeting people, being at church and getting our bearings. That was easier than going to bed though! The Proctors (BMS workers) were our chaperones for the first couple of weeks. They were really good, very kind to us.

Louise: They took us shopping, showed us how to dress, helped us buy our clothes and showed us the supermarkets. It feels like we’ve settled in well.

The Vokuhls:

Toby: When we first arrived in Pokhara we were very warmly welcomed, which was great. Our housing situation was a little bit of a challenge because our flat was still under construction and we didn’t have a kitchen at all, so for two months we were living in a building site. We now find ourselves in what is a really lovely flat, not far from the children’s school. It’s worked out really well for us as a family with our children having friends nearby.

How is the language learning going?

The Lynches:

Louise: We have completed three books, so we’ve finished the basic course. We’re given about 25 new words every day and we’ve learnt tenses we never knew about. So we’re doing our homework. We get most of right, but there is quite a lot of red ink on it most days too!

Louise and another lady are walking away from us down a Dhaka street
Louise and Peter enjoy exploring the streets of Dhaka

The most useful phrases we’ve learnt so far are things like ‘kemôn achhen,’ which is ‘how are you?’ So we spend a lot of our time saying that, and ‘bhālō,’ which means ‘fine’, ‘āstē āstē,’ which means ‘slowly slowly’, and ‘ami janina,’ which is ‘I don’t know’, or ‘I don’t understand’. I think we are the entertainment sometimes, but sometimes you just have to go for it. People come along and they come and watch us trying to speak Bangla, and it is almost a sport!

Peter: We make everyone laugh! People appreciate us trying because they’re very proud of their language and they love people trying to learn it. They’ve been great.

The Vokuhls:

Pippa: It’s hard work! We started off doing four mornings a week and we are just doing one or two now. It’s nice to have some basic conversations with friends and people at church, and the local shops, but we have a lot more hours of study ahead. I’ve had a few embarrassing moments. I went into a shop to try and ask for two kilos for carrots and I managed to ask for two kilos of marijuana. The poor shopkeeper looked extremely shocked and distressed, and then said in English, “Oh, you want carrots.” I mentioned it to my language teacher who pointed out what I’d asked for.

Toby: Our landlady seems to think we are doing well settling in. The other day I could make out her saying to me in Nepali, “Toby, you’re so fat… your wife also.” I relayed that to Pippa, but in Nepali culture when you call someone fat you are just referring to how well they are doing. It was still rather funny!

Louise and Peter give us a slice of life in Dhaka and fill us in on what they’ve been up to

What else have you been up to?

The Lynches:

Louise: We just want to build relationships and understand the culture first before leaping in. We sat alongside pastors in some training for discipleship making, I think that’s an area where we’re looking to see how we can support them and help them to put their training into action in their churches.

We’re going up to Dineshpur for a month soon, and we’ll be staying with some of the pastors who were on the training, so it’ll be interesting to see what they’re doing.

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Peter: We’ve met most of the key people we’ll be working with in Dhaka, and people from the districts have come here for conferences. It’s been great to meet pastors and regional leaders. We’re developing a really good relationship with them, they’ve been so gracious and welcoming to us.

Everyone says to us that life outside of Dhaka is very different to life in Dhaka, so it will be great for us next month to just be outside of the capital and mix with the local community there.

The Vokuhls:

Pippa: Until recently, I’ve been doing language study and orientation, and at the moment our three children (Jakey, Ella and Millie) are on school holidays so that’s keeping me out of trouble.

Toby: We were waiting for a work visa for quite some time, so we have focused quite heavily on language study, and we’ve also been attending the local church. We’ve had a slightly longer language and culture adjustment period than we expected, but it has helped, and we’re pleased to have moved into the space where I can contribute to the work here.

Life in Nepal: Pippa and Toby Vokuhl chart some of the highlights, and ask for your prayers

What’s been a highlight so far?

The Lynches:

Peter: I just enjoy the life and vitality of the city, everyone is so industrious and active, there’s so many people everywhere doing so many things. It’s an energetic, lively and colourful place. We love the people.

Louise: We like walking around and we like the buzz of the place.

The Vokuhls:

Pippa: We went as a family to have a look around some of the projects that INF (International Nepal Fellowship) is running in the west of the country in villages and hospitals. It was amazing to see some of the projects that are making a difference to the poorest of the poor in Nepal.

Toby: There has been a wealth of experiences, such as being in a different culture and in a beautiful environment when you get out into the hills and mountains. Another highlight has been being able to make a difference through my work. That has been very rewarding.

