Three young men sat behind the children in the outdoor Sunday School class in Bangladesh. When we left the village, they followed us.
We were visiting Christian Freedom International’s ministries. On this day, we traveled for hours then walked through dry, flat fields to a huddle of buildings.
The children – dozens of them – sat cross-legged in a courtyard, scrubbed-clean and hair neatly combed, in their best clothes. They wanted to show us what they have learned about Jesus and sing their favorite praise songs.
This is not a usual sight in Bangladesh. With the third largest Muslim population in the world, Christians are less than 1%. Even more rare are converts to Christianity.
Converts are persecuted by Muslims and Hindus. They are often beaten, shunned, even targeted for killing. That’s why this class, set in the open-air for all to hear, left us in awe of the brave and caring ministry of CFI’s co-workers.
So, who were these young men, I wondered. (I admit I was a bit nervous when they trailed us outside the village.)
Our translator stopped to talk with them. Then they all turned to us with big smiles.
The three had been sponsored as children through Christian Freedom International. When they aged out of the program, their sponsors agreed to help them go to a trade school. All three are now skilled and working.
They came to the class and followed us – to thank Christian Freedom International’s sponsors.
Without sponsors, well, we can only imagine where they would be now. The U.S. Department of Labor (2017) reports:
“Children in Bangladesh engage in the worst forms of child labor, including forced child labor in the production of dried fish and bricks. Children also perform dangerous tasks in the production of garments and leather goods . . . Moreover, the number of labor inspectors is insufficient for the size of Bangladesh’s workforce, and fines are inadequate to deter child labor law violations.”
Bangladesh suffers from poverty, religious discrimination, corruption, and terrorist threats. But there is hope. The poverty rate has decreased from over half of the population to about 24%. And – though few and threatened – Christians are sharing the Truth.
We have several children in Bangladesh and other countries who need sponsors. Some are cute little guys and girls. Others are older who, without support, may have to leave school and are vulnerable to being exploited.
You can sign up here.
P.S. Children – like these young men – with sponsors who pray and encourage each other have a brighter future.
We may be half-way around the world from our persecuted brothers and sisters, but God has ways to connect the body of Christ together.