Ross and Cindy Meyer, in New Zealand until August, can hardly get over the excitement of new openings available for Baptist missionaries in Bangladesh.

Cindy says she is ‘Bubbling with excitement at the new possibilities—both because of seeing God at work and the surprising reality of people now actually wanting the educational input they can give.’

Ross and Cindy first went to Bangladesh 33 years ago. They did the classic missionary tasks of ministry in a new church, discipling, teaching, guiding village pastors and young people. For 20 years they had the unusual experience of working with a mission team who were mostly Chinese and serving under the New Zealand Baptist Mission Society (NZBMS). This was an unexpected method yet they formed a close knit team that ranged in size from 10-32 people, all involved in meeting and helping new believers.

Then 16 years ago Cindy initiated an English-medium school at the request of a local church, Golgotha Church, part of the Bangladesh Baptist Christian Fellowship (BBCF). Bangladesh was stuck in old-style methods and rote learning and even trained teachers needed coaching and modelling to see another way of educating. 

The new school that started in Dhaka in the church lobby and then grew into two floors built above the church building, became GEMS (Golgotha English Medium School) and was highly successful in modelling new ways of teaching. Cindy and Ross, called their Kiwi-style best practice methods REAL LEARNING FOR REAL LIFE. It was a huge task, re-training teachers willing to change to methods different from their experience or training, setting up a fee-paying school, and all the administration as needed. But the school soon paid for itself. That was win-win.

Then 11 years ago in the long-established New Zealand Baptist Mission city of Chandpur on the huge distributary of the Brahmaputra/Meghna River, the government district administration asked Ross and Cindy to start a school on their behalf. This was powerful. In that city the mission was already known and respected, and now government officials wanted more. They offered an old jail building and the school began a successful partnership of government and mission that even included the development of a Special Needs unit, a rare thing in Bangladesh.

All this was full of strains for Cindy and Ross, even if they were good strains. They had to travel weekly between the two centres (a five to six-hour journey by river ferry or by vehicle), develop curriculum and suitable educational systems where most teachers in the Dhaka school were Christian, those in Chandpur Muslim. Ross, still running a mission society with his largely Asian colleagues, is also a trained engineer. His help with administration and government relations stretched to turning the jail into a beautiful school.

The opportunity was too good to miss but it sure was demanding, right into the COVID-19 era. Fortunately, by 2020 Cindy had handed over GEMS school to local leadership, and due to other circumstances, they have felt wise to step back from the Chandpur school.

It could have looked discouraging, but immediately new opportunities presented. They never thought it possible, yet they now have four potential opportunities growing from what Bangladeshi people saw in the trend-setting initial schools.

First, the other four BBCF schools, set up in Bengali medium by previous missionaries in Chandpur, Brahmanbaria, Mymensingh and Faridpur were struggling. Traditional in style, 60 to 120 years old, and now with the impact of COVID-19, they were falling in numbers and losing fees. These have asked Cindy and Ross to re-envision, to train teachers and become their valued consultants in teacher training (Cindy) and computer training (Ross).

Second, BBCF has 13 school hostels where mainly tribal children of new believers stay in district towns and attend government schools. They want seminars with parents and coaching of students, including computer help.

Third, Best Foundation, led by two retired Bengali Government secretaries, plus a man from England with Ross and Cindy, wants to offer consultancy to improve education, again through teacher training for best practice and computers. This was another surprise. Ross had got to know the two government men through visiting their offices so often trying to get visas and clearances for themselves and colleagues. Now that has had an additional purpose.

Fourth, the possibility of helping the tea garden schools in the tea plantations.

No wonder Ross grins and Cindy bubbles with excitement. They’ll cheerfully head back.

But:

Oh, the need for more helpers from New Zealand. They ache to use the opportunities but can’t do it alone.

Please God, send more New Zealand Baptists.


Written by Beulah Wood, former President of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand, and retired from work as a writer and lecturer in preaching and theology of family at South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies in Bangalore, India.

Photo: Supplied by Ross & Cindy Meyer.

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