Everyone should travel.
I’m serious – I think everyone should leave the United States at least once, if even for just a week, to see what life is like outside of our culture. There are a lot of things that change when you travel the world and then come back to the US. You realize the benevolence of democracy. You see the benefit of paying taxes. (I mean hello – paved roads? Those are a really nice tax benefit. So are free public schools and police that come when you call them.) You understand the importance of educating the general public of an entire nation. Also, Chic-fil-A starts to look reeeeally tasty after so many meals of rice and beans.
The coolest thing about traveling, however, is what it does to your understanding of God. I was raised in a Christian home where my parents taught me to love God before I could even speak. They read to me from their King James about a God who is so very big that he fills the entire universe. That was a pretty foreign thought to a little girl who thought that summer trips to New Mexico were so long that Santa Fe must be in the complete other side of the world from Arkansas. A God who could fill the universe was amazing, but it was something that I could not at all wrap my head around. But when I was in college, I took a Spanish minor that required me to study overseas. Six weeks in Costa Rica began my fascination with other cultures and languages, but it also opened my spiritual mind: when I walked into a church service in the outskirts of San Jose, I stood in startled happiness as I watched dozens of people who didn’t speak my language as they worshipped the same God that my parents had introduced me to so far away and so long ago. After college when I began traveling more extensively, the same thing fascinated me more than anything else: this God was everywhere! Omnipresence began to finally make sense to me. Every church service that I attended in Africa, every Sunday school service held under a tree, every baptism in a muddy river – that same God was there, and his presence filled and overwhelmed us. In the Pacific Islands, his same beautiful presence swept into a Samoan fale as the islanders sang to soft guitar music. In France, his presence brought hundreds of young people to their knees and three days later escorted me down the streets of Ireland. The omniscient Presence that could be felt in my parents’ living room during family prayer is the exact same Presence that draws people to salvation all over the world. No language cannot understand his beaconing, and in no culture is his Gospel irrelevant.
Traveling is super amazing for its own sake. But if you travel for no other reason than to learn more about your Creator, you have done a good thing. Linguists say that there are 6,912 languages in the world. We like to think that Jesus speaks English (King James English at that!), but a jaunt outside the borders of the United States will open our minds to understand that our Jehovah God transcends all languages and all people groups. Yes, he understands English and answers English prayers, but he’s also completely fluent in the click languages of Africa and the pictographs of Asia. He communes with each person in the world in the way that makes the most sense to them, and he responds to prayers offered up in any language. His presence can be felt simultaneously by billions of people all over the world! Have you gotten to a place where you think your God is small? Buy a passport and hop on a plane. Find out how enormous he really is!