NZ and Australia have a complicated relationship – we love ‘em sometimes and we don’t love ‘em other times. But it is the Australia Baptist who lead us into Bangladesh – East Bengal – at that time, 1886. They began work there a few years earlier, following the British Baptist, led by William Carey, into that land.
NZBMS sent their first missionary, Rosalie MacGeorge to East Bengal in response to the urgings of Rev. Silas Mead from Adelaide, and Ellen Arnold, a missionary on furlough. Both visited NZ to encourage NZ Baptists to send workers overseas to join them in East Bengal. They even divided up the districts between the NZers and the Australians!
After language study with the Australians, Rosalie MacGeorge moved to Narayanganj, just out of Dhaka, but the situation was quite lonely and eventually she went to Comilla. These circumstances led her and the society to settle on Brahmanbaria as the location of the first NZ mission station. Strategic location was the reason for the second mission station being located at Chandpur, in 1895. This town was a major junction of rail and river.
The gifts and skills of the workers also directed the future of the mission. The women missionaries were trained in education and nursing and so village preaching, home visits, schools and a dispensary were established. When Dr. Charles North arrived in Chandpur he lost no time in beginning to build a hospital.
The men who followed were theologically trained and they focused on village preaching and bible classes with young men. They also opened reading rooms in both centres for students to come and talk about the Christian faith.
The needs of the people were key in leading the mission into other work such as orphanages and a home for destitute women. Along with the schools, dispensary and the hospital, these institutions enabled the good news to be preached and the kingdom of God to be established in Bangladesh.