What have been some of the challenges?

The Lynches:

Peter: I think pacing ourselves has been difficult. It is hot, and you find yourself on certain days having lower energy. So, I think knowing how to pace yourself and how to navigate your way through that.

Louise: It’s hard on your downtime because it’s not a recreational city. What to do when we’re not studying Bangla is the biggest challenge for us. But we’re enjoying Bangla learning, so it’s quite a win win really, as that’s what we spend most of our time doing.

The Vokuhls:

Pippa: Subtle cultural differences that you don’t necessarily see or understand. For example, our language teacher came around and she had very bad back pain. I said she should sit on the sofa, but her feet were dangling so I got some books to put under her feet. She went very quiet and said, “Oh, in your culture do you put your feet on books? In our culture, we believe that if you put your feet on books, all the knowledge from your brain will go.”

Toby: Not being able to communicate is disempowering, such as when you can’t say what you want to say to the local shopkeeper. Another challenge is finding your way around locally.

Photo of street scene in Pokhara, featuring motorbikes and overhead cables
The Vokuhls have been working hard to find their way around the streets of Pokhara

What can people be praying for?

The Lynches:

Louise: I think for next month, that we travel and stay well in Dineshpur, and that we make the most of that chance as it’s a really unique opportunity.

Peter: We’re moving house at the beginning of September and we’re moving to an area that’s close to the office. So please pray for that process of moving and getting into a local community.

Pray too for the church in Bangladesh. They’ve got big hearts and a big vision but it’s quite tough. So pray for them, that God would empower them.

The Vokuhls

Pippa: Please pray for my ongoing language study, and also pray for developing deeper relationships with local Nepali women. I’d also appreciate prayer as I find a role for myself. Please pray that God would move me into what I can do to serve him here.

Toby: Please pray for continued cultural awareness. Please also pray for a construction project that I’m managing at the Green Pastures Hospital, where a new chapel is being built. Everyone would like that to be a success for the hospital and for the people of Pokhara.

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Introducing the Lynches

4,956 miles to Dhaka:

introducing the Lynches

On Thursday 26 April, Louise and Peter Lynch fly to Bangladesh with BMS World Mission. Find out why they feel called to mission and what they’ll be up to overseas.

Whether it’s climbing snowy mountains in Scotland or ridiculously long cycle rides, Louise and Peter Lynch are always up for an adventure. And this time round, they’re getting ready for a big one. Having worked as a social worker (Louise) and a pastor (Pete) in the UK for 27 years, they’re leaving this country behind and moving to Dhaka, in Bangladesh. Amidst packing up their belongings and selling their car, they sat down with us to talk about the new venture that they’re embarking on with BMS .

Two people standing behind a green garden backdrop.
Social worker Louise and pastor Peter have two sons, Calum and Jonah.

Alright, we’ll start off with an easy question. How would you describe each other in three words?

Louise: Oh that’s hard! I want to say adventurous, principled, and football-crazy.

Peter: Dynamic, thoughtful, and fun.

Tell us about your decision to move to Bangladesh.

Peter: Since first becoming Christians we’ve always had the sense that God was calling us to work overseas at some point. The last 27 years have been a bit of a surprise in some ways because we’ve been UK-based all of that time. But it came to the point where it felt like change was coming, our family circumstances were changing and it freed us to look at what God might want for the next phase of our lives. So, we began talking with BMS. As the conversation developed there was a growing sense that the skills and experience we have and the needs in Bangladesh were a good fit. We’ve grown into the idea and sensed that this is where God wants us.

Boats in a major river in Dhaka,.
Dhaka is famous for it's rivers, which are vital for the city's transport and trade.

Do you think the skills you’ve gained while working as a social worker and pastor in the UK will be transferable?

Louise: I think so. What’s excited us about Bangladesh is that the role involves the sort of things that we’ve got experience in. It’s going to be difficult because we’re used to working in a UK context, so doing the kind of cultural switch and learning different ways of working will be more challenging. We’re quite heavily reliant on speaking skills, so being able to do that job in Bengali is going to be very challenging.

Peter: What we offer is probably some experience of having been on the road in terms of pastoral ministry, training and community engagement for a number of years, so we’re hoping those skills will transfer and contribute something to a different cultural context.

What exactly will you guys be doing out in Bangladesh?

