Prodeep Roy had a very personal reason for joining 500 Nazarenes in February to mark the 25th anniversary of the Church of the Nazarene in Bangladesh.
“Today I thank God because many years ago I received Jesus Christ through the Nazarenes. Today is a day to thank God for his blessings to us.” The 65-year-old said that Christ has transformed his life.
Roy is one of thousands whose life was changed forever by an encounter with the Living God, thanks to Nazarenes’ sacrificially and courageously bringing the Good news to their country people over the past quarter century, supported by their global church.
In 1993, the church began in this South Asian nation with just a handful of members. Today, members meet in thousands of churches across the country.
At the aptly named Hope Center, Roy and hundreds of Nazarenes of all ages represented these churches as they crowded into an open-air tent in the country’s capital of Dhaka for the Silver Jubilee. They sang, prayed, celebrated the faithfulness of God in the past, and looked to His promises for the future.
Praise and gratitude
The gathering acknowledged that all the credit for the church’s existence and growth is to “the movement of the Holy Spirit,” said Milon P*., JESUS Film and child development coordinator for the Church of the Nazarene in Bangladesh.
It was also a time to express gratitude to the “passionate people from USA and Europe and other parts of the world who invested their time, resources and talents to make this happen,” he added. “It’s a clear movement of church planting and church growth, and it happened because of the partnership of many passionate people from the nation and internationally.”
Dr. Eugenio Duarte, a general superintendent of the denomination, told the gathering, “In 25 years of mission, so much has happened under the transforming power of God’s presence in us. Many things have changed in and around us. Changes and adjustments continue to be a significant part of our daily life experience. They also evidence mission. Bangladeshi Nazarenes with their hard, devoted, and tireless work are very well represented in this celebration by their local and district leaders.”
Repentance and forgiveness
During the celebration there was also a moment of repentance and reconciliation. Led by Arthur Snijders, director of the Eurasia Region, and joined by Bangladeshi district superintendents and international denomination leaders, the church repented for the need two years ago to correct financial mismanagement and leadership conflict.
National, regional and international Nazarene leaders gathered on the platform to symbolically break the bottom stems from long stalks of budding flowers. In this way they expressed that the sins of the past called for repentance and forgiveness, while also acknowledging the many blessings that God had given in years past. Both were brought to the wooden cross on the platform, like the sins and blessings being placed under the Lordship of Christ again.
Snijders said, “It portrayed a truthful and honorable picture of the work in Bangladesh. True repentance and a new turning to the Lord of the church always holds the promise of new growth and life now and in the future.”
The message of healing reconciliation was intended to bring the church back together in forgiveness and unity after this painful experience.
“That sent a very important message to Bangladeshi Nazarenes,” said Trino Jara, leader for the Nazarene church in South Asia. “What happened in Bangladesh two years ago was our corporate fault and not just the people in Bangladesh. We repented and asked for forgiveness to our God together. We walk hand by hand in this mission called Church of the Nazarene in Bangladesh. The presence of the international church leaders during the celebration was seen as the needed reassurance that we are a body and the Bangladeshi Church of the Nazarene is part of the global family.”
Mr. Snigdhozzwal K.*, a longtime local Nazarene leader, recalled the past days of the Church of the Nazarene Bangladesh, saying, “We faced many setbacks but we overcame all of these with the grace of Almighty God. By the church, thousands of people recognized Jesus Christ and received Him as their Savior. We are taking care of them faithfully by our leadership. We are working for God and God is seeing us from heaven. We need your prayer and support to continue our ministry.”
“Incredible growth still requires development of depth and maturity; these do not come without trials and testing,” Snijders said. “Paul emphasises that ‘suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope’ (Rom.5:3-4 ESV). Our Nazarenes in Bangladesh show that revival and heart holiness belong together.”
Among the guests were also representatives from other denominations and Christian organisations, rejoicing together with the church of the Nazarene. During the celebration, a 25th anniversary year book was distributed, including the history of the Nazarene Church in Bangladesh, a Bengali version of Nazarene Essentials and Invitation to a Journey.
*Full names withheld for security reasons.