Paul Munshi was packing to return to Bangladesh when the call came from his country’s embassy in Washington. The message was ominous: The main airport at Dhaka, the nation’s capital, was under water. “Since that airport is one of the higher places in my country, I knew the situation was bad,” said Munshi, director of Christian Service Society (CSS), a relief-and-development agency in Bangladesh.

Munshi flew instead to Calcutta and then convinced a local pilot to fly him and a film crew from CSS’s counterpart, World Relief, into Bangladesh. A veteran of previous floods in his poverty-ravaged homeland, Munshi was shaken by what he saw. “It was much worse than I had imagined. Entire villages have disappeared, washed away into the rivers.”

World Relief, one of several Christian agencies sending assistance to Bangladesh, is working closely with Munshi in providing food, clean water, and medical assistance to homeless victims devastated by what is being called the worst flooding in the history of Bangladesh. Joining World Relief are World Vision, Church World Service, MAP International, the Salvation Army, and a host of other agencies. According to a State Department spokesman, the United States has pledged $3.6 million in aid, while Japan has topped all donor nations with a promise of $13 million.

Accustomed To Disaster

Flooding is a perennial problem for Bangladesh, a nation wedged into India’s northeast corner, directly in the path of runoff from the Himalayas and backed up against the Bay of Bengal. The record is staggering: A tidal wave in 1970 killed 350,000, flooding in 1976 left 300,000 homeless, cyclone-whipped waves killed 600 in 1977, annual flooding that washes away entire villages, and a major flood last year that totaled $4.5 billion in damages.

The 110 million Bangladeshis crammed into a country the size of Wisconsin are considered among the poorest people in the world. Born out of a civil war in the early 1970s that killed many of its intellectuals, Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) has had two presidents assassinated during its turbulent 17-year history. Major demonstrations against the government last November nearly shut down the economy.

According to Munshi, most Bangladeshis live at a subsistence level. “Men get up early each day to seek work. If they are lucky, they get a job hoeing weeds. Families do not eat until the men come home after dark. And if they come home without money, they do not eat that day.”

Staying Alive

Most relief experts say the initial goal in Bangladesh was to keep people alive. During the first two weeks of the flooding, people were forced to drink contaminated water to avoid dehydration. The resulting outbreaks of diarrhea were complicated by bites from poisonous snakes sharing dry ground with people evacuated by the flood.

Article continues below

A statement released from the Bangladesh embassy in Washington, D.C., asked for “ready-to-eat high protein dry food because people have no cooking oil.” Although earlier death reports have been sketchy, relief-agency officials fear the numbers will increase in the coming weeks. “As the emergency persists, we expect the toll to rise sharply from water-borne diseases and illnesses related to malnutrition,” said World Vision’s John Key, director of the agency’s work in Bangladesh.

A World Relief team that recently returned from Bangladesh confirmed early reports that 40 million people are homeless. An average of 20,000 new cases of diarrhea are being reported each day, and reports of patients contracting cholera have relief officials worried about a major epidemic.

Munshi was able to reach his home in Khulna, where flood damage is minimal. He says conditions there will greatly increase World Relief’s ability to help distribute supplies, but that the needs are almost overwhelming.

“Our people have no food, water, or houses. If God’s people in the United States and Canada are going to do anything, they must do it now.”

By Lyn Cryderman.

North American Scene


The Return Of Jim Bakker?

After more than a year of near silence, Jim Bakker went public with a confession and topped all bidders trying to buy his former PTL empire.

In late August, Bakker told about 2,000 people gathered at the Southeastern Congress of the Holy Spirit in Charlotte, North Carolina, that he had “sinned against the body of Christ.” He said he had spent the past year reading the Bible and seeking God, and had confessed his sins “from childhood to this minute” to a Catholic priest, whom he did not name. In response to a question from a local pastor, those in attendance said they had “sinned against Jim Bakker.”

