In a groundbreaking move reflecting the start of what leaders believe is a new season for the church in Bangladesh, Foursquare is celebrating the first-ever licensing of a woman pastor in the South Asia nation.
Baishakhi Halder, whose husband, James, is the newly appointed national leader of Foursquare in Bangladesh, is one of only a handful of known female pastors in the country, where Christians make up less than 1 percent of the 165 million population.
The licensing recognizes Baishakhi’s longtime ministry involvement in the predominantly Muslim nation, including many years in student and pastoral ministry with another denomination before the Halders became part of Foursquare. The Bangladesh Foursquare Church dates back to 2000, with currently around 45 churches, mostly in rural areas.
The trend-setting recognition came recently as Foursquare Missions International (FMI) Associate Director Jim Scott was in Bangladesh as part of an international team to help facilitate the transition to national new leadership and to formally commission existing pastors. The proceedings concluded with a symbolic foot-washing.
Around 90 Foursquare church leaders, their wives, and others gathered in Khulna, in the southwest part of the country, to hold their first convention and ratify new bylaws for the national church. It was during this process that an American Foursquare pastor who had traveled to Bangladesh with Jim and FMI’s area missionary for South Asia suggested licensing Baishakhi would officially recognize her calling and gifting—a proposal that was unanimously approved.
“[Baishakhi’s licensing is] another affirmation for the global Foursquare church of our shared and affirmed commitment to prepare and release men and women into the ministry to which they have been called, prepared and equipped to serve.”
—Jim Scott, associate director of FMI
In addition to quietly ministering to others, together with her husband, Baishakhi has demonstrated “great character” in facing some of the challenges presented by the changes in Foursquare’s leadership, notes the pastor, who has asked not to be identified.
Baishakhi was surprised when she was approached about licensing. “Although continually I am trying [to walk] with God, and as I get [the] chance I [have preached] the Word of God in our churches, I never thought I would get licensed,” she says. “So, when I heard that, I was so glad, and I cried out … I give thanks to the Lord for this special gift.”
Baishakhi says that she hopes her recognition might “encourage and open the door for other women of many churches in Bangladesh, so that they may build up their faith in God.” She also asks for continued prayer for Foursquare in Bangladesh from other Foursquare churches around the world.
For Jim, Baishakhi’s licensing is “another affirmation for the global Foursquare church of our shared and affirmed commitment to prepare and release men and women into the ministry to which they have been called, prepared and equipped to serve.”
The Khulna gathering also had personal significance for the American pastor, recently appointed FMI emissary to Bangladesh, who accompanied Jim. He had lived in Bangladesh for several years with his missionary parents and has returned there with missions teams since 2015, to help with pastoral training and development.
He and his wife have found their faith strengthened through their involvement in Bangladesh, he says. “It is a reminder that we are just pieces on the game board, and that God is the chess master, and He has this sovereign plan He is allowing to unfold,” he explains. “Being used to be a part of that is exciting and humbling at the same time.”
Most Foursquare churches in Bangladesh are in villages, with many having an impact through offering after-school tuition programs. Though freedom of religion is protected by law, Christians can face family and workplace persecution, particularly in rural areas.
Learn more about FMI’s work in Bangladesh here.