In 1957, the first members of AOB arrived in East Pakistan and settled with their families in the city of Chittagong. From there they made survey trips into the Chittagong Hill Tracts. This led to the purchase of land on the Matamahuri River near Lama Bazar. Several homes were initially built at this base, along with a bamboo clinic building and a guesthouse. This center is now operated by the Bangladesh Tribal Association of Churches and is the site of a boarding school for tribal children, a clinic, a Bible School and a Conference Center.
God used the deaths of three of those early arrivers to direct AOB to establish a hospital in the southern part of East Pakistan. The government granted a lease on 25 acres of land for the construction of the hospital and related buildings and for staff housing. In March, 1966, Memorial Christian Hospital was dedicated to the glory of God and opened for service to the people of Bangladesh. An important adjunct to the hospital was a school, providing for the education of the children of the hospital staff and surrounding community.
During the1960’s, two significant tasks were undertaken in Chittagong. In 1966, translation of the Bible into common language Bangla began. This version supplements the already existing literary Bangla version of the Bible. The entire Bible in common language Bangla was published in 1998. It became the base for translations in several other languages, including five tribal languages. The Literature Division, established in 1969, has produced more than 200 titles, including health teaching, materials for teaching children and adults, and adult literacy primers.
December, 1966, marked the beginning of the AOB camping program with the first youth camp held at Lama. During the 1970’s land was purchased in the Banskhali area for use as a permanent camp and conference facility. It is now used by many people and organizations for conferences and retreats, and several children’s and youth camps are held there each year. Also during the 1970’s the AWANA youth program was begun with clubs both in Malumghat and Chittagong. This program has grown through the years to encompass all of Bangladesh, and is now totally directed by Bangladeshis. In 1981 the Baptist Bible College of Bangladesh was started to provide good leadership for the churches of our area. This college has two branches, one in Malumghat and one in Chittagong.
The Association of Baptists has been active in providing relief to the people of Bangladesh during times of disaster. After the War for Independence, food distribution was a regular activity in 1972 both in Chittagong and at Malumghat Hospital. From April until June 1972, a team from the USA rebuilt or repaired 10,000 homes which had been destroyed during the war.
Another rehabilitation project which grew out of the War for Independence was the establishment of Heart House, a handicrafts project designed to train indigent women in a skill which would enable them to support themselves. The items produced by Heart House are sold throughout Bangladesh and around the world.
In 1979 the Hospital Orthopedic Patient Enablement (HOPE) fund was established to help patients who needed extensive care due to wounds received in the war. At the same time, the hospital began to manufacture artificial limbs for the many amputees who had survived the war. The Limb and Brace department of MCH continues to provide the Jaipur foot for amputees.
After the cyclone of 1991, which killed over 100,000 people, the Association of Baptists was active in providing food and clothing to the cyclone victims.
As we look back over the past, we praise God for the great things He has done in Bangladesh. He is indeed the Provider. Yet after decades of ministry, the work here has just begun. As we look ahead, we wait in eager expectation for God to work in a mighty way. We claim Christ’s promises. The best is yet to come!