2020 – Fellowship Declared with Pastor Monotosh and the BLCM
November 6, 2020 | Todd Ohlmann
President Eichstadt recently declared fellowship between the CLC and the Bangladesh Lutheran Church Mission (BLCM). This will be ratified at the postponed 2020 CLC General Convention to be held in 2021.
Bangladesh is a relatively small country in South Asia with a very large population. It ranks as the eighth-most populated country in the world, with a population of over 161 million. In terms of landmass, it ranks ninety-second. With much of the southern portions of the country being made up of uninhabitable lowlands, river delta areas, the world’s largest mangrove forest, and the Bay of Bengal, this makes Bangladesh one of the world’s most densely populated countries.
Islam, which accounts for nearly 90% of the population, is the officially designated state religion of Bangladesh. Hinduism and Buddhism make up approximately 9% of the population. Christianity and tribal religions make up the other 1% with Christianity representing only .03%.
It is to this, predominately Muslim nation, that the Lord has opened a door of opportunity for us to assist in proclaiming the truths of God’s saving word!
In 2016 Pastor Monotosh Banarjee found the Church of the Lutheran Confession on the internet. His initial email to President Eichstadt indicated that he was looking for fellowship and additional training in God’s Word. At president Eichstadt’s request, Missionary Ohlmann began correspondence with an email requesting more information about Pastor Banarjee’s background, affiliations with other church groups or organizations, and his intentions for seeking a relationship with the CLC. Three years of regular correspondence took him through studies of basic Christian theology and the doctrine of the CLC. They discussed and agreed that it is important and God-pleasing to be united in doctrine before beginning to work together in God’s kingdom. In early 2019 Board of Missions Chairman Joel Kraftt and Missionary Ohlmann made a trip to Bangladesh to visit Pastor Banarjee to see first hand the work that he was doing. The visit went well and encouraging reports were sent to President Eichstadt. With the president’s approval, correspondence and Online Theological Studies continued. In January of 2020 Pastor David Reim, having been appointed by President Eichstadt to represent the CLC for a colloquy, accompanied Missionary Ohlmann for a second visit to Bangladesh. Following the colloquy and visit both Pastor Reim and Missionary Ohlmann gave favorable reports to President Eichstadt recommending a declaration of fellowship.
Our Savior has been active in Pastor Banarjee’s life long before anyone in the CLC knew of him. He was born into a Hindu family and was raised to worship idols. That is until a seventh-grade classmate first told him about Jesus. He was intrigued but didn’t quite know what to think or how to find out more. After he was given a New Testament by his classmate, he hid it from his family and began to read it whenever he could find a private place where he would not be discovered. As he read and learned the stories of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection he was impressed but very confused because this Bible about Jesus was nothing like the idolatry that he had been taught. It wasn’t until a few years later that the Holy Spirit worked faith in his heart. This saving faith led him to repent of his sins and trust in Jesus Christ alone for forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.
In Bangladesh, when a person converts to another religion, they are required by law to file an affidavit with the district judicial court stating that they were not coerced or bribed to convert. After Banarjee filed the required affidavit, he was forced to leave his home and family. With nothing but a few coins in his pocket, he made his way to the big capital city of Dhaka where he lived on the streets for three months with very little food and personal hygiene. In 1999 he was taken in by a Christian family and was baptized. That same year he married a Christian girl named Elizabeth. The Lord continued to strengthen his faith over the next year and in 2000, he and his wife began taking classes at a Bible School.
He eventually enrolled in a non-denominational Bible school. It was there that he was introduced to the teachings of Martin Luther and the Reformation. While he was exposed to the teachings of many different denominations, it was Lutheran theology that rang true as it became evident that these teachings agreed with what he was reading in Scripture. He became convinced that Luther’s theology was Biblical theology. He began to look for a Lutheran church to join but wasn’t able to find one. In 2009 he received a Bachelor of Theology degree from the Bangladesh College of Theology in Dhaka and started the Bangladesh Lutheran Church Mission.
The BLCM has grown to fourteen congregations and six schools in eight districts. Most of the fourteen-hundred BLCM believers are converted from Hinduism. Pastor Banarjee spends most of his time traveling throughout Bangladesh to visit and provide the Gospel in Word and Sacrament to the congregations of the BLCM. Just recently he began gathering the elders and school teachers in the various districts to provide Bible training. Having translated many of the CLC Online Theological Studies that he has completed, he is using these lessons to train more faithful preachers and teachers of God’s saving word.
With prayers of thanksgiving to our Lord for the proclamation of the Gospel in Bangledesh and for the privilege of sharing in this work, we ask for the Lord’s blessings as we work together with Pastor Banarjee and our brothers and sisters in Christ of the BLCM.