The President of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand is formally an Officer of the Baptist Union and takes on the voluntary role for a year. Susan Osborne was elected in November 2023 and is a member of Trinity Baptist Church, Titahi Bay, Wellington. For more information about The President, click here.

John and I have recently returned from 4 weeks in India and Bangladesh. I was not looking forward to this trip, particularly the long flights to and from. I think I’m too old for that sort of travel.

But God surprised me! – And this time turned out to be a time of blessing and thanks for what God has done over the last few years.

We spent the first Sunday at our ‘old’ Bengali church. What an encouragement this was to us. When we began attending this church over 20 years ago, there were often only 4–5 of us in the congregation. This Sunday, the hall was full, with half the congregation being women and girls from our freedom businesses. One of them was leading the service, another read the bible, and all joined in worshipping Jesus, their Saviour and Lord. On the way home, there were 18 of us on the bus, all singing songs of praise. I was a bit nervous about this, but nothing was going to stop these girls.

What an answer to our prayers and yours for this very disadvantaged community – to see these women, two from Joyya and the rest from LCA, expressing and living their new life of Hope.

We were in Chandpur the second Sunday, attending the memorial service for a dear friend and colleague, Mona Borman. The church was packed, and a good percentage of us lasted the three hours of memories and thanksgiving for a life of service to God. Mona came from a poor Christian home and became an extraordinary evangelist and pastoral care worker among the churches in the district. John had spent hours mentoring Mona, who went on to get a Bachelor of Theology and become a national leader in the Bangladesh church. His greatest gift was his compassion for others, particularly those less fortunate than himself.

What an answer to our prayers and yours to hear of the wonderful contribution Mona made to his community.

On our third Sunday, we went to a local Baptist church in Dhaka. We arrived right at 6 pm when the service was meant to start, and we were disappointed to find the auditorium less than half full. But an hour later, they were putting out extra chairs and moving chairs forward to fit all of those who wanted to attend the service. We enjoyed the Bengali music, some with traditional Christmas rhythms, bringing back so many memories for us of Christmas celebrated Bengali style. The founding pastor and his wife were from Chandpur, and they built up this amazing, vibrant fellowship over many years. There is a very capable, well-trained young pastor there now, leading the church in their regular two-and-a-half-hour services! A bit of a shock to our systems. What a joy to worship with around 200 local believers, with not another foreigner in sight. The service ended with my very favourite Bengali hymn written by William Carey. My heart and soul were overflowing with thankfulness to our faithful God.

Then, we met with Rev. Leor Sarkar and listened to him share the achievements of the Bangladesh Baptist Church Fellowship and their plans for the future. What a privilege for us New Zealand Baptists to share in that vision.

What an answer to our prayers and yours for the growth of an indigenous church in this country where Christians make up 0.3% of the population.

Sometimes, we can be discouraged when we don’t see the fruit of our hard work and prayers. But as I reflect on these recent experiences, I know I can continue to trust God to work in His way in His time. To answer our prayers and build His kingdom.

As we look over 2023 and review all that we have prayed for and worked for, let us remember God’s faithfulness. As we move into the new year of 2024, may we hold on to the faithfulness of God, stepping out in confidence that “He who has called us is faithful, and He will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24

Photo supplied: Susan talking with Rev. Leor Sarkar, General Secretary, Bangladesh Baptist Church Fellowship

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