“I could not read any book,” says Mina, a 45-year-old Bengali woman. “I forgot everything which I learned several years ago. I desired to read and write but I did not have any opportunity to do so. I did not even know Bible stories. I was so curious to know about Jesus Christ…”
Mina is like so many other people living in Bangladesh. There are around 165 million people in Bangladesh, and only around 75% are literate. Most people in rural areas cannot read the Bible, or any book. Women living in remote areas of Bangladesh are poor and have had very little opportunity to access an education. Mina herself was only able to study up to ‘class three’ as a child.
More recently, Mina and her husband Shubal were attending a Reformed Presbyterian church. Shubal is a farmer, and they have a school aged son.
While attending church, Mina heard about the literacy class, where she could study, develop her reading skills, and at the same time enrich her spiritual life. Needless to say, she was very interested.
“My desire was fulfilled after attending this literacy class,” she says, joyfully. “I came to know Jesus personally from the stories which are given in the literacy books and CDs.’’
One story in particular touched and moved Mina; where Jesus teaches the people about the ‘Widow’s Offering’ in Mark 12:41-44. Mina’s eyes were opened to the truth of this teaching in her own life.
The literacy class did not just teach Mina to read and write; it helped her in understanding her life. In fact, the program transformed her life. Mina is now able to read clearly and is sharing her skills with her family members. She can share the Bible stories she has learned with her neighbours.
Mina attends church regularly, and because of what she has learnt, she is happy tithing according to her ability. Mina has received new life in Jesus.
Like Mina, there are many non-literate adults in Bangladesh who have a desire to learn and study. Some have the Scripture available to them, and are hungry for the word of God, even though they are not able to read it. They are eager for an education, so they can read God’s word. When Mina was able to read the teaching of Jesus, she received him into their lives. From then on, Mina says,
“I decided to lead my life according to the teaching of Jesus.”
Nirmala’s childhood education was limited by her family’s poverty, but in her seventies, as a member of an Anglican church in Southern Bangladesh, she took part in Bible Society’s two-year literacy course held there. Through the use of audio recordings and Bible-based textbooks in Bengali, Nirmala was able to improve her reading and become more familiar with the Bible.
Anjoli was in year five when her schooling ceased; her parents had arranged a marriage for her. By the age of 22, Anjoli had four children and was a member of a Baptist Church in southern Bangladesh.
When a literacy class was offered at her church, supplied with Bengali resources by the Bangladesh Bible Society, Anjoli finally moved past all obstacles to improve her reading skills. While gaining literacy, Anjoli also learnt from the Bible, which led to her and her husband putting their faith in Jesus.