Monday, February 17, 2014

Bringing God on Vacation-Laos

Living overseas makes going to different countries very easy. My job as a teacher in Kuwait allows for different breaks throughout the year, which gives me unique opportunities to travel. That's part of the reason I haven't written much over the Christmas and New Year break.

I had the opportunity in January to present at an English as a Second Language Conference in Laos. Neither my wife nor anybody else could join me on this trip, so I had to go alone.

I had only traveled on holiday on my own once before, and I didn't like the experience. I decided to try it again, and this time I would try to use my free time to spend extra time with God and just be reflective. However, I rarely had any time to be alone. I met several different people throughout my trip, and although we didn't know each other well, we stuck together  throughout my time.

I met two people in particular that I spent at least a whole day with and got to know decently well. One individual was on my train from Thailand to Laos, and we spent a day together navigating the train system, crossing the border, and finding a place to stay, along with exploring some of the city.

The other person was another presenter at the same conference; we spent time together at the conference, had dinner, spent some more time exploring the city the following day, and grabbed lunch before I headed back to Thailand on the train.

As I was reflecting on my experience, I asked myself if I was being a Christian light to the people I met and spent time with. In all honesty, I never shared the gospel with the people I interacted with. I don't know if I should have or not. I believe there is a sense of desperation when it comes to sharing the gospel, and the fact that I may never see these people again accentuates that reality.  

At the same time, I did try to show the light of Christ in some ways. First, I tried to have a positive outlook on the different circumstances and situations we faced. For example, when some people were complaining about the conference, I mentioned the great opportunity we had to come and help these people in some small way.

Second, I also tried not to engage in evil. I did not laugh at dirty jokes or tried to change the subject to something more wholesome. I tried to steer conversations away from gossip and slander and did not drink or eat excessively. Jesus hung out with prostitutes and sinners, but He did not engage in their sin and often confronted people about their sin.

Third, I tried to connect with my acquaintances on a more personal level. I asked questions about their family background, what their plans were for the future, what they wanted out of life, and other topics that mattered a little more than the weather, or how hard people partied on New Years Eve. While I know that Jesus had times of happiness and mirth with his disciples, I'm sure that he did not have any careless words, and His speech spoke of heavy, weighty things that matter. 

Finally, I tried to be generous. I'm naturally a stingy person, but by God's grace, I tried to pay for meals and entrances fees for the people I interacted with. I also tried to be helpful by getting coffee and suggesting ideas of where to go or what to do.  I think this is critically important, because we might be the only Jesus these people see.  Jesus was extremely generous with everyone He interacted with, even giving up His own life.  I want to do the same with the people I meet and travel with.

While this isn't directly related to sharing the gospel, I believe this is part of bringing God on vacation. While we should be all things to all people, we also need to remember that we are ambassadors for Christ, and I tried not to compromise on my values and point people toward Jesus in small ways. I pray this will help you as you bring God on your next vacation.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Bringing God on Vacation- Nepal

A few weeks ago, I spent a week in Nepal with my wife and with a friend of ours. It's my second time there, and we had quite an adventure this time trekking through mountains and forests. We got lost more than a few times, had to spend one night with a local Nepali family because we didn't make it to our destination, and I got food poisoning. However, that's a story for another time.

One day, while we were walking through the capital, Kathmandu, we stumbled across a poor woman with a baby who was begging. She said they wanted milk for their baby in her broken English. My first, rather cynical, instinct was to ignore this person and keep keep walking around the city. However, our friend had a different attitude. She decided to help this person. She went into one of the grocery stores with her and got her a pretty good supply of dry milk, which costs about 10 dollars. It was a bit expensive for Nepali standards, but she gave it to her.

Should she have given the milk to her? The little lawyer in my brain comes up with all kinds of excuses why she shouldn't have. That lady might not have even used the milk for the baby. Perhaps she sold it back to the store or someone else later or traded it in for drugs. If she gave something like that to every single beggar, she would be absolutely broke. Wasn't she enabling her by keeping her trapped in a cycle of begging instead of looking for honest work.

Yet, for all these defenses my brain set up, I knew in my soul that she did the right thing and she glorified God by helping this woman. I'm not saying that those aren't important things to think about, because they are, and we need to walk in wisdom as Christians. At the same time, the Bible doesn't ask us to give only when it's the best, most utilitarian of causes, and only to those who really deserve it. The bible just says to help the poor and those in need. By all accounts, this woman certainly looked and seemed poor and in need. I believe my friend will be rewarded in heaven and will be blessed in this life by her act of kindness, regardless of how the woman used the powdered milk.

Even if the woman used the money to buy drugs and it made her more dependent on the help of others, that is between her and God. Not all the people that Jesus healed ended up glorifying Him. Perhaps some of the people who had food from the miracles of the loaves and fishes sold the food or did something evil after they were satisfied. Even Jesus' disciple, Judas, ended up stealing from the money collected for ministry. Should Jesus not have helped these people? He should have and he did, because He was showing kindness to people regardless of their response to it. In the same way, my friend was being the hands and feet of Jesus by helping this woman. If she had over-thought it or began cross-examining if this was the right thing to do, she might have never done it.

I think this is one way we can glorify God while traveling. There is a lot of abject poverty we see when we travel internationally, that is often be beyond what we see in our home or resident countries. It's one thing to intellectually and statistically know about poverty, but it's completely another to see it for yourself. I think even just seeing all the poverty in Kathmandu made me more grateful to God for all He has given me, and seeing my friend give helped me to enlarge my heart toward the poor, regardless of their situation.