Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 20, 2023

316 Kilometers Across South Asia

To tell the story I must go back to 1998 — the year before the dream worked its way into my heart where it would lay dormant for many years.

I was traveling by train from Ulan Bator, Mongolia to Beijing, China. With a 26-hour journey across the vast expanses of the Gobi Desert ahead of me, I settled comfortably in my berth and started reading through the book of Acts.

The rhythmic and relaxing motion of the train drew me deep into each story. And each story caused me to think deeply about the journey of the gospel from the first century all the way to the doorway to my heart.

What I distinctly remember about that train ride is how God used the account of Paul’s journeys to redirect my own. I sensed his call for me to move in the direction of those with the least access to the gospel. “Last places first,” I recorded in my journal.

Upon my return to the States, I looked into the possibility of traveling to North Africa. However, as Paul experienced when he had tried to go into Bithynia on his second missionary journey, that door was shut. God providentially redirected me to Bangladesh — and there He opened a door.

Through a series of providential steps, I traveled to Bangladesh and saw God work in amazing ways. I came home reassured about what God had spoken to me on my Trans-Mongolian journey.

A year later I returned to Bangladesh at the invitation of my friend Kevin Greeson, author of The Camel Method. I walked from village to village with Kevin in search of a person of peace. A person of peace is an individual with a measure of local or broader influence who will listen to the message and open doors for others to hear the message.

That trip made a deep impression on me as God opened doors of opportunity that resulted in many coming to faith in Christ. As we walked down remote roads, God impressed an idea on my heart — essentially a dream to walk across Bangladesh from border to border. The purpose of the walk would be to pray for the people of Bangladesh and other people groups with little or no access to the gospel.

Little did I realize at the time that the fulfillment of that dream would come 22 years in the future. And yet, in all those years the dream remained alive. I never stopped believing or hoping that I would be able to see the fulfillment of that dream.

This year, our missions ministry launched Every Home Every Nation Covered in Prayer — a prayer initiative in cooperation with our local and global ministry partners. The time was finally right to fulfill the dream of doing a prayer walk for unreached peoples by launching our global prayer initiative in Bangladesh.

I invited my friends Jay Lowe and Kevin Greeson to join me. Jay is the father of Sean Lowe who was The Bachelor on the seventeenth season of the popular ABC television show. Seven million people watched Jay officiate his son’s wedding to Catherine Giudici on television. Jay and Kevin are deeply committed followers of Christ.

After months of careful planning, the three of us set off to Bangladesh on New Year’s Day. Upon arrival we drove from Dhaka to Comilla on the eastern border of the country. From Comilla we traveled to the Bangladeshi and Indian border.

Standing at the starting point of our trek seemed surreal. My heart beat with anticipation of all that the coming days would bring. I fully expected that we would experience good things as we prayed in the very places where we expected our prayers to be answered.

As we stood at the border I spoke to our team about listening for God’s voice along our journey. Our paths would undoubtedly and providentially intersect with people in need all along the way. And so we took our first steps, eagerly anticipating what God had in store for us.

In regard to the physical aspect of our trek, the first couple of days were a bit hard as our legs and feet adjusted to the demands of walking 16 miles a day. After that, we fell into a comfortable rhythm and, in fact, looked forward to getting started each morning.

I started each day by slathering a film of hiking cream on my feet to avoid blisters. I encouraged our national partners to do the same. Unfortunately, a few of the guys developed some big blisters that we had to address along the way. One of the guys suffered in silence until we noticed his feet were bleeding. We had to force him to rest.

In regard to challenges that made us feel helpless, my friend Jay received word that his 98 year-old dad had been put under hospice care. Four days later Roy, his dad and my dear friend, passed away. Jay stayed only because his Marine dad had told him that no matter what he had to finish the mission. So, we determined to do just that.

My own 93 year-old dad was in and out of the hospital four times while we walked across the country. My dad has hardly been ill in his 93-years and all of a sudden he contracted Covid and later fell in his bedroom. Spiritual warfare? Perhaps. The enemy, we felt, would stop at nothing to stop us.

In regard to the spiritual aspect of the journey, the sights and sounds along the way seeped into our hearts — and then ascended to heaven in the language of prayer as hour after hour we put one foot in front of the other. We prayed for homes and families and children. We stopped to pray for those who were sick. We prayed for laborers and shop keepers, for children and lame beggars by the side of the road.

