I left this morning for an international trip that mixes some official ministry with some vacation. I look forward to visiting our friends, David and April McWhite, in Czech Republic before getting away for a few days with my wife in Italy to celebrate our 15th anniversary. I’m excited about the trip and know that it will be memorable.
Preparations for this trip have, however, made one thing abundantly clear: TRAVEL IS EXPENSIVE! Of course, right as we’re setting out on our first trip to Europe, both of our vehicles required service totaling more than the cost of the trip – which was a once in 15 year expense to begin with! It makes you wonder, is international travel ever worth the cost? Is it good stewardship? Even if this trip had no element of vacation and was 100% mission trip, would the cost associated with international travel be worth the mission? How much more mission work could be done for the same price in my own, local context?
Having considered these questions, I offer three responses that support and encourage international travel:
1. Go global to understand other aspects of God’s global work
Have you experienced the jumping, smiling laughter of your brothers and sisters in Africa? Have you sat on the floor with 50-60 brothers and sisters in Christ, segregated by gender, in a 30 x 30 foot room in India for a two hour worship service followed by a meal together? Have you walked into a nearly vacant cathedral in Eastern Europe to experience its beauty and vastness and ponder how an entire population could travel so far from their Christian forefathers? None of these experiences are essential to a faithful Christian walk, but all of them help with perspective and humility in local church decision making as well as boldness with the gospel at home. So on your next trip, vacation or mission, take time to find a local Christian church and worship there. Invite the pastor to lunch. Take time to get to know the people with whom you will be spending eternity.
2. Go global to change your passion for God’s global work
International travel seems to clarify personality traits pretty quickly. A famous stereotype of some Americans traveling abroad is the traveler who would prefer that everyone and everything at the destination be exactly like his location of origin. One might call this, “When in Rome, wish it were Dallas.” These travelers generally return home with stories of inadequate toilets, warm sodas, and unconditioned air. Others, however, set out to embrace the locals and their ways. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” These are typically happy travelers who love new experiences. I fall somewhere between these two depending on schedule, sleep, and toilet paper availability.
The most important thing, though, is to make sure to take opportunities to get to know the locals and their ways. Move outside of the tourist destinations. Start a conversation in a local shop or restaurant. Stop to watch a kids’ football or cricket match. Go to a local mall and people watch for a while. Learn to love the people of the world. Once you love the people, you’ll never again be able to undervalue the priority of reaching them all with gospel of Jesus Christ.
3. Go global to encourage those who have uprooted their lives to take part in God’s global work
One interesting phenomenon of international travel, especially extended travel, is the comradery you begin to feel toward any other American you meet along the way. “You’re from Nashville?!? I’m from Baton Rouge! Why, we’re practically neighbors!” If that’s how you feel after two weeks, imagine how our dear brothers and sisters feel who have packed up their families and moved across the world to stay for years – if not forever. Just a few stories from home can be such an encouragement. Another strong follower of Jesus can be a breath of fresh air to those working among unreached people groups. Rachel and I are bringing peanut butter and mac & cheese to the McWhites. We’re pretty extravagant with our gifts, right? But that’s what they miss and that’s what we can bring! Wherever you are going, for whatever reason, take the time to look up missionaries in the region. Plan to visit them, encourage them, pray with them, and leave them whatever of yours they could possibly use or enjoy.
In the great commission, Jesus tells all Christians to go. Though I believe that my field is in Louisiana, it is good for me to go and see the work of God in other places, love that work, and encourage those who have gone long term. Will you join me in this passion? Plan, save and yearn to Go Global as well.