Peter: The first thing will be to just meet people, to build relationships, to learn the language and try and understand and adapt to the culture. I think in the longer term, the Baptist Sangha – the name of the denomination there – see us having a role in leadership development, helping to train and encourage pastors and community leaders in the different parts of Bangladesh. It’s quite a broad role, but potentially a very exciting and far-reaching one.

Louise: It’s not so directly written into the job scope, but I think very likely some safeguarding training around all the different projects that the churches work with too. We’re trying to really work in partnership so don’t want to predict what we’re going to do too much until we’ve really met the people we’re working with. What we need to do is discuss with the leaders in Bangladesh what they most want and then take it from there.

Map of Bangladesh with an arrow pointing to Dhaka, the capital city.
Louise and Peter will be based in Dhaka, working with Baptist church leaders.

How’s language learning been going so far?

Peter: We’re making a bit of progress. It’s quite enjoyable, but we’ve not really got into the in-depth stuff. So just learning vocab, learning the alphabet, understanding how the script works, those sort of things.

Louise: We can say random words at random times, no sentences yet! We think we’ve learnt the phrase for ‘I don’t understand,’ but we’re not convinced we’ve got the pronunciation right!

Peter: We’ve learnt how to say ‘how are you?’ and ‘what is your name?’, the normal things to begin a conversation.

Louise: Men’s and women’s toilets we’ve got sorted out as well.

What excites you the most when you think about moving to Bangladesh and your role there?

Peter: For me, I think it’s standing alongside Christians there so that all of us can be the people God’s called us to be. We recognise the Church there has challenges and struggles, you need to know their situation, and part of what excites me is just being able to be an encourager and to stand alongside and partner with people so we can be faithful to Jesus in whatever place he puts us. Also, I’m really excited about living in a different culture, learning from the Church in Bangladesh and seeing what following Jesus looks like in a completely different place to what we’re used to.

I’ve been to parts of Asia before and I just loved the colour, the dynamism and the hospitality in those places. I also love all geography and geology stuff, so being in the massive delta and the kind of outwash of the Himalayas, in a bizarre way, quite excites me as well.

I’m really excited about living in a different culture and learning from the Church in Bangladesh.

Woman on a mountain covered in snow, wearing Crampons
Louise loves the outdoors and is always up for a challenge, as you can see from this photo of her up a snowy mountain!

Louise: For me, when I read what the Baptist Sangha writes about their vision for their churches and the schools they run, that they want them to be like beacons and really great places, that excites me. I’d like to be part of something that means when children or adults come to church, meet Christians or go to Christian run schools, that they see something really different about the quality of care and the love they receive. That makes me very excited.

I’m also looking forward to the food, and deep down I’d like to see a tiger. I like exploring so I love new situations – I’m just looking forward to new smells, new sounds, everything.

What are your biggest fears about moving there? What are you most worried about?

Louise: I think in the UK I understand how things work, so I know where to put my energies if things need to change. I think it will be really hard not knowing how things work, and that can leave me feeling really ineffectual and frustrated. So I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge.

Peter: Building good relationships is key to life isn’t it – it’s key to everything we do. I think just doing that cross-culturally, we’re hopeful that that will happen. I think to have good team relationships, to have good relationships with partners and just building good friendships. That’s not a fear or an anxiety, but it’s a recognition of what we need the most to enjoy being there, fulfilled and useful in what we’re doing.

Pray for wisdom and insight about where we settle ourselves.

So what are you going to miss the most about living in the UK? Your two children are at university, aren’t they?

Louise: Yes, thanks for reminding us!

Peter: We’ll miss just being able to see the boys (Calum and Jonah), see Louise’s mum and dad, and we’ll miss good friends that you can just drop in on and share life with. I’m hoping there will be access to various ways of keeping up with sporting events and I’m sure we’ll end up missing food that isn’t spicy, and going for a run. We like exercising and being outside so having some restrictions on what’s appropriate in terms of activity will be a challenge for us.

Man taking a selfie high up in the mountains.
Both Peter and Louise are going to miss the mountains and being outdoors.

Finally, what can people be praying for?

Louise: We would really like to make friends when we arrive in Bangladesh. Being able to meet people and make friends would be really, really important.

Peter: Pray for God’s wisdom in knowing how quickly to do things, or how slowly to do things, and to have the right attitude of being there to serve others and to serve God.

Louise: We’re borrowing a house when we first arrive and then we’ll need to decide where to live. That will be quite an important decision, so we’d like some wisdom. Pray for wisdom and insight about where we settle ourselves.

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Could you be called to mission overseas? We have plenty of opportunities to serve with us.