The Asia Report Part IIb - Bangladesh
"An Explosion of Divine Graces!"
November 16-19, 2005
We arrived in Dhaka after Vassula's mission in India was accomplished. Dhaka is the capital and largest city of Bangladesh, whose Muslim influence is reflected in the more than 700 mosques and historic buildings found throughout the city. I could feel Vassula's eagerness to be in Bangladesh once again, this is where she lived when True Life in God started 20 years ago, on Nov. 28, 1985. She had come to visit the Beth Myriam, the first TLIG school to be opened in the world, and pay a call to her friend, the Ven. Suddhananda Mahathero at the Dhammarajika Monastery and Orphanage, as the Ven. Buddhist Monk was ailing and weak.
A welcome dinner was hosted by Catarina and Duleep in their charming apartment in the Embassy Row of Dhaka, not far from where had Vassula lived. It was a very interesting inter-religious crowd of friends; above, from right to left: Duleep, Imam Mohammed Mazharul Islam, Fr. Waseem Walter from Pakistan who translates TLIG to Urdu, Ven. Buddhapriya Thero, a Buddhist Monk, Vassula, Mr. Sunil Barua of the Buddhist Orphanage, Mr. Nirmal Chatterjee of the Hindu Inter-religious committee, Mr. Kajal Datta the translator of TLIG into Bangla, and myself. In front: Catarina and Sonia Panni with husband Volker Tondorf. Some of them had attended Pilgrimage '05 last May and were eager to speak of their experience and the TLIG friends they had made. They form the first TLIG Inter-religious Life Dialogue group and were honored to be present at this special gathering with their sister Vassula.
Visit to Beth Myriam Dhaka:
True Life in God's Beth Myriam Project was launched after Vassula was given a vision in the Holy Land back in 1998. In August of the following year, Vassula was invited to witness in Dhaka, accompanied by Catarina. The Holy Spirit's inspiration for the Beth Myriam in Dhaka came in the form of a question from Vassula to Catarina: "when will you open a Beth Myriam in Dhaka?" Carol Chamberlain, who had been assigned to Bangladesh 3 years earlier, was then called to establish the local contacts, and with Catarina and the precious help of Duleep, the first Beth Myriam was born on the 10th of December 1999. Today, a 100 meals a day are prepared to feed the poor. Catarina and Duleep are helped by the caregivers in the photo above, devoted souls offering an oasis of peace and love from Our Lady and Jesus. The Beth Myriam caregivers encourage their guests to say their own prayers of thanksgiving before meals. There is no mistaking it is Our Blessed Mother's House by the many holy images and icons decorating the walls. Underneath Our Lady's icon in the dining room is an inscription: "Jesus and Mary are offering this meal to you."
Vassula's mission in Bangladesh was to observe and document Beth Myriam Dhaka. She was happy to see the cleanliness and the quality of the food served, and most of all the grateful and joyful smiles of adults and children in their Blessed Mother's Home.
This Beth Myriam has been functioning every single day since it opened. The humble people were overjoyed to express their thanks to their special visitor. It is run very efficiently with meal cards distributed to the families, and the nutritious food is served according to a Menu Schedule that Carol had put together back in 1999 and posted in the kitchen. During Ramadan, the Muslim period of fasting, this Beth Myriam prepares special lunch boxes for the people to take home and eat after they break their fast. Care is always taken to respect other religious traditions; the objective is to give food, clothing, education and medical assistance to all God's children in need, regardless of belief and practice.
Four times a week, the Beth Myriam hosts an hour-long Bangla school-class teaching the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic to 25-30 children from the slums, aging from 5-12 years of age. At the same time, an English class for the children is also offered. True Life in God readers are encouraged to experience life in a Beth Myriam, two clean rooms are available here for those interested to go to Bangladesh to visit or help out.
A day in Kulun Village, to see the True Life in God School:
About an hour's drive from Dhaka, one reaches the river crossing point to Kulun Village, which is one of 5 Christian villages in the area. The whole village and the parish priest from the nearest Catholic Mission were on hand to welcome and thank Vassula. We were accompanied by Fr. Waseem Walter, Catarina and Duleep.
The children of Kulun had to walk long distances to go to school a few years ago, discouraging many parents from giving their children an education. The Lord inspired one of the villagers to request Catarina and Duleep to offer the village children the facility to learn by building a school for the little ones. The request was granted, donations were given for its construction and the school furnishings. TLIG Bangladesh sees to the salaries of the teachers and the maintenance of the school. In this Christian village, the teachers read the True Life in God Messages to the children once a week.
A very generous donation was made by a devoted reader of the TLIG Messages, and inspired our friends in Bangladesh to build an extension to the initial building. Vassula's visit was a good opportunity to set the foundation stone for this extension. Taking the trowel with some cement, Vassula laid the first bricks for the foundation of this continuing act of charity.
These beautiful, talented children were attired in their native dresses, presenting colorful local Bengali dances. They sang songs in their language and successfully attempted a song in English for their guests, proud to display all they had for us. In these humble gestures of appreciation of True Life in God's generosity, we saw that there is nothing to compare with the gentle hospitality of Asia. What little they had, they were happy to share with us, living in the spirit of the Messages: "Remind everyone what the beauty of My Spirit brings to mankind; it brings them peace, love, gentleness, kindness, patience, truthfulness, generosity, self-control and mercy which will lead them to eternal life " (December 29, 1996)
The Lord goes slowly and quietly, bringing His people back to him. Simple efforts inspired by the Messages bring about so many blessings to God's people. Acts of love such as these are the sublime expression of God's Love in us. May God bless the good work of TLIG Bangladesh.
Invitation to visit the Ven. Suddhananda and the orphans in Dhammarajika Buddhist Orphanage:
We were graciously received by the Orphanage administration members and the Venerable Suddhananda Mahathero, who is the Chief Monk, President of the Bangladesh Bouddha Kristi Prachar Sangha Monastery and also Vassula's old friend. One can feel a special relationship of gentleness and deep respect between Vassula and the Ven. Suddhananda. Their conversation revolved around Pilgrimage '05 which unfortunately the Ven. Suddhananda was unable to attend due to last minute health problems. They discussed matters on the situation in the world today threatening to draw God's Justice upon us. She indicated to him that the NY towers and the Tsunami disasters were prophesied in the Messages and have come to pass, and that the Lord has warned us of another much graver event to happen. Vassula requested the Ven. Suddhananda and his monks offer their prayers and fasting for the world to return to spiritual values.
The TLIG International Beth Myriam Fund continues to support the Dhammarajika Buddhist Orphanage in Dhaka, an act of love that binds us to our Buddhist brothers. Our short stay in Bangladesh was fruitful and filled with graces to see True Life in God so alive ... after all, this is where it was born 20 years ago.
By: Cecilia Lutz