REVEREND Matthew Bicket, minister at Panbride Church in Carnoustie, was the guest speaker at Montrose and District Probus Club’s recent meeting.
His chosen subject was ‘From Angus to Bangladesh’ as he was the Church of Scotland’s first ‘Man in Bangladesh’, going there originally in 1977 to work for six years as an agriculturalist in children’s homes and orphanages.
Bangladesh was then a young country, having gained its independence only a few years earlier. In those days there were few good roads and even fewer bridges, many villages had no electricity and a journey which now can be undertaken in one and a half hours could take up to 10 hours to complete.
Before mobile ‘phones became so popular, calls back to this country had to be booked in advance and sometimes one had to wait for three days before the actual call could be made. Matthew has returned a few times, taking work parties from his parish in Carnoustie to do some very practical tasks such as building projects, tree planting, and helping to repair property that had been damaged by floods or cyclones, or even help to rebuild flimsy homes that have been destroyed by rampaging elephants.
A new clinic in a rural village has been built, mainly due to financial support from congregations in Angus. Much outreach work is being done to help girls who were abducted to work in the Indian sex trade, and find that if they return to their native villages they are often shunned and disowned by their families.
Bangladesh is predominantly a Muslim country, but the small minorities of Christians and Hindus do not suffer persecution as sometimes happens elsewhere. The average life expectancy has risen to 55, and the population has dramatically increased from 70 million to 160 million over the last 40 years. One of the ladies from Carnoustie was the first white woman that a villager had ever seen. In a land so vulnerable to the elements and the ravages of flooding, it is good to know that the church which the work party helped to build is used not just as a place of worship but as a flood and cyclone shelter for the whole community as well.