Since November 23, I have been very concerned about my brother, Father John Heagle and his fellow minister Sister Fran Furder as that was the day they departed on a long and grueling mission to Bangladesh. They had been invited at the behest of an order of sisters to come and minister not only to the sisters, but to several groups.
Since November 23 I had heard nothing from either of them which added to my worry and concern. finally this morning I received the following e mail that I wish to share with you, my readers:
We are sitting in the airport in Amsterdam at 6:30 AM, Friday, Dec 4, after flying from Dhaka to Delhi and then an all night flight from Delhi that left at 1 AM. It was an 8 hour flight, and since I don’t sleep well on airplanes, I’m already in zombie-state. We have a four hour layover here and then 14 hours to Portland—the long journey home after this challenging, amazing, and remarkable time in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
I had assumed that I might be able to have internet access with the Holy Cross Sisters, but things are a bit simpler there than I had anticipated, so this is the first chance I’ve had to get on line. After we arrived 12 days ago, we led a three day workshop for the Bangladeshi Holy Cross Sisters, followed by two days with 'Stop the Traffic', an organization that rescues and rehabilitates young women who have been trapped in the international sex trade. After that we led another three day workshop for 150 of the priests, brothers, sisters, and lay leaders of the five dioceses of Bangladesh. We also visited orphanages, domestic violence shelters, rape recovery locations, student hostels for college women, schools, medical clinics, and centers for differently-abled persons.
The people we met and worked with are such welcoming, warm, loving, human persons with profound faith and an overwhelming spirit of love and service. I have such respect for their dedication and their commitment to the people they serve. They are truly other-centered people. There is so much poverty and destitution in this part of the world, and so few resources to meet these needs.
It has been a demanding and life-changing experience for me to make this journey. At this point there are so many experiences, people, faces, conversations, events, and poignant moments tumbling around in my head and heart that I can’t find the words to begin trying to describe it. As I mentioned before we left, Bangladesh is about the size of Iowa. Iowa has 3 million people; Bangladesh has 150 million people, more than half of the population of the USA. So, there is immense crowding, devastating poverty, widespread pollution, chaotic traffic, and constant, intense noise 24 hours a day. I slept on a cot with a coconut-hemp mattress and a mosquito net, ate lots of rice and cooked vegetables, drank tea 6 times a day, and listened to the Muslim call to prayer day and night, as it is broadcast from huge loudspeakers from the top of the mosques.
The Christian population of Bangladesh is only a sliver of the total--.03 percent, so the Catholic population is even smaller. But they are a resilient and faith-filled community.
I'm coming home with multiple large mosquito bites, emotional weariness, and physical exhaustion, but it feels like it has all been worth it to listen, learn, and walk with so many gifted, generous ministers.
Well, that’s the scoop for now; I’m going to bring this rambling reflection to a close for now.