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Congregations Team Up to Help Church in Bangladesh11 min read

The following is a transcription of the podcast featuring an interview with pastors Tony Boos (Faith, Troy) and Elieo Boiragee of Bangladesh. You can listen to the podcast here.

Jeff Heisner:

Hello, and welcome to the Innovative Missional Ministry podcast. I’m Jeff Heiser with the Michigan District of the LCMS. And today we’re joined by Pastor Tony Boos from Faith Lutheran Church in Troy, Michigan and by Pastor Elieo Boiragee of the Lutheran Church in Bangladesh and a member of Faith, Troy. Today we’re talking about what these gentlemen are doing: working towards forming a mission society to support the Lutheran Church in Bangladesh. Pastor Tony, we’ll start with you. Tell me how this mission started.

Pastor Tony Boos:

Pastor Elieo Boiragee came to the United States, emigrated from Bangladesh about 20 years ago. Ten years ago, he moved to Michigan and his family came with him, to be a missionary in the Hamtramck area where there are… how many thousands of Bengalis are there, Pastor Elieo?

Pastor Elieo: There are 36,000

Pastor Tony Boos:

36,000 Bengalis in the Hamtramck area. So he was called by the former mission director of the Michigan District, LCMS, Rev. Roosevelt Gray, working with him and Faith Lutheran church to reach out to these Bengalis with the good news of the Gospel. Pastor Elieo had prior to that already started a ministry in his own country, Bangladesh. I will describe what Bangladesh is like culturally: If you picture the United States with 330 million people, there is about half that population, about 163 million Bengali people in Bangladesh, but they all live in [a place the size of] Iowa. If you can imagine that’s how poor the country is and people are living on top of each other in that country. It’s a 95% Muslim country, 4% Hindu, a little bit of Buddhism involved; and then also just a very small minority, 1% or less that are Christian. And so Pastor Elieo, his heart is for the Bengali people in Bangladesh. And we said, how are we going to continue to support that? And I said, “Brother, you need to go back home.” Because his wife is there now; she’s been there for about a year and a half trying to run the ministry without him. And so we are establishing this Bengali Lutheran Mission Society so that he can do the ministry back home, where there are 3,000 Christians that he’s in charge of, five pastors, four tutoring schools. It is just growing and we want to say, let’s do that over there.

Jeff Heisner:

And Pastor Elieo, why don’t you tell me a little bit about what you see over there when you go back, how the Lutheran church fits in.

Pastor Elieo:

I have this dream way back in Bangladesh. It’s my duty, in Lutheran doctrine, Lutheran teaching, and sharing the Gospel with each other. And I have in my dream to share the real gospel so the people can really know the Bible and be converted. You know, my 3,000 people are Hindu converted and some Muslim converted also. There are lots of people in Bangladesh who don’t know the Bible. With Hindu people, I share the Gospel door- to-door. My dream is that these people become Lutherans, so everybody knows because a lot of denominations in Bangladesh, they don’tknow correctly, not a hundred percent the Bible. But, I believe that Lutherans are getting a hundred percent Bible teaching purely and real.

Jeff Heisner:

So what are you doing right now with this mission?

Pastor Tony Boos:

So my job and responsibility is to try to tell as many Lutheran churches about this opportunity so they can partner with Faith Lutheran Church in Troy. Right now, we have three other churches: Pastor Evan Gaertner at Our Shepherd, Birmingham; Pastor Lewis Stier with Trinity, Utica; and my son who is in the SMP program in St. Louis and serving as a missions coordinator at Faith Lutheran Church in Oakville, Missouri. We are partnering together to, say out of our mission dollars let’s provide, for example, $5,000 per year, so that we can provide not only for Pastor Elieo’s salary, but also for the five other pastors. Currently at Faith Lutheran Church, we are providing some salary support for teachers and pastors. If we get more churches partnering with us, then we can expand that ministry not just to provide some startup costs because eventually we want this to be self-sustaining. But it takes quite a bit of startup costs for him to establish a farming system or some small business loans, things like that. And we have opportunities to help kids within these tutoring schools to learn the Gospel.

Jeff Heisner:

Why don’t you expand on that a little bit? How are you helping those kids right now?

Pastor Tony Boos:

It’s such a great need and really quality for [the kids] to learn a little bit, to not just learn from the schools that happen in the government schools, but the tutoring programs that happen from 3 – 5 p.m. (nursery through fifth grade). People from those villages come to Pastor Elieo’s Christian teachers and they are able to pray with them, read some Bible scriptures, teach even a little bit of English to them. And then also along with Math and Reading … but these kids then hear the Good News, take it back to their families, and then people become interested about learning about Jesus.

Jeff Heisner:

And right now, gentlemen, you guys are both involved as well, from where you are right now in Troy, doing Bible studies and [teaching] the Small Catechism, correct?

