Ask Champa Barmon, librarian at College of Christian Theology Bangladesh (CCTB), for one word to sum up her life journey, and she responds with “miracles”. At different points from her birth through to her present leadership role, she has sensed God has been at work in very special ways for her.
Champa’s birth was difficult – and she arrived safely only after family members prayed during her delivery. Champa’s father, a plumber by trade, was Hindu, and when he became a Christian before Champa was born, he was the only Christian in his village and among his relatives. Ill-treatment and ostracism by others marked those early years. Later, Champa’s father became a Lutheran pastor, but was often not paid, and so the family income was always very low and they grew up with poverty ever present.
However, God provided in special ways for the finance for Champa’s schooling and job training, and after graduating she was able to get a secretarial job, leading to a role in the HR department of a Christian hospital. While working she was also studying in CCTB TEE courses (Theological Education by Extension), and these helped her develop her confidence in God as the One who could provide for all her needs.
Grateful to God, Champa began to ask him what his will might be for her life.
Her job paid relatively well, and she could have moved into a number of positions, but instead she resigned, partly to help take care of her sick father, but also to allow the space for God to point her to wherever he wanted her to serve.
‘Wherever’ turned out to be as a librarian assistant at CCTB. Later Champa become the librarian, the role she continues to hold, one which is varied. Of course, there is the constant, routine activity common to any library, but built into her role is time to translate TEE courses from English into Bangla and to help expatriate faculty members cope with the challenges of teaching cross-culturally. It’s a lot more than about cataloguing and shelving books!
Being surrounded by library resources also has helped Champa to grow in her faith: “I need to know what’s in the books in the library,” she comments, “so that I can adequately advise students. And it is really encouraging to see excitement in the students and changes in their lives as they draw on the wisdom and knowledge of the library resources.”
Champa is readily able to empathise with the students: While serving in the library she has earned her BTh and MA degrees, to complement a Masters in Social Science. She is presently studying for an MDiv., grateful that CCTB allows time for study in her work schedule.
Champa is keenly aware that there are very few women in Christian leadership in Bangladesh. She muses, “We face many challenges and limited opportunities.” In response, she has reached out to the wives of male students providing them with a study group to challenge, support and equip them for their roles in ministry and leadership. Champa herself is a young mum: Married in 2013 to Sanjeev (who works as a translator for an NGO), she has a young daughter – “a gift from God” – and is expecting another child in early 2018.
Champa summarises her work in a way that shows the impact of it:
“Through the library and the study materials I’m translating into Bangla, thousands of Bangladeshi Christians are helped to grow to be leaders in the Church. Because we lack resources like this in our country, I want to keep working hard to ensure these are available for the Church.”
We celebrate Champa’s “God of miracles”; that he will continue to enable her – and others like her at Partner Schools across Asia-Pacific – to lead in the crucial role of providing learning resources for the fast-growing Church.