Crossing the distance online

OM International | Bangladesh

Jane had been conversation partners with Fariha* over Skype for six months when she decided to travel to Bangladesh with friends from Bible study who had introduced her to Bangladesh iLink. This cross-cultural Skype programme links native English speakers with Bengali men and women who go to OM’s computer training centre to practice their English-speaking skills. From the comfort of her own home, Jane was befriending someone around the world.

“I found out quickly that being able to read English words for a Bangladeshi was altogether different from understanding what the words meant, or using them in speech!” Jane shared. “Those early days took a lot of patience, but [Fariha] made it worthwhile by the gratefulness and excitement she shared in having this opportunity to speak with me.”

After hours talking via Skype, Jane and Fariha finally met in person, when Jane travelled to Bangladesh for the first time.

“I was welcomed to dinner at Fariha’s home and visited her church. I was elated to meet my tiny little friend, who looked a foot taller on Skype!” Jane remembered.  Since Jane tutored two other students over Skype as well, she could meet face-to-face with all of them in Bangladesh.

Experiencing Bangladeshi food and culture gave Jane context for her conversations. “Bangladesh seemed very much like a country that had outgrown its space in a short time,” she recalled. “The hoards of unruly traffic and electrical wires that looped round and round gave a sense that there was not enough time to properly prepare for increasing population and updating power systems and connections.”

Yet the people seemed connected. Jane remembered many people standing or sitting in groups everywhere in the evenings because there were little entertainment options. “They seemed to just enjoy each other for who they were,” she said.

While visiting Bangladesh, Jane spoke to local women about how to keep growing in faith in Christ. Likewise, Fariha’s model of following God and making sacrifices encouraged her. Though Fariha has several degrees, her priority is to show love to the destitute women in her area.

“To her, it is [most] important that she teach her son and others about Jesus,” Jane explained. “She shares her story with rickshaw drivers and neighbours and visits people in their home to teach them the gospel news of a God who requires us only to believe.”

Jane’s first adventure in Asia left an impression. Back in the US, Jane passionately told friends about her short-term mission trip. Through Bangladesh iLink, Jane said, “My gospel worldview has greatly expanded and God has confirmed that sometimes all I need to do is listen and care.”

While Jane has encouraged others to become English conversation partners, she has also been able to keep up with Fariha. “Since that visit with Fariha, we have maintained our friendship through monthly Skype calls,” shes shared. “I have seen her grow spiritually and have heard many stories of her unbelievable passion for the lost in her country.”

Through Bangladesh iLink, other native English speakers like Jane have been able to share the gospel with men and women in Bangladesh and disciple those conversation partners who are followers of Jesus.

“My presence has shown a little lady in a far-off little country that she is part of a larger worldwide Christian community who are blessed by the effort she is making to fulfill that Great Commission to which we are all called,” Jane said.

*Name changed to protect identity.

With 160 million people living in less space than the US state of Illinois, Bangladesh is in the top 10 of the world’s most crowded nations. Many people live in poverty with few educational and job opportunities to break out of this cycle. Speaking English equips men and women to get ahead in the job market and seek better possibilities for employment.

90% of Bangladeshis are Muslim and only 0.3% are Christians from a Muslim background. Many are open to Western visitors and assistance, as well as to the gospel. Becoming a Skype conversation friend allows you to practice English with men and women in Bangladesh as you share the love of Christ. Bangladesh iLink provides an opportunity to have a unique cross-cultural experience around the world from the comfort of your computer.

Published: Thursday, 02 June 2016
Credit: OM International
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