We were going around taking prayer requests. When it came around to my friend Greg, he said, "I'm not sure if you all know this, but I'm going on a mission trip this summer, and I have a couple prayer requests. Can you pray that God provides money, for safety, and for the team and those that we'll be ministering with in Bolivia?" Greg went on. I had only one thought, "I will never leave America."
In high school, I had no desire to travel or see the world. I was totally happy living in New Jersey, and possibly becoming a cowboy at some point in my life. I didn't realize this at the time, but I would soon regret those words. Not only did I get the travel itch, I was destined for it. Then the travel itch hit in my early 20's.
Mark Twain, the writer and humorist of the 1800's makes the best case for travel that I've ever encountered:
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” - Mark Twain
That being said, here are five reasons why you should consider going overseas.
It expands your worldview.
If you've spent any time in a Western context, you are accustomed to the individualistic, pragmatic, live-by-the-clock culture. Once you step out of the West and into the global South or East where time is about the event, it changes you. In Africa, I remember when we would eat lunch, we just sat and enjoyed our food - then we would sit and talk for hours. It wasn't about the bottom line or being the most productive, but about enjoying the people you are with. Your worldview makes a world of difference, and nothing expands it then being somewhere outside of that perspective.
Your grow when you're uncomfortable.
We naturally gravitate to what is comfortable. Unfortunately, we will never grow in our comfort zone. The more comfortable we can become in the discomfort zone, the more we will learn to overcome our fears and have confidence that we can push beyond our normal limitations. On one trip, I was with a team in northern England and we had finished our planned activity, so we actually asked the Holy Spirit to show us what to do next. We found ourselves 24 hours later handing out baked goods, singing worship songs and offering prayer to people coming off of a train. As it turns out, no one accepted our baked goods...or prayer. It was humbling, but it taught me to trust God and beat fear.
It teaches you about yourself.
I've found that the best teacher is experience. And the best way to learn about yourself is to travel abroad with a team of people, live in tight quarters with them, and share everything. I've been all over the world with teams of people and I always learn something about myself. I’ve learned that I'm often selfish and put my needs before those of others. I learned that God had called me to preach all over the world. I learned that I have a heart for places that are post-Christian, and that I love experiencing the world.
It makes you less self-centered.
I spent a few weeks in Guatemala. In one part of town is a big beautiful mall. Gorgeous, it would rival any malls in our country. On the other side is the dump. Living in the dump are families facing extreme poverty, trying to scrounge up anything they can to survive. That changed me. In Africa, I saw tremendous poverty like nowhere else. I’ve seen places where there seems to be little hope. Just darkness. I’ve stopped seeing myself as a poor, lower class American, but rather part of the 2% of the population that has more resources than anywhere else in the world.
It's easier than you think.
With technology the way it is, it is actually easier and safer to travel now than any time in history. You can plan a trip with websites like travelocity or tripadvisor. You can plan a trip even with the tightest budget. But the best way to travel is with a community of people. Envision is an incredible organization that will not only help you get there, and take care of all the logistics, but they will help craft an experience that will be nothing less than life-changing. You can sign up here! Do it now! Don't be like high school me, do it now!
Nithin Thompson is the Teaching Pastor at Liquid Church which is located in Morristown, NJ. Nithin is a graduate of Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary. When he's not pastoring you can find him hanging out with his wife Jackie and trying to catch Pokemon with his daughter Selah and son Wesley. He blogs on SojournIntoExile.com.