Is it just me or is anyone else ready for this summer to be over?
It’s not the heat that bothers me or that school is out. Summer is usually one of my favorite times of year. But the summer of 2016 has been difficult because it feels like the world is about to fall apart.
As I write this in mid July, our nation and our world are experiencing a lot of turmoil: the Brexit; terrorist attacks in Istanbul, Turkey, and Nice, France; a failed coup attempt in Turkey. The Zika virus and a Russian doping scandal threaten to taint the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
At home, things seem just as bad. We have had more mass shootings in public places. Racial tensions have flared up in American cities and have brought with them widespread protests, as well as some tragic police shootings. And we’re headed into an election season that promises to be a divisive, toxic mess.
I’m tired of the bad news. I’m tired of the grief. I’m tired of the yelling, the accusations, the finger-wagging, the lecturing and the anger. I’m tired of feeling beat up every time I open my news feed.
My kids are too young to understand anything about current events, and for that I’m grateful. I dread the day when I have to sit down with them and explain the terrible things that are happening in the world around them.
And yet, there is hope.
In the midst of all this turmoil, my pastor stood onstage last Sunday and told our congregation that “the local church mobilized is the hope of the world.” And he was right.
Local churches mobilize in dozens of different ways, and travel is one of them. Trips create powerful opportunities to build relationships, strengthen faith and reach across cultural and national barriers to build unity.
It would be easy to cancel our travel plans and hunker down at home for a while. The world — even America — is an unsettled place, and there’s something attractive about waiting for it all to blow over. But in the face of all our uncertainty, that’s exactly the wrong move.
Church group travel presents opportunities to make an impact on the world unlike anything that happens at a Sunday service. The faith-based travel community is one of the most racially and economically diverse in the country and offers a powerful model of how groups of different ethnicities and Christian traditions can work together toward a common good.
When church groups travel together, the members grow stronger in relationship with one another. When they travel abroad, they represent the best aspects of American culture, even in places where our nation is often misunderstood. And by visiting even difficult parts of the world, travelers build relationships with foreigners and acquire a global perspective that is irreplaceable. Travel is the best kind of diplomacy.
Best of all, when churches travel together, they take the very spirit of the Gospel with them. You are the body of Christ, wherever you go.
So please, be encouraged. It may feel like you can’t do much to shape the course of events around you. But when you travel, the hope of the world travels with you.