The former PTL leader is currently waiting word from U.S Bankruptcy Court Judge Rufus Reynolds on whether his $172 million offer to buy back the television network and theme park will be accepted. Two issues make his return improbable: whether Bakker can indeed raise the money, and whether he will be held responsible for PTL’s financial failure.


Article continues below

Baptist Seminary “Divided”

The effects of the ongoing skirmish between moderates and conservatives in the Southern Baptist Convention continue to show up in Southern Baptist schools, such as Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

A three-member committee of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS) visited the Louisville campus and reported that the 38-year-old school is “a very troubled campus and divided institution.” New Southeastern president Lewis Drummond cautioned that the committee’s visit came only a day after he was made president and in the middle of what has been the school’s most volatile period. “Hopefully, we are now in a period of reconciliation,” stated Drummond.

Trustees of the school last fall took measures to ensure that only biblical inerrantists would be added to the faculty, which prompted the resignations of president W. Randall Lolley, dean Morris Ashcraft, and six other administrators. The ATS committee stated that the purpose of its visit was “to determine what implications, if any, the events at the seminary may have regarding the proper recognition and adherence to the principles of freedom and institutional integrity.” The seminary is seeking accreditation from the organization.


Drugs Down, Suicide Up

High-achieving American teens are saying no to drugs and alcohol, but still consider suicide an answer to their problems, according to a survey of teens listed in Who’s Who Among American High School Students. The survey also found that business has replaced medicine as the top career choice for teen achievers.

The survey found that marijuana use among high achievers has virtually disappeared in the past decade. Less than 1 percent reported use of other drugs such as cocaine and crack, and 63 percent said they never drink alcohol (compared to 48 percent in 1983).

But the number of teen achievers who have considered suicide jumped from 28 to 30 percent in the past four years, and the number who have attempted suicide rose from 3 to 4 percent. Cited most frequently as the factors teens believe contribute to suicide are a feeling of personal worthlessness (86 percent); pressure to achieve (71 percent); and fear of failure (65 percent).

Other results from the survey show high-achieving teens favor George Bush over Michael Dukakis, do not discuss sex with their parents, believe prayer should be allowed in public schools, and generally confide in their mothers more than their fathers.


Article continues below

Democrats Losing Catholics?

The defection of two Catholic bishops from the Democratic party underscores the difficulty that party may have in keeping prolife Democrats in the fold. Archbishop John F. Whealon of Hartford, Connecticut, cited the Democrats’ prochoice stance on abortion as the major factor contributing to his leaving the party. Writing in his column in The Catholic Transcript, he said the Democratic party “has abandoned the Catholic church.”

Whealon joins Auxiliary Bishop Austin B. Vaughn of the New York archdiocese, who earlier this year dropped out of the Democratic party because of its abortion stance. The two stand in opposition to Joseph Cardinal Bemardin and John Cardinal O’Conner, who strongly condemn abortion but reject the idea that bishops endorse certain political stances for Catholics, a belief that mirrors the policy of the conference of Catholic bishops. Other church officials have expressed concern that those attempting to determine the church’s political agenda could threaten its tax-exempt status.


Briefly Noted

Hospitalized: Evangelist Billy Graham, in Rochester, New York, for treatment of a localized infection in his foot. Graham had apparently been bitten by a brown recluse spider at his North Carolina mountain home. Doctors said they hospitalized Graham for several days to “ensure a quicker recovery.”

Named: As president of Haven of Rest Ministries, Raymond C. Ortlund, founder and former director of Renewal Ministries. “Haven of Rest” is a daily 30-minute radio program heard on more than 200 outlets in North America.

World Scene


No Haven For Refugees

Despite a plea to Congress from El Salvador President José Napoleon Duarte, the United States will continue to send Salvadorian refugees back to their Central American homeland.

