Five months ago I phoned the fire brigade. It took them a couple of weeks to arrive. Fortunately they were only coming to fit two brand new smoke detectors free of charge rather than put out a fire. They spent well over half an hour telling us about fire safety and for the last 5 months I have dutifully close all the doors and check the stairs are clear before heading to bed.
Ten months ago I was here, in a slum in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Blown away by these amazing people who were teaching around 100 children(50 girls one week, 50 boys the next – plus a live chicken that was in a box and being saved for dinner some day next week) about God’s love for them in a tiny wee room just off this alleyway. I stayed in Bangladesh for a month and was only able to visit this place twice. Still, it had a massive impact on me, I would go as far as saying it was transformational in helping me realise the abundance of wealth and resources we have in the West. It’s hard not to be affected by the poverty and destitution of Bangladesh with 83% of Bengalis living on less than $2 a day. And these people… they are the forgotten ones with so much less. No running water in their homes, precarious and dangerous electrical supply, no privacy with large families often sharing one small room for both living and sleeping. Food is cooked in pots in doorways. Life is up close and personal with a definite need to avoid disputes with your neighbours. That’s what made the kids club here so much more breath-taking… this beacon of light was shining for all to see as many passers by peered in or stopped to listen to the singing and laughter.
Last week a fire ripped through this slum and destroyed 200 homes. I am devastated for them. They had so little to start with, it doesn’t seem fair to take it away… again. Five years ago the same thing happened. Back then it was all made of tin and everything was licked up by the flames. With help from overseas they rebuilt their houses with bricks. It was supposed to be safer… an electrical fault in an abandoned unit began this fire. Thankfully it was in the middle of the day and no one lost their life. If it had been at night, who knows the devastation that could have been caused. Where do you go in Bangladesh when no one wants you to begin with which is why you live in the slum in the first place? How do you start again? How do you feed you children? Where do you go to the toilet? Where do you sit down to even begin thinking about these things when you have no where to sit? Where were the four firemen and their fire engine five months ago to fit your two new smoke detectors so this wouldn’t happen, because your doors were closed and your stairways clear?
Without trying I know I can’t fit everything I own in my car. My possessions are spread throughout 6 rooms. I have multiple rooms. I have a car. And a wardrobe, and a set of mugs from Tesco, and a coat stand because I own more than one coat, and food in my cupboards…. and God. I have God, who promises He is in control even when the world seems upside down and unfair and totally confusing and broken. A friend comforted me recently with these words: “When all you have is Jesus, you realise He’s all you need.” But even in the midst of my suffering He wasn’t all I had… I had my car and my Tesco mugs and friends who helped and still help and so so much more that I totally undervalued. I am ashamed of all that I take for granted. These people really do have absolutely nothing material in this world and very few places to turn for help. Sometimes this world seems to make no sense…