Pastor Tony Boos:

Yeah. So Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh and the internet system in Dhaka is so nice. But they live outside of Dhaka. By car that is … a five hour drive. So the internet is kind of shaky and weak there, but somehow we can, through the teachers, and we have a Bible study and we’re going through Luther’s Small Catechism. I’ve created a schedule for six months out to just go through the Commandments now with these pastors. Can you think from a Lutheran perspective, we are sharing the Commandments with some of them who are secretly Muslim inside that 15 to 20 who gather, some are secretly Hindu, along with the pastors. Then they teach one another. It’s just an amazing privilege and so Pastor Lewis from Trinity, Pastor Evan from Our Shepherd, my son Brandon, they all have opportunity now to come alongside me to teach for about an hour this group of people during the early morning—8 a.m. for us, but it’s in the late evening for them because there’s a 12-13 hour difference there.

Jeff Heisner:

Pastor Elieo, what’s the response that you’re seeing when you’re doing these teachings and, and paint the picture, because you’re doing it over like a cell phone, or teaching over Facebook Messenger. Is that correct?

Pastor Elieo:

Yeah. The lessons are for two weeks. I have in my phone I use. In Bangladesh my wife has [Facebook] Messenger. These people are very happy. People are very happy, you know, excited. Everybody knows 10 Commandments, but how [did] God give it to the people? How, and the 10 Commandments, what is the meaning of 10 Commandments?  But they don’t know. Actually at that time then everybody knows. The teaching is look like a new and that’s why everybody is very happy and very excited. And when I go to Bangladesh, this more excited that people, because I know the Lutheran Doctrine, I know the Small Catechism. I know everything. What’s more is the people … are very happy. This is ministry, not my ministry. This is God’s plan. God’s ministry.  Pastor Tony hopes that more churches can help. This is good for Bangladesh. Very recently I’m going over there and more than Bangladesh and our Lutheran church, everybody knows.

Pastor Tony Boos:

And not only in Bangladesh. What people may not know is that Mother Teresa is from the Calcutta area—not where she’s from but where she ministered almost all her life—and they actually speak Bangla there. So in Calcutta there are very many Bangla speakers. And so Pastor Elieo has a vision for expanding even into India.

Pastor Elieo:

Yes in India, right! Yeah. And … it’s very close to Bangladesh, Calcutta and Mother Teresa was here doing lot of things, but [Calcutta] is very big city with lots of Bengali people. And I have in my ambition, my plan very close to Bangladesh and India, I am working in there also.

Jeff Heisner:

Pastor Elieo, I bet it will be nice to see your wife in person. Right?

Pastor Elieo: Right, right.

Pastor Tony Boos:

I’ll tell you a little story if we have some time. [His wife] Merry, two years ago, what you don’t know is that when Pastor Elieo was living in Hamtramck he sold his house to try to establish the ministry over there [Bangladesh] because you know how the devil is in the details he wants to, he wants to destroy people’s faith and soul, by taking down the leadership. There was a leadership issue in his ministry. He wanted to go solve it. And we tried to send him home two years ago. Then he came back to the U.S. because mostly what he does is works here full-time and sends all of his money, as much as he can, back home to support the ministry that was kind of destroyed. And so Merry was attacked by some people there. It wasn’t a terrorist attack; it wasn’t really Muslim motivated or Christian motivated. It was greed. And so she was attacked. Her arm was broken, her legs were broken, she couldn’t come home, and then COVID happened. So they’ve been apart for almost two years now. And so we are trying to send him home sooner rather than later to not only care for his wife, but also to make sure that his ministry is kind of getting set with good roots as he described, and just, by God’s grace, going forward. His work here supported the school side of things. Our support, along with some other churches, is supporting the pastoral side of things. And again, the vision is not that they would receive funds all the time from the United States, but they would then work towards being self-sustaining by giving some jobs. That is a huge opportunity to be able to give jobs for people in his congregations. Like, we’ll give you a small business loan, then you pay back the cow that we bought or the goat that we bought, or the fish ponds. Those kinds of things are entrepreneurial that Pastor Eleio really wants to develop as well.

Jeff Heisner:

Pastor Tony, why don’t you tell congregations and lay people in the District, how they might be able to help?

Pastor Tony Boos:

We would covet your prayers number one. Financial support through can be given through this newly formed Bengali Lutheran Mission Society as a 501(c)(3) out of Michigan. Before that happens—it should happen within the next month—if they want to reach out to me, my email is tboos@faithtroy.org. I’ll give them more information about how they can participate right now. It’s really just telling the story so that people will understand: if you think of a startup cost, this is what we need in order to get him over there, to get him established again. And then in the future maybe we will send mission teams or people over there to do dental work, medical missions, or digging wells, things like that. The opportunity just opens up once we have a trusted man that is actually leading that mission. So right now it’s supporting Pastor Elieo and in the future, it will be things like that where we can go and teach the pastors there. You know, pastors from here can go teach and then lay people can come that are skilled, that may have farming experience, may have all these other things. Who knows what the Lord’s going to do. We’re just there to help.

Jeff Heisner:

Well, pastors, thank you so much for your time. We definitely appreciate it and you guys are doing some great work, that’s for sure. And we also want to thank you the listener for tuning in to the Michigan District’s Innovative Missional Ministry Podcast.

Photo (c) Tarzan9280/iStock

 

 


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