GOD’S MESSENGER – HOUSING
The day of the “mission compound” is by no means over. These western enclaves are still found throughout the developing world. They are often misunderstood and, in some cases, despised by the nationals. A convert questioned their existence by asking, “Am I wrong if I say that mission bungalows are often a partition wall between the hearts of the people and the missionaries?” It is my personal conviction that remaining mission compounds should be dismantled. This would free the missionary to move into the community and share his international testimony among people rather than being shut off in a large plot of land that has a very negative appraisal in the minds of the community. It is preferable for the Christians to scatter out among their non-Christian townspeople rather than live in a sealed-off community. Light must be diffused to be of any benefit.
Our first five-year term living in a small town in Bangladesh was a great learning and sharing experience. Just outside the bedroom window of our rented home lived a Muslim lady who was separated from her husband. Her two young daughters lived with her. Quickly we became very intimate friends. The girls were always coming over to borrow a spice or an egg. We felt free to do the same. When the youngest daughter had a raging fever, we brought her over and nursed her. From our bedroom window we learned more about Muslim culture than scores of books could ever have taught us. A mission compound experience would not have made such a lifestyle and involvement in the community possible.
There needs to be some latitude regarding city, town, or village life. The main concern is to relate to the group with whom one is working. Student work in a university area would demand facilities quite different from a rural village setting.
D. A. Chowdhury – “The Bengal Church and the Convert,” The Muslim World no. 29 (1939), p. 347.