Are you a tourist or a traveler?
I was invited to sit in on a missionary class at the YWAM base this past Monday and this was a question the instructor posed in the classroom.
It got me thinking….
Are we tourists sight seeing, taking pictures, and completing a checklist before we head “home”? Do we treat what we are doing as being on vacation, only expecting to participate in a week or two of mission work before heading back to our “normal” lives or do we treat what we do as a traveler, going on a lifelong journey in which we are on the move without a place to call home?
I think when some people heard we were moving to Hawaii they didn’t know how to respond other than see us as tourists rather than travelers. Now that we are here they wonder why we aren’t reporting back with our “tourist” experience, why we aren’t taking more pictures of our interactions, specifically those helping and loving people. Everyone else that goes on a mission trip takes the tourist approach. But, we aren’t tourists, we are all in with both hands on the plow. Every once in a while we get a chance to snap some beautiful pictures of a sight we see or share an amazing experience but more often than not we’re taking part in experiences in hopes to change lives. This isn’t a once in a lifetime vacation, or a cute two week mission trip (which we know are good and useful, but they can also lead to false ideas that two weeks will change an entire culture and save everyone’s lives…that’s just not true), but a journey that will last a lifetime.
Maybe you’ve heard about the family we met to buy a car from but instead of buying the car we ended up sitting around their table holding hands praying for Kauai. Maybe you’ve heard about little boy Gabriel and the man I met that live off the land (eating coconuts, crabs and making fire by hand.) Maybe you’ve heard about the homeless guy we picked up last week and got to drive across the island, speaking with him for an hour. You might be thinking, where are the pictures and videos of all these things? But I propose, maybe the pictures are places most people don’t bother to look. Our picture of the homeless man is the smell and stain he embedded in our car’s seat from his dirty worn out body. Our video of holding hands praying around a table is on our hearts every time they call to check on us or come by the house to pray again. Our pictures of the little boy and guy who live off the land are experiences and knowledge we share to help the people around us daily. (I also made a video of something they taught me a few days later: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikchu5KOHXc )
Thousands of years ago a group of 12 men went into a land that was unknown to them. Ten of the men went in as tourists, although they acknowledged the amazing experience, the huge grapes and that it was a land flowing of milk and honey they never saw themselves as travelers. To them this was a land that was not theirs, in which they were aliens and grasshoppers in the eyes of the foreigners. After their short time of tourism in the land, they returned to their daily routine, eating manna and wandering in the desert living out the remainder of their lives.
On the other hand 2 of the men went as travelers. They were on a journey going to a promised land. They weren’t on a vacation taking snapshots of the giant grapes and large people in that land but rather travelers following a calling. In light of their traveler mindset they were the ONLY two people out of millions that got to experience and enter the promise land.
Although the place Lindsey and I have traveled is beautiful and amazing we aren’t here for pictures, warm weather or short term missions, but we are here as travelers on a mission. We’re in a foreign land where the people reject us often, we’ve faced trials harder than ever before and we need to rely on His strength every day. But it’s well worth the price.
We hold onto the hope that the pictures we create are written into the book of life instead of hanging on a wall for other tourists to see and they will be appreciated for eternity somewhere much more glorious.