Are you going somewhere this summer? Do you want to know how you should act and be around people? To be a good Christian, you should find out!
Have you ever ventured to somewhere that was way out of your comfort zone, maybe even to somewhere you knew could be harmful to you? How about traveling to a dangerous part of the world? Have you wondered how you should behave when you travel, even if you are or not in a dangerous situation? Believe it or not, it has been my experience as a director of a Missions Organization that most Christians, and even some missionaries, do not behave as we are called to do when they travel. What a shame this is; let us not do this! Therefore, let us go over some essential points on how we are to be when we venture into the world as Christ's ambassadors.
Jesus talks about two principle themes that apply to how we as Christians should travel. When the disciples were about to embark on their first missionary journey as Christ's ambassadors, He gave them some things to think about as well as some warnings. Those lessons on what to do and not do still apply to us today. The first is to be wise as serpents, and the second is to be gentle as doves (Matthew ; Romans ). This means Jesus calls us to be wise and be aware, not just at home or at church, but wherever we are at all times. That means 24/7, all day, all week. This translates into how we should relate to others. Most Christians do not consider this to apply when we venture away from all that we know and feel comfortable about. But, remember, the context of this passage is about traveling! Consequently, when we are called to be gentle, it means we are to "be good." We are also called in the same verse to be wise, which means not to get ourselves in bad or dangerous situations.
Now, let us look at another point that Jesus makes later in Matthew and we will see how this all comes together when we travel. Jesus calls us to be like children (Matthew 18:2-4). This does not mean to act like children or behave carelessly as some may like to do. But, it means to demonstrate the wonder and the trusting attitude that a child has. So, when we go through life, especially when we travel, we can gain the most experience because we have a wanderlust, a thirst to learn and to grow. If we stay focused on our own needs and past experiences, and especially on our expectations, we become the classic "Ugly American." This is the person who travels overseas with a condescending and judgmental attitude filled with their pride, unwilling to look around them, beholding the wonders and opportunities that are there. They only see their comfort stretched while complaining, making everyone else around them miserable. Such people are useless to the
Jesus tells us to be Sheep in the midst of wolves (Matthew ): This was a common saying, as the Jewish people saw themselves as sheep and the rest of the Gentile world as wolves. As Christians, we are sheep among wolves, facing dangers and opportunities that collide so to cause the spread of the Gospel--even if it means enduring strain, pain, and suffering. We also have to be aware that the world will hate us for no apparent reason--other than it hates Jesus. As His ambassadors, we may feel and experience the fallout of people's wrath, and their indignation that God would love them. They do not want His love; they want sin, and they want to do what feels good, not what is good. Thus the fear and reluctance to be convicted may strike like a snake at you. Being understanding, listening, kind, and modeling the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians -26) will help you greatly! Now, put this together with the wonder of a child and what do you get? An adventure that is fun, riveting, and exciting, and one that glorifies God, free from the usual chaos and strife that plague so many mission trips!
Jesus was preparing His disciples for what lay ahead for them (and for us,) in the first mission they soon were to begin (Matthew 10: 5-15), and for the real dangers that would come after the call of the Great Commission (Matthew 10: 16-31; 28:18-20). Remember, even when you are traveling on vacation, you are not on vacation from your faith; you are to be with your faith (Matthew -42)!
The Disciples knew they would face persecution--not maybe, or what if--but a real clear and present danger (John 15:18-20; Acts 14:22; 1 Thessalonians 3:4; 2 Timothy 3:12). So, they had to be prepared! You may not face such dangers, but nonetheless we still have to be prepared, in the little things as well as the big things. This means we are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. We are called to be prudent in our actions and in our discernments, so to prevent needless suffering and strife in our lives while still showing the love of our Lord. If it can be prevented, by all means, prevent it!!! But, do it without compromising the precepts of His Word, of course! This may seem hard and it may be hard, but it is doable. We have a balance when we prepare ourselves, both by way of prevention and of endurance. We can be prepared to face everything with the wonder of a child and the protection of a Bear. Also, when we are wise and prepared, we can prevent others from falsely accusing us, as Paul did, make a stand for the faith, and defend one another with the gentleness and the "Fruits of the Spirit," so we can be like Christ (Philippians 1). If this scares you, consider this: even in persecution, we are declared worthy to suffer in His name! It is an honor to serve in His Name (Matthew -12; James 1:2-4)! But, also consider that few Christians suffer today as the early church did. The point is, if you are prepared in your mindset and attitude, you can face all things and prevail, and give our Lord Glory so He is more than we (John ; Acts 4:8).
