Why Travel Matters: Stories from Bangladesh

The thing I love about travel is how it can change people. And not only that, how two people traveling on the same trip can be impacted in different ways by the people that they meet. In 2018, I had the opportunity to travel with World Vision to the slums of Bangladesh. I will never forget the small group of street children {ages 8-14} that spent the bulk of their days working and their afternoons at a special school run by World Vision that was formed to help them keep up in the classes they were missing. I won't forget the eight-year-old child that told me that she gleans for work scraping up the tiny grains of rice that were thrown to the floor at a local market. Gleaning was something I didn't even know was still something being done outside of Bible times but this child was working 6-8 hours daily doing it to help provide food for her family. I also will never forget seeing for myself how very dangerous life in the slums can be and how children are literally slipping through the cracks and drowning.

Paula was with me on that trip. She is a faithful volunteer and is now a World Vision employee in Nashville, TN. I really got to know her on that trip to Bangladesh and have come to love her like a sister. Sometimes when we travel, it takes months or even years to process fully the experience, especially travel with an NGO to a hard place like Bangladesh. I've heard Paula talk about the impact of one of our security details, a man named Delowar, but when she typed up her story, I finally got a chance to really see how that "chance" encounter has changed her life.

Paula has graciously allowed me to share her story here.

Bangladesh indigenous tribe

Why Travel Matters: Stories from Bangladesh

humanitarian travel world vision

Have you ever met someone who was laughter personified? I have. His name is Delowar.

I met Delowar in February 2018 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He was our security officer for our trip to the impoverished villages of his country. He was Hindu and his job was to keep us safe. And he was very good at his job.

But he was even better at laughter. His smile was sunshine. And he laughed every time he said my name. I’m still not sure what was so funny about my face, but one look at me and he was chuckling. A deep, hearty laugh that reminded me that everything was alright. See? He was really good at his job.

In Bangladesh women and men don’t touch unless they are married. No hugs. No handshakes. Just a nod of acknowledgment. And in Delowar’s case, a good chuckle thereafter.

Delowar was with my group for two and a half days. We had three meals a day on this trip. And somehow at every meal, we ended up sitting next to each other. He was quiet and respectful during our prayers over the meal, but he prayed to a different god than us. He spoke English but it was heavily accented. No one on my team could understand him. Except me. So he and I and whoever was sitting on the other side of him would have a conversation. In English. And I’d translate his English into English for my teammates. And Delowar would laugh. His laughter didn’t need translating. That came through crystal clear.

Two and a half days is long enough to have your world turned upside down by another human soul. And Delowar did that for me. I sat beside him and we talked and I could see it. I could hear it: God saw the world before time. And he knew we would need Delowar’s spirit in it. We would need the kind twinkle in his eyes. We would need a protector who was so into taking selfies that you’d forget that he was protecting you or that you even needed protection. And he knew that the world would need the music of his laughter. So he made Delowar.

humanitarian travel with world vision

Delowar told me all about his family. He had a young son named Saadman. He was four years old at the time and Delowar’s pride and joy. Delowar had recently lost his father. He was still mourning that loss. And he was a good son. He loved his mother deeply. He protected her. He looked out for her in ways sons do when their moms lose their dads. Delowar was the kind of friend you keep. He was loyal and faithful and kind, and his laughter cut through that thick Bangladesh smog.

When we said goodbye in the lobby of the hotel my heart ached. Saying goodbye to someone who’s turned your world upside down is hard enough. But not being able to give him a hug goodbye? That’s a special type of torture.

As we were saying goodbye, Delowar gathered us around him. We stood in a circle. And he looked right in my eyes as he gave his speech:

“I lead many trips and I meet many people. But I will ALWAYS remember you people. I will remember you because of the way you love my people. I am leaving you now. I will go to my father’s grave and pray. I will pray for you. Please do not forget me. Please remember me in your prayers.”

“We will Delowar,” I said looking him in the eye.

“Don’t forget me. Remember me in your prayers.” He said again as his eyes pleaded with mine and each person in the circle.

“Oh, Delowar, I won’t forget you. I’ll remember you in my prayers.” I said again.

“Don’t forget me. Please remember to pray for me.” He begged a third time. And I began to wonder if Peter felt this ache in his heart when Jesus asked him three times if he loved Him.

So I looked him right in the eyes and I asked him a question:

“Delowar, would you like us to pray for you right now?"

“Yes.” His eyes flooded with relief.

And I did something I didn’t mean to do because it was against cultural etiquette. I reached out my hands to the people on either side of me. Delowar, without hesitation, took my hand and we all bowed our heads.

We prayed to King Jesus. Our Messiah. We prayed blessings and abundance and hope and joy and safety over this precious Hindu man. And it’s not lost on me that he left from that hotel lobby to go to his father’s graveside to pray to a different god for each of us.

But another thing that isn’t lost on me is that Delowar saw the Light of the World within us. And He couldn’t leave that hotel until we prayed to that Light one more time in his presence.

I don’t know where Delowar is these days. I don’t know what challenges he faces or how he is doing. But I walked away from that hotel lobby knowing two things very deeply in my soul. I will never forget him. And that laughter… is a taste of heaven. Jesus is pursuing Delowar. He sent me clear across the world to sit beside him at every meal and break all the rules to hold his hand and pray for him. Jesus is pursuing all of us. He won’t stop until we know that He loves us.

Yes, I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Romans 8:38-39

Want to read more about my volunteer work and why I'm so passionate about World Vision? Find all the posts here.

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