Last month Duarte wrote members of Congress, telling them that “The Marxist forces which prey upon the homeless look now to renew the conflict and stir discontent among the thousands” who return. Last year, the U.S. expelled 3,691 Salvadorians and has denied all but 4 percent of the 3,485 requests for asylum this year. Currently, approximately 500,000 Salvadorians live in the U.S.

Duarte, who has cancer of the liver and stomach, personally appealed to President Ronald Reagan to suspend deportation of Salvadorians. President Reagan turned down the request, siding with Justice Department officials who consider Salvadorians economic immigrants rather than political refugees.

Currently, many Salvadorians have received shelter in American churches.

Article continues below


Worried About 1997

Christians in Hong Kong are concerned about a new constitution being considered for 1997 when the British colony becomes a part of China. In a recent statement, the Hong Kong Church Renewal Movement said articles in the constitution—known as the Basic Law—may hinder efforts to carry out mission work in China.

At issue is the “Three-Mutual Policy” contained in the Basic Law. It calls for “non-subordination, non-interference, and mutual respect” between Hong Kong religious organizations and China. The statement prepared by the Hong Kong evangelistic group concludes that the “Three-Mutual Policy” could place “certain restrictions” on Christians in Hong Kong who would like to conduct evangelistic work in China.

The document, titled “Mission Hong Kong—2000,” also outlined strategies for church leaders in such areas as church growth, evangelism, and relations with China.


Gospel Blitz In Swaziland

Evangelists from a variety of denominations conducted a nearly round-the-clock ministry effort for two weeks in Manzini, the largest city in Swaziland. Sponsored by Africa Enterprise, an interracial, interdenominational evangelistic organization, the evangelists went to public schools, prisons, factories, offices, and local churches to proclaim the gospel.

Each day a group of young people from Youth for Christ descended upon the city’s central market district singing, “We are the children of Africa, a new foundation for the nation.” Crowds gathered to sing and dance with the youth, then stayed to listen to an evangelist preach. Other evangelists closed the day with midnight services for miners.

Local Methodists were so enthused by the teaching they received from evangelist Mbulelo Hina that they took to the streets looking for potential converts. Samuel Hynde, a well-known missionary statesman in Swaziland, told the evangelists, “This mission has been an eye-opener to the churches. We see today the results of the prayer of multitudes of people.”


The Lure Of The Coca Leaf

America’s drug war may have an unlikely target: Christian farmers in Bolivia who cannot resist the huge profits from growing coca, the raw material of cocaine. But according to a report from the Evangelical Foreign Missions Service, many churches are pressuring their members to plow the leaf under.

Pentecostals in Bolivia, for example, will not allow coca growers to hold leadership positions in their churches. And members caught working in cocaine processing labs there are disciplined.

Article continues below

Other groups have tried similar tactics, but face tremendous pressure. For example, the Bolivian National Assembly of the Church of God (Anderson, Ind.) tried to pass a resolution forbidding members from growing coca, but the resolution was defeated. And some Baptist congregations in the Chapare growing district have voted to dismiss pastors who preach against coca growing.

Observers blame such attitudes on concerted public-relations campaigns of drug dealers who are described as “fabulously rich.”


Briefly Noted

Appointed: Anglican Bishop Gresford Chitemo, as leader for African Enterprise’s East Africa Ministries. Chitemo succeeds Bishop Festo Kivengere who died of leukemia earlier this year.

As president of Asian Theological Seminary, Isabelo F. Magalit, currently senior pastor of Diliman Bible Church. Magalit has served as general secretary of the Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship of the Philippines and is a regional coordinator of the Asia Lausanne Committee for World Evangelism.

Announced: By Pope John Paul II,

his approval of strict economic sanctions against South Africa, now under consideration by the United States Congress. The announcement came at the beginning of a ten-day tour of Africa that skirts South Africa.

Died: British Christian statesman and author Arthur Wallis. In recent years, Wallis has worked with an evangelistic team based with the Community Church in Southampton.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.