Matthew's readers, the early Christian Jews, were faced with severe persecution as they read this passage for the first time. Yet, in Matthew's Spirit-directed words, they are of great comfort and solace. Our Christian life is not just about the "me," as what I expect and desire. It is rather who I am in Christ, how I can become closer to Him, how He can use me and show His love to others through me. So, do not take anything too seriously except for Christ in your life. This mindset must be carried with you on your travels, whether you are vacationing in
Honing the Right Attitude--How to "Be":
Be in a good attitude all of the time; this is essential! You will come face to face with experiences that do not meet your expectations. So, remember that your primary purpose is to glorify Christ, not to be pampered. See obstacles as opportunities and you will enjoy your time so much more. Do not be selfish or a burden to others with a bad attitude; you will bring the whole trip down! Remember, you are seeking God's vision--not yours. Having trouble with this? Then be in prayer and take some "alone time" to work it out (Romans 12; James 1:2)!
Be willing to learn all you can about the places where you are going. Talk to people where you are living now, who are originally from where you are going. Try to learn some of the local languages and numbers. Have a laminated 3×5 card with the alphabet, numbers and key phrases in case you get lost or need to catch a bus or train. Also, this will help you communicate with others. This is fun also! Remember, most of communication is eye contact and body language, so watch how you communicate more than what you communicate (Romans 14:12-13; Galatians 6:1-5; Eph. 6:21; 1 Peter 4:10-11)!
Be Passionate. Your effectiveness is directly related to the effort you put into it. Passion will be the fuel to get you moving. Your passion is rooted in who you are in Christ and nothing else! Passion is contagious and brings the whole team up (Matthew ; Romans ; Galatians 6:9; Colossians ; 4:7-8)!
Be willing to give a Testimony. Have your testimony written out in a clear, concise, encouraging, passionate way so you are prepared to give a reason for your faith. If it is safe, carry a Bible with you with key Scriptures highlighted (1 Peter ).
Be Committed to Character. You are on a mission from God! No matter what your circumstances, Christ is there, loving you. So, act like it (Ephesians 5:11f; Philippians 1:9; 27; 2:1-18; Colossians 3:1-17; 4:2-6)!
Be able to know the cost paid for you so you are prepared to endure whatever happens (Matthew 26:36-27:61; John 15:18-20; Acts 14:22; 1 Thessalonians 3:4; 2 Timothy 3:12)!
Be able to know the Lord God as your Lord and Savior, not just your buddy. Have a fear, awe, and respect for the God of the Universe. You must be dependent on Him, and focused on Him, not on yourself (Psalm 89:5-18; Proverbs 1:7, 29: 3:5-9; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 5:21; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Peter 2:13-14; 3:15a)!
Be able to realize WWJD. This is a much overused catchphrase. Perhaps you can look at it this way; what would Jesus have me do? And, the answer is usually in the realm of character, maturity, patience, faith, listening, and love! Consider that only three percent of the world's population owns a house, only ten percent own a car and over 75% live on less than a one dollar a day. People are in pain, are suffering, and may need your help (Mark -31)!
Be in wonder of the child within you, so you are excited and filled with enthusiasm, possess a sense of humor, and allow your excitement to be contagious to others around you. In addition, do not take yourself so seriously. If you are on a mission trip, remember you are not on vacation; do not expect to be pampered; have a love for the people you are visiting (Matthew 18:2-4; 1 Corinthians 13)!
Be in community. If you are traveling with others (and you should never travel alone,) use your time to develop community and closeness. Life is about relationships, you with God, and you with others. This is the meaning of life stuff. So, your focus and time with others is God's plan for you (Genesis 12:1-3; Proverbs ; 27:17; Matthew 5-7; Luke 15:1-2; Romans ; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9)!
Be a servant. Consider yourself a servant on the trip, even if you are the leader. Remember, Christ took a towel to wash His Disciple's feet. Be willing to work hard and stretch out of your comfort zone. There is no work too insignificant or demeaning that you cannot try it (Job 29:13; Isaiah 40:11; Jeremiah 29; Mark ; Luke -37; 19:4; 1 Peter 3:8)!
Be bold, but not condescending or bothersome, so Christ is preached from you without purposely offending. At the same time, be respecting the laws of the nation where you are visiting. If it is unlawful to evangelize, do not be overt. Just modeling Christ-like character, without even saying a word, will convey His message! You may be the only one someone may see in their entire life who knows the Lord (Proverbs -27; -27; Job. ; Philippians 4:13; Hebrews 4: 14-16)!
Be in prayer! Never forget the power and importance of prayer. Enlist at least five people to pray for you daily while you are on the trip, and even before. Pray for the safety of your trip, for the people you are with, those you will meet, and the opportunities that God may bring you. Pray also for community and logistics to work out. Seek God's plan and how you may be a part of it. Prayer is essential! If you are not in prayer at least a half hour a day, then get with it now (Matthew 6:6, Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16; 11:1f)!
Be in the Word. How is your spiritual development going? How real is your faith? Are you reading the Bible daily? Are you doing devotions, going to a Bible study? If not, you better stay home and get yourself right with God first! God does not need any pretenders on a mission trip (Deuteronomy 13: 4; 1 Samuel ; Psalm ; 119:105; Proverbs ; Acts ; John ; ; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Hebrews )!
