God’s lamp-stand in Bangladesh (1996-Present)
The year 2015 to 2019
In 2015, Time for Church leadership changes again. This time leadership handed over from Simon and Martha to Group Leadership and the Chittagong mission team role back to Dhaka to reconstruct the Dhaka Church. We have very few full-time staffs and most of them funded temporarily by School of Mission Bangalore. SOMB trained disciples were focused on the work of teaching scriptures, preaching God’s word and taking the mission of saving the young and talented campus students in Dhaka once again. For the next three years, group leadership holds the church leadership and the transition of the new leadership structure.
By 2019, Church Leadership hand over from group leadership to newly introduce single leadership with shepherding couple. Most of SOMB trained disciples stepped out from full-time ministry by this time. From them, one couple Sumitro and Popy appoint as New Church Leader and One of the leader of Group leadership David and Ruth appoint as Shepherding Couple. Now under the supervision of shepherding couple, the Church leader is functioning with the help of the family group leaders.
The year 2003 to 2014
In 2003 it was time for the Matthew couple to leave. The leadership was handed over to the Mazumdars and they took over with humble willingness to hold on to Kingdom dreams. Simon and Martha Mazumdar led Dhaka Church from 2003-2015. In their more than a decade of leadership, the church transformed into a church of marrieds and worker in contrast to the earlier days of zealous campus team. Married and singles ministries got priority and great restorations took place. Although there were fall-away of souls, God kept adding to the fruit of number and fruit of the Spirit.
Initially, Church was run by foreign donation. But the changes in the Church administration process and foreign donation crisis of 2003 church cope up with the situation. Almost all leaders of the Church work voluntary and work full-time outside. The church is mostly run by the local fund from the member’s tithe. Most of the ministry run by member’s special contribution.
In 2008 the charity and serving work of HOPE worldwide Bangladesh was initiated by Simon and Martha’s able and willing leadership. Eventually, they had to lead HOPE projects as Directors and were not in the full-time ministry. However, when it came to choosing whether or, not kingdom mission or, HOPE work; Simon and Martha prioritized Kingdom dreams and recommitted themselves to full-time ministry in 2011. They handed over the HOPE work to other disciples. It is mainly funded by multinational garments buyer organizations. Currently, we are running Three HOPE Centers with many types of education and training programs for the empowerment of the poor community.
Chittagong mission team was also sent in April 2014, while Edward and his joyful wife Listina led the mission. The SOMB had a huge impact in preparing the current mission leaders Sumitro and Popy, Edward and Listina and Sylvia.
The year 2001 to 2003
Roger and Susan Matthew were sent in to take the church of almost forty towards maturity. Their deep walk with God, unparalleled caring friendship, gentle yet focused effort towards the purpose gave the church of mostly students sustainability. With renewed joy and fervour, disciples kept serving the Lord with many invitation services, student and leadership camps and retreats and celebrating Christian walk as the family of God. It had always been the dream of the Indian Leadership to hand over the flame of the mission to local leadership. Simon Mazumdar stood out as the most sacrificial and willing servant to take on the yoke of the Lord for the long run. Martha sister from Kolkata, who had earlier visited Dhaka church and served the disciples here. Simon and Martha got married soon after. Under Roger and Susan’s deep commitment to raise and prepare Simon and Martha, the church experienced incredible growth. For three years at a stretch, Dhaka Church was the fastest growing church among the South Asian churches. The church also excelled in generous contribution and was recognized as one of the most giving church. From 2001-2003 Roger and Susan Matthew led the church and the dream of self-depended church and a church led by the leader of its own soil was about to be realized. The church had the highest number of disciples, 82 beaming souls. Many marriages also took place and the separate family group of disciples were planted while a team of faithful leadership kept on serving selflessly.
