Being a teacher in China gives me the benefit of a long winter holiday to wander through the country. What a blessing! What I realized on my most recent trip was that Jesus, too, was a traveler. In fact, Jesus was the ultimate traveler, using his own two feet to take him from place to place. Reading the Gospels we find that Jesus actually seems quite fond of nature, journeying to mountains and lakes often, for example. But Jesus didn’t journey to experience amazing sites or taste the local cuisine – his purpose was solely relational. He went to preach, teach, and heal. He built relationships and united communities under God’s name. Despite his importance and ‘lofty status’ as the Son of God, he entered into the must humble of homes and communicated with the lowest of people. This was how he learned, served, and shared the message of Truth. This was how he traveled and this was how he taught his disciples to travel.
Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
–Mark 6:6b-13 (The Message)
As I think about my adventures, I realize that the most fulfilling moments are the days that I am meeting new people and engaging in the local community. In fact, I plan my travels differently now. Rather than booking time at every site and packing my days, I seek opportunities to learn about the local culture and find ways to meet native people or other travelers. I now travel to experience the culture through people. I don’t regularly preach the Gospel with words, but I do believe that Jesus calls me to build relationships, listen to the stories of others, and to share the love the Lord has placed in my heart. Jesus’ journeys remind me that one small encounter with another person can make a huge difference. I can’t heal illness, but I can share my experiences and friendship. I can’t give salvation, but I can give love and acceptance.