Be surrendered to His Lordship, not your Will, so you can be focused on Him. God does not need you, yet, He wants to use you (Galatians 2:20-21; Philippians 3:10)!
Remember this important point, as a follower of Christ we are His ambassador, so we must be diligent in conveying the utmost character and maturity in how we behave and how we come across to others. It is not about us; it is about Christ as Lord and giving Him the glory. You may think, hey, this is an impossible task. And, yes, it is! But, as a Christian we do not venture out on our own; we have a Way that cannot be fathomed living within us, a God who is sovereign, governing, and protecting. At the same time, we have to put our effort and learning in the mix to be all that we are called to be. We cannot successfully accomplish it on our own. We face obstacles and pitfalls that derail us from the goal, and we become frustrated, lose our hope, and even our faith. The great news is we are not on this journey alone. Christ equips us, and even tells us what is ahead so we can be forewarned and prepared. With His guidance, and with the power of the Holy Spirit, the Christian life becomes a doable deal, a life worth living, and a life worth spreading to others. It is a life that has no equal! Jesus comes to us, not only to equip us, but also to do what is most essential, that of fulfilling us.
This is an incredible and wondrous privilege. However, it can also be tough. He promises Himself to us, but not always an easy path. There is a price to pay in life, one for which He made the full payment for--our place in eternity, our salvation. But, the ways and woes of this sinful, fallen world, seemingly gripped in Satan's control, will get to us on occasions. It may even cause us to suffer, and bring us to our eternal home earlier than we planned. But, when our eyes are upon Christ as our Lord, we can have confidence that He is sovereign and will bring us through. We will even grow stronger and better through adversity. Allow this privilege to spill onto others around you regardless of how you feel or if your expectations are or are not being met.
As I rewrite this article, I am preparing to go overseas this summer myself. As I prepare and go through the training of myself and my team, and milk every resource I can get a hold of to prepare to go to
We are expected to be experts in being, and doing good; so let us be good!
Here are some helpful tips from my many years of traveling: Stuff to bring:
1. Do not over pack! Keep it simple. All that you take with you is all that you will be carrying with you!
2. Comfortable walking shoes, sandals, are great for hot climates, but no more than two pair.
3. Medication that you need and cannot get there. Also Pepto-Bismol, Imodium AD for upset stomach and diarrhea, antacid, Tylenol, mosquito repellent, and a small first aid kit.
4. Toiletry items you need, not ones you can do without. Shampoo in a small travel container, soap, wet wipes, are some examples. Keep it simple. Don't have any glass, and no electric shavers--use a razor. Double wrap all containers in a zip lock bag because they may explode in the airplane due to pressurizing. BYOTP. Like a clean butt? Then you better bring toilet paper and wet wipes. Most countries do not have these luxury items! Curling irons, blow-dryers, shoehorns, and polishers are not necessary. Remember, all you take with you is all that you will be carrying with you.
5. Small flashlight with extra bulb and batteries. A "Mini Maglite" is the best one.
6. Make sure your passport is current and you have at least three (3) color copies in three different places. Also, give one to a friend in case you lose all of them, so they can fax it to the embassy if needed.
7. Know the rate of currency exchange, so you are not cheated or spend too much, and carry enough money in traveler's checks or local currency. Some countries do not take travelers checks.
8. A good map in your language that you can read. It is good to see where you are and where you are going!
9. Bring your own sheet, a queen size that is folded in the middle and sown at the bottom. This acts like a liner when you are in parts of the world using who- knows-what for blankets!
10. If you have to have electric appliances, bring a voltage converter!
11. Clothing: Women, be modest. Ankle length skirts, dresses, pants, safety pins to fix stuff, hair pins, scrunchies, under garments,--you know--women stuff. Men: be conservative with nice collared shirts, dress pants, and one pair of jeans. In most counties, shorts are offensive! You may also purchase quality clothes when you get there, it is always best to wear the native clothing; it gives you a better experience too! Pack light. You may only need half of what you think you need.
12. Take some stuff to give away like pens, paper, discipleship materials, Bibles, and small gifts.
Now fit all this in one suitcase. Keep it light as you may be carrying it with you all over! Also, get a suitcase carrier with wheels; this makes life so much easier! Do not forget to keep some room for stuff to take back. And, when you shop, it should be on the last day so you are not carrying around that sixty pound statue of an elephant everywhere!
Make sure your health is good and you have exercised for months prior, as traveling is physically demanding and may require a lot of walking. See your doctor a least a month before you go to get your shots and any medicines you may need--like a Tetanus booster, Gamma Globulin, Typhoid, and Lariam Malaria pills. Eat a lot of yogurt with live bacteria before going. Building up your friendly bacteria will aid in preventing most illnesses.
Richard Joseph Krejcir is the Director of "Into Thy Word Ministries," a discipling ministry. He is the author of the book, Into Thy Word, and is also a pastor, teacher, and speaker. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in
© 1992, 2001, 2003 Richard Joseph Krejcir, Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org