Folks along the way were understandably curious about who we were. Many stopped us to ask questions and to take selfies — so many selfies. We met Muslim imams and Hindus and animists and a few Christ-followers along the way. We met people who told us about having a dream about a man in white who had urged them to seek the truth.

On Day 6, two of our national partners were beaten by an angry mob. One of our friends was having a conversation with another man at a tea shop and had answered questions about Jesus. That was enough to anger some locals who felt they needed to teach our friend a lesson. Fortunately, God sent a couple of people (perhaps “angels unaware”) to defuse the situation until the police arrived and rebuked the mob.

God protected our friends from further harm and the police offered us their protection from that point on. What others intended for evil God turned into a blessing to our team. We were able to continue our journey with a renewed sense of safety.

Thanks to our national friends, we were able to modify our route daily to trek down quiet roads that took us through villages. Walking these country roads ultimately put us five days ahead of schedule by shaving many miles off our originally planned route. These quieter and off-the-beaten-track routes allowed us to meet more people.

Four times along the way, Christ-followers met us to offer us flowers and words of encouragement. These unexpected acts of kindness energized us and sent us along our way with renewed determination to reach the western border of Bangladesh.

Finally, after 12 days of walking, we took our final steps toward the finish line. When we arrived at a government border crossing, we asked permission to approach the border. The border guards personally escorted us to the boundary marker and then treated us to to tea and coffee. They were happy that we had completed our journey and most impressed that the three Americans were all in their sixties.

To make the experience even better, some Christ-followers greeted us at the border with flowers and words of encouragement. Their presence reminded us that we are part of a bigger family of faith — a beautiful family.

There is so much more to tell — much, much more.

Although we reached the border — or finished the mission as Roy would say — our prayers continued. This trek touched each of us deeply. Every conversation. Every smile. All of the physical aches and pains and even the threats of opposition. All of these experiences enriched us and redefined the spiritual geography of our own lives.

As a result, we are not the same as when we started. The estimated 423,476 steps that we took changed us from the inside out. We gained valuable insight by praying onsite. I expect that for the rest of our lives every memory of this trip will be turned into a prayer.

I am personally grateful to God for keeping the dream of walking across Bangladesh alive in my heart. For the past 22 years I have dreamed and day-dreamed about this trek. In many ways it’s as though I took the first steps of this journey 22 years ago and the final steps just a few days ago.

At the finish line I knelt in gratitude at the border and thanked God for allowing me to live to see the fulfillment of the dream. I also thanked Him for our many partners who will lead prayer initiatives in their respective nations over the coming months.

Our intent was to attempt something great for God. I am sure that one day we will learn more about how our prayers helped advance the interests of the kingdom in hard places. But, we will have to wait. Only heaven will ultimately reveal the full impact of our prayers as we walked slowly among the people of Bangladesh.


Responses

  1. Thank you, Omar, for the journey and the description of it, not just
    geographical but spiritual. It renews me in my spiritual “walk” in
    Afghanistan in these troubling days and in seeing the spiritual harvest
    that is happening.  More prayer and more rejoicing to follow!

    In Him,
    Karin (mother of Liz Sabillon)

    These are dark and difficult days, but we are conscious of the Lord’s hand in ours, and that is better than light, safer than a known way.
    Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.”

    “Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws
    will secure the liberty and happiness of a people
    whose manners are universally corrupt.” —Samuel Adams (1749)

  2. Omar –

    Thanks for sharing about your journey. How amazing and exciting.

    I’m looking for a part-time position where I can use my skills and experience to help an organization carryout their mission.

    Any ideas? If your schedule allows, I’d love to grab a cup of coffee and catch up.

    Bob Atkins 281-728-1292

    >

    • Thanks, Bob. Happy to meet. Please contact Mairim in my office to schedule a meeting. She keeps my calendar. See you soon.

  3. Thank you Omar and God !!!

    Sent from my iPhone

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  4. That’s so great! I wish if I could be there! I will never forgot about those days, I was with you, for the adventured you did here!

  5. What a beautiful spiritual journey, your heart to go beyond is unique. Thank you for sharing your story. When is the book coming?

    • Thanks, Pastor Jorge. Grateful for your friendship.


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