Should Christians Do Long Term World Travel?


This is a question I have been wrestling with for a few weeks now. As I’ve spent the last 3+ months tramping all up and down Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, I’ve come to a point where I am mightily fatigued of being a tourist. I’m still enjoying being abroad and exploring, but a part of me really desires stability, structure, and just to feel like a normal person again.


My life for 26 days

My life for 26 days


I feel like I’ve hit the point where I’ve realized, this is no longer just a vacation. This is my life for the foreseeable future. When you’re on vacation you do things like cram as much as possible into a tight time window. You set up itineraries and book flights and make hotel bookings. I haven’t made an advanced hotel booking in over 10 weeks. Even when I crossed into Vietnam and arrived in Saigon at 3:30 am, I just took a mototaxi into the city and wandered around and made noise until someone from a guest house poked their head out. It’s a completely different mindset when you become accustomed to another culture and begin to understand how things operate. You start to lose your fear.

But while that’s all grand and well, some days I daydream about mundane things like going to a park to play frisbee golf. Or Chick-Fil-A, I daydream about their sandwiches. Or even the other day I went to see a Hollywood movie with friends, and it felt really nice to experience something familiar again.


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Back home, the struggle was always trying to avoid boredom. Out on the road, the struggle is to not romanticize how that boredom felt and want it back. Because at least the boredom was familiar, it was predictable. You knew it was there if you wanted it, and sometimes even if you didn’t. Schedules and routines felt like cozy fireplaces. When in reality, at the time you thought they felt more like shackles to a life you weren’t entirely sure you wanted.

I suppose “the grass is always greener” aptly describes the traveler and non-traveler’s struggles alike. We tend to want what we don’t have, or maybe even what we used to have. But what we have now is never fully appreciated in the moment.


Hanging Around on Monkey Island

Hanging Around on Monkey Island


And finally, that brings me to the title of this post. Should Christians travel? Specifically solo long-term world travel? Is it possible to have a balanced and thriving spiritual life while your daily life, your bed, and your relationships are constantly changing? Is continual movement the catalyst for growth? Or does structure foster stability which in turn yields deep roots in a community?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, nor am I particularly looking for advice into my personal life. I’m just curious if anyone else has experienced similar thoughts.


Vietnam-Sunset


For the time being I am resolved to travel a little slower, see a little less and soak up a little more. I’ll let a place show me what is, rather than always running around trying to find out for myself. Because after all, I have a pretty darn good life right now. And while I think our desires morph and change as we get older, gratitude and appreciation for what you have is beneficial no matter your age or what you want out of life.

So for now, I’ll just breathe. Breathe in the moments of life while they’re still here.

Vietnam_Coastline

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Prologue

What am I going to Thailand for?

I’ve struggled to articulate an answer when people ask me. I don’t know exactly, I just know that I’m supposed to go. I don’t have a plan, I don’t have some elaborate scheme or five-point action plan to win Thailand for the Gospel. I don’t have any of that. All I have is me and what God has chosen to give to me. All I know is I was given the means to come out here, and so I came. That’s pretty much it. The only book I brought with me was my ESV study bible, so I guess I’m pretty prepared. *sarcasm*

Something has been rubbing me recently, a thought about how we live our lives that I can’t seem to shake. It seems that the vast majority of people (Christians included) are intensely preoccupied with earning a living and taking care of their families. Not a bad thing, surely. There are far worse things to be doing… But are there also far better?

When Jesus ascended into heaven, He did not mince his parting words to the disciples. Many of his teachings are presented in parable form, which inherently invites confusion and misinterpretation. Not so with the great commission. It is as clear as clear can be. And I cannot help but think He meant it that way.

So why is there such a disconnect then? Why does the church more often feel like a religious social club instead of the forceful, relentless vehicle of the Gospel that it was designed to be?

Is it wealth that has blinded our reading of the scriptures? Is it a desire for cultural relevance and acceptance that fuels our messages?

The bottom line is this – a church that is not growing is a church that is dying. We are living in the end times, but we’ve lost the urgency possessed by the apostles and the early converts. Jesus could come back any day (or hour), and I can’t help but think His reaction would be “wait, what are you doing? Is this what I told you to do?”

