I recently had the privilege of visiting the beautiful Republic of Kenya. I traveled with a group from Compassion International and cannot more highly recommend an organization to you than theirs. The level of organization, professionalism and impact is truly impressive. If you sponsor a child through Compassion, let me pass on to you that I had the chance to see the operation up close and they are doing an outstanding job with your investment to “release children from poverty in Jesus' name.” If you do not yet sponsor a child, (I don't work for them, so I can be blunt) what are you waiting for? Do it now. Your investment of $38 per month will place a child currently in poverty into a loving environment where they will be ministered to physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually on a weekly basis. Their family will be ministered to – and it all happens in the context of a church in their community. You can find more information and select your sponsor child at Compassion.com. If you currently sponsor a child or when you do because some guy who blogs made you feel like you should – WRITE to your child. I can speak from eyes that have seen and ears that have heard – those letters are a treasure to them.
Here are some observations from the trip:
International Travel: NEWFLASH – our world has a LOT of people in it and most of them live at Heathrow Airport. The human body was not constructed in such a way as to sleep comfortably with 6 degrees of recline... and the posterior of said body will likely become numb after 8 hours of sitting in coach seats. Attempts to walk after the aforementioned sedentary hours will make you amble like a cross between a new-born colt and Fred Sanford. The flush mechanism in airplane lavatories is really cool.
Travel Hygiene: It is incredibly hard to remember the various ways that you can come into contact with the water that you're not supposed to drink. Put a washcloth over the sink handle to remind you not to use it's produce to clean your toothbrush... trust me, your entrails will thank me.
In-Country Travel: Hire a driver and marvel at his or her artistry. In many populated, developing countries there aren't so much traffic “laws” as much as traffic “best practices” and you need the deft hand of these Motor-Michealangelo’s if you plan on arriving anywhere. If motion sickness is a travel companion, Dramamine is your friend.
International Commerce: I highly recommend shopping at local markets but it would behoove you to have a local resident you trust along for the fun. At the market we visited we were warmly greeted by mini-moguls who functioned as “brokers”. If you wheel into the fray with long sleeves and a fanny pack you may as well have a sign around your neck that reads, “I have American money and no idea what the exchange rate is.” My friendly and exceedingly helpful broker allowed me to feel like I was a shrewd barterer leaving with my hand-crafted treasure that I later found I paid 160% of AIRPORT price for... I'm pretty sure he didn't really know T.D. Jakes... and I'm pretty sure his name wasn't really “Steve”. Well played, Steve.
Cultural Engagement: I think that anywhere you travel you will find that a warm smile and flexible disposition are universal. Remind yourself that your destination was there long before you arrived and will be there long after you leave. Observe much. Each culture is rich with tradition and centuries of events have shaped practices and values. If you take time to educate yourself on the locales history, you'll be much more likely to enjoy the warp and woof of its daily life. We have a tendency to think that anything different is wrong – but if you can put your heritage in neutral for a bit, you may find that you can learn much from another culture. I believe you will be left with an amazed appreciation of how “non-cultural” the Gospel really is.
Spiritual Engagement: If I can encourage you with anything more than the others it would be this – join with believers in other cultures as they worship. I have not traveled extensively internationally, but by far the most impactful experience I have had is sitting in a church or on the floor of a house listening to words I cannot understand express worship that I do understand. To see the freedom and joy on the faces and in the movements of a people a world away as they praise our King humbles me. THIS is what unites us. Their need for release from economic poverty may separate us, but we share a need for release from our spiritual poverty. And the same Great God and King has brought us both free release in the glory of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. They know this. I know this. One day when we stand together again at the throne of our Beloved, I know my Okie English will be caught up in the swell of Swahili and the cadence of Khmer. Praise God that His is “an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.” He has formed every language of man and from every language of man He will be praised.