On Duty in Bangladesh

On Duty in Bangladesh, by Jeannie Lockerbie ★★
I previously reviewed the book Daktar, which is the story of the founding of the Malumghat Hospital, where we currently are working. This book is the blow-by-blow details from the eyes of Jeannie Lockerbie, a nurse who was working in Chittagong for the same mission agency at the time of the Independence of Bangladesh. It is actually a stirring story, and witness to God’s provision and protection during a very troubling and dangerous episode in the history of this part of the world. I will save details of the story since the book is worth reading. What I didn’t like about the book was the heavy dependence on simply experiential accounting of the battle for independence. I really don’t care to know when Jeannie took a shower, or precisely what she ate on a certain day, or what sort of can she had to eat out of. Jeannie also fragments the storyline with multiple accounts that do not read chronologically making it a bit tough for someone unfamiliar with the events she is describing. I would have liked to have heard an analysis of exactly what was happening on the world stage, minor details of the Bangladeshi battle movements or Bangladeshi political analysis, etc., etc. Jeannie also assumes that you know certain things about Bangladesh that you wouldn’t have known if you hadn’t lived there. In the end, I’m not left much better informed about the nature of the Bangladeshi Independence nor the life of the church outside of Jeannies’ small circle in Bangladesh during the time of this story. This book contains no character development, and save for the fact that Jeannie attended a Methodist nursing school in New York, I know very little about her or what were the driving factors in her life outside of her Christianity. She offers minimal insight and foresight into situations, and thus seems to be a one-dimensional character, responding to a tragic situation, but not necessarily in an entirely Christian fashion. How so? Perhaps she should have read the life of Mahatma  Gandhi, or the manner in which Martin Luther handled the peasant revolt. Jeannie seems to confuse Christianity and nationalism, and while wanting to emphasize the difference between political freedom and freedom in Christ to the Bengali people, fails to be convincing. She has no answer to the Christian “freedom fighter” who attends church and then blows up bridges and kills rather than loves the enemy. There is no word of love for the enemy, or of reaching out neutrally to the Pakastani in love, in offering “blind” medical care to all including the wounded Pakistani. Even the closing phrase of the book says in one breath “Victory to Bangladesh- victory to Jesus”. Such a statement creates a dangerous mix of politics and American-style Christianity. It is this same thinking that explains why the predominantly Muslim Bengalis could now treat the Hindus and Hill Tract people with the same mercilessness that they received from the hands of their Pakistani rulers.
All said and done, the casual reader might assume that this is character assassination. God forbid. The book review section attempts to look at books as literary pieces, analyzing the book for its prose style, readability, and quality of the storyline, etc. This book, in spite of its problems, is a reflection on a truly saintly person, engaged in a most saintly commission.  This is an example of one of many of the people I have met in Bangladesh that tirelessness and without complaint forsake family and home, the comforts of America and friends, to live in a weary land, laboring under the most adverse conditions to bring hope and Christ to the Bengali people. Thus, a good book, but only two stars.