The year 1999 to 2001
Early 1999 was desperate days for the couple to settle in and dream anew with the handful of disciples. With trembling and tears, radical prayers and fasting were offered as the seemingly small God’s team held to the purpose of Jesus. God had greater plans for his people. He had actually pruned the church for tried and true souls to enter the kingdom and advance it for the long run. In 1999 July to October Simon Mazumdar and 10 others became disciples of Jesus. All of them were ultimately raised up as the first line of leaders of the newly spurred movement in Dhaka. Dr. Yogaraj’s zeal for the purpose and intense preaching impacted many lives and Dhaka church flourished. Many of these new disciples faced long-term trials, criticism and trying times from their family members, relatives, community or, religious leaders. Most of the new disciples were students and the campus ministry flourished. In fact, the leadership couple was the only married couple then. The church functioned as one united family and most of the work was done by the campus ministry. After the great impact in conversion by Dr. Yogaraj and his family it was time for transition onto maturity. There was much persecution such as police visits and the interrogation of Dr. Yogaraj for his tremendous impact. Eventually, they had to leave in 2001.
The year 1998
However, the gates of Hades almost overpowered Dhaka Church in 1998 and the church went through a severe division phase which culminated in dis-fellowship of most of its members around mid-1998. This unfortunate phase was realized due to the greed of the local leader’s inordinate ambition to break away from the overseeing Indian leadership and his followers who played along to view the kingdom as means of personal benefit. Dinesh George, the leader of the Indian movement came down and counted the cost with all the disciples and had set the standards aligned with God’s word. Many disciples, in fact, 29 out of 34 disciples held to their dissension and rejected the standard of discipleship as expected in the scripture and as laid down by Dinesh George. The remnant four brothers and one sister kept sharing their faith and held to God’s standard and to leadership. Raghu bro and Annie sister left with deep-rooted hurt as such dissension was rare in the history of South Asian churches. Dr. Yogaraj and Prova were resent to build with the remnant disciples.
The year 1997
Many Indian leaders poured out their heart to preserve and build the church in Dhaka. The church flourished in 1997 when Moses and Mamata Singh were in Dhaka, as due to visa difficulties the original team had to return to India. Souls were added and ministries were planted. Oomen and Pamela George also contributed as the flame of kingdom dream was passed along. Kingdom leaders did not forget to reach out to the poor during the devastating flood during this time. Much needed relief was distributed to the affected areas around Dhaka and a clinic was also set up to distribute medicine among the poor as one of the early converts was a doctor himself. Although predominantly a Muslim country, the priority was to reach out to the lost souls of Christian communities in Dhaka. Therefore the evangelism mode was often door-to-door within the Christian localities around Dhaka along with street evangelism and prayers in the yards of traditional church buildings. Among many other mission visits, (even for three months) leaders, along with their families kept arriving with the passion to build and sustain the family of God. Thus, David and Monica Noronha, Douglas Cruz and some single brothers and sisters joined shoulders to carry the yoke of the Lord in Dhaka. Raghu and Annie Katragada’s compassionate and dedicated contribution is remembered with gratitude. While their efforts gave the church a more sustainable phase, Dr. Yogaraj Alguraj and his wife Prova’s passionate and forceful leading stood out in their first short-term visit. The church had 34 disciples.
The year 1996
It has always been the dream of the leaders of the Kingdom in India to plant a church in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. To be precise, Mark and Nadine Templar who were forcefully advancing God’s Kingdom in the Indian movement of disciples, had a decisive vision of reaching out to the souls in a country of one hundred and forty million in the mid-1990s as evangelism proclamation was being achieved worldwide in the kingdom. As forceful builders of Kingdom, Mark and Nadine Templar set off to mission team from New Delhi to Dhaka in the month of April 1996 along with Prakash and Joyce D’ Souza. That was the time of rampant political turbulence in Dhaka as the main opposition party of the parliament launched a non-corporation movement with non-stop strikes and occasional violence that broke out in the streets of Dhaka. The mission team hired an ambulance to reach their hotel from the airport and the ambulance was stopped by a procession that could have been violent. While evangelizing they faced bombing and had to run away from the highway into a slum area. Through all of such trying moments, God was faithful to the sincere prayer of these courageous souls and the prayers of many leaders back in India. Dhaka church did not have fast baptisms. Through the turmoil, God still worked to open the doors and the hearts of many who were about to enter the Kingdom.
ICOC Church History Video: The First Forty Years