Being a Christian means taking to heart what the Bible says, even if it looks weird. And in fact, it should look weird. If it’s not weird, it’s probably watered-down and not actually the Gospel.

What I’m saying is this – if you look at the world, you’re going to get distracted by worldly things. If you look at Jesus, you’re going to get caught up in His mission. It’s as simple as that.

Oh and that whole eternal life thing? It’s here for the believer to experience now, not just after we die and become floating angel babies in heaven.

I don’t want to discredit the work of the American Church, because it certainly has done some good things. But at the same time, social-economic trends would indicate that America is going the way of Europe and other westernized nations (predominantly secular). Religion is tolerated but becoming less and less important, and church-goers are less and less engaged.

And that is what’s frightening. Something else has filled the God-need inside each one of us, and I’m scared to think it might be ourselves. American wealth and prosperity, decoupled from a sincere desire to know the Lord and obey his commands, will be the downfall of our country. It’s the same story that’s been told over and over throughout history.

I know some will disagree with me, but that’s why this is a blog – a place where I can vocalize my opinions and not be afraid of being wrong.

Anyways, I am in Thailand now, and I will be posting more stories, thoughts & possibly even some musings. Stay tuned.

Here's to new beginnings

Here’s to new beginnings

When you’ve been hurt by the church


Christian-church-faith

I want to preface this post by saying that though this a subject I have personal experience with, it is not a fresh wound in the sense I am not writing out of spite or anger, or any motivation other than a sincere desire to see those who have strayed come back into the fold.

That being said, it breaks my heart any time I hear stories of how someone’s perception of God was permanently altered because of a negative experience they had with a pastor or other member of their local congregation. These events range on the scale from the inconvenient to the downright traumatic. What do you do when something painful happens to you? What can you do? It can be awkward and very difficult to navigate these situations, but fortunately there are steps you can take to facilitate healing and move forward.

1. Know that it WILL happen, if it hasn’t already

I don’t mean this as a foreboding prophecy, but every believer who is actively engaging with a community of faith will be hurt in one way or another at some point in time. It’s just the nature of living and doing life with other people, and it’s nothing new either. We should never be surprised when the pain and suffering of the world infects a local church community.

2. Own what is yours, and let go of the rest

It can be tempting to want to lash out, immediately move on from the incident, or just ignore it altogether. None of these responses are particularly helpful to the wounded or the offender. If you had some participation in the offending incident, however minuscule it may be, offer your apologies for that portion. It will release some of the gangrene attempting to fester in your heart.

3. If needed, seek out help and a safe environment for healing

If the event that transpired was traumatic, you should likely seek outside help from a counselor who can offer a non-biased assessment of the situation. If you have attempted to reconcile with the offender, but they don’t seem interested or won’t admit they did anything wrong, it may be wise to remove yourself from the situation altogether, if only for a season. Pray that God would provide you with a safe community of believers who can support through your trying time.

4. Being hurt by the church is never God’s heart, and also never a reason to resent or reject him entirely

Because so often the perpetrator is a pastor or other leader in the church, it can be very easy to associate that person’s actions with God’s heart for us. This is almost never the case. It is certainly warranted to express your anger and pain towards God, wondering how or why this could happen. But using a hurtful pastor as a reason for rejecting God is like claiming a sick sheep is evidence of an unloving shepherd. Things happen. People get sick and hurt each other. Jesus is the Great Physician who has already and continues to absorb all the hurts of the believer unto Himself.

5. There are healthy communities out there

Don’t give up hope! If you’re like me, you may be tempted to use a hurtful incident as an excuse to detach and remove yourself from the church body. This almost always goes badly. We were designed to live life with others, and our flourishing depends on speaking and receiving the truth of the Gospel. God is capable of redeeming every painful experience to bring more glory to Himself. And that, thankfully, is extremely loving.


What are your thoughts? Is there anything you agree/disagree with? I know this is a very personal issue, but it’s one I would like to see more discourse on in the faith community.