Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | September 12, 2008

Night of Fear and Faith

A Page From My Journal | Bangladesh • November 11, 2001

This year marks the seventh anniversary of 9/11. I was scheduled to travel to Bangladesh on September 16, 2001 but had to reschedule my trip to November because of canceled flights. This is a portion of what I wrote in my journal on November 11 of that year.


My friend Todd and I are in a small village named after a Hindu leader who once lived in this now predominantly Muslim area in northern Bangladesh. We arrived to find the village saturated with propaganda praising Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants for their attack on America. One young boy in the crowd stared at us from behind a full-color poster of the bearded bin Laden. And, some heckler mustered his best Bangla-flavored English and shouted, “American, Go Home.” Our bicycle rickshaw-walla (driver) strained every muscle as he peddled against a current of pedestrians, buses and trucks belching black puffs of smoke, his competitors, and the unsettling tension we felt so far from our familiar shore.

Bib Laden

We have come to this distant and difficult place to search for a man of peace — an individual who will welcome us into his home, listen to our message, and perhaps open a door of opportunity for us to share the good news of Jesus Christ with a larger audience. We were fortunate enough to meet a young man named Sadiq who is very interested in discussing Islam and Christianity. But, because he lives in a small home with no room for guests, he directed us to a fifty-cent a night room just down the road and invited us to spend the following day with him. Our initial conversation with Sadiq impressed us. He is an intelligent young man with a Berean kind of interest (Acts 17:11) in what we have to share.


Our new friend escorted us to our less-than-no-star accommodations. The walls of our little room are painted with brushstrokes of mildew, the holes in the mosquito nets are not too big, and we have an indoor squatty-potty and one rust-encrusted faucet with a miserly attitude. But, we are thankful for a place to sleep and the promise of making new friends. Todd and I settled in for the night, resting our weary bodies on our respective bunks and on sheets that are obviously estranged from the local laundry woman.


What we had hoped would be a good night of rest was cut short. At about 4:00 AM I peered through sleepy eyes at a figure moving nervously in the dark. It was Todd. He was fully dressed and pacing back and forth between our beds. “Are you ok?” I mumbled. “No,” Todd replied. “I am more frightened than I’ve ever been.” And then he told me that for the last hour he had heard suspicious sounds at the door and at the windows. And then it happened — someone banging at our windows and someone banging at our door, a quiet pause, and then more. Each strike released a wave of intimidation and unleashed a flurry of panicked thoughts: “Who is doing that and why? Nobody knows where we are. How can we escape and where would we run? We’re trapped.” The banging continued — on and then off and then on again.


And then, we took a cue from the book of Acts and started to pray in our boarding room turned prison cell. Each of us poured out our fears and anxieties at the throne of Him who offers mercy and gives grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). I thought of appropriate passages of Scripture and quoted Psalms 3 and 4. When I spoke the final verse, the cacophony of banging started again. Todd immediately asked to hear the Psalms again. This time I prayed these Psalms, turning David’s words into a prayer for our safety. Somewhat calmer, we started to sing “You Are My All in All” and other songs. We raised our voices louder with each round of banging so that even our intimidators could hear our slightly out of tune but earnest vocals! We continued to do this until the first rays of dawn appeared like the cavalry thundering across the sky to our rescue.


As the soothing light began to slowly seep into the room through dirty window panes and from beneath the door, Todd and I reflected on the fact that we are in a place and in a position where we can only depend on God. No props, no phone, no car, no one to turn to for protection but God alone. His presence sustained us through the night. And then, Todd reached into his backpack to pull out a daily Scripture verse written and given to him by our friend Kevin. The verse for